In class we often do this pose, Urdhva Hastasana, both arms stretching straight up. It can lift the whole body and help us breathe. Or it can seem like an endurance test. But my feeling is the majority of students are somewhere in the middle, thinking something like ‘well this is quite easy, but I’m not sure what its supposed to be doing….’
Some people have very stiff shoulders or problems that mean they cant get their arms as high or as straight as in this picture. Those people are actually fine as the more they practice the better it will get!
My concern is the average student who may get left in class as their pose seems ‘okay’. But look closely at this picture….the arms are not correct.
Look at the shape the light makes either side of the ears. See how the left and right are completely different shapes? The right side is a narrow shape while the left side is double the size. They should be the same. The right side is definitely a more active arm, with the deltoid stretching up with the arm as it should.
Now look lower down at the shoulder blades. Can you see how the left shoulder blade has formed a ‘wing’ on the side of the body? On the right hand side the shoulder blade is much more compact and looks more as if it is in the body, rather than moving away.
This problem will then continue into poses like ahdo mukha svanasana (downward dog).
If this student continues to use their arms like this they will encounter problems later on. Either pain in the left side of the neck, or pain in the left shoulder and arm itself.
So when practising at home, I recommend you stand in front of a mirror sometimes, to see for yourself exactly what your arms are doing.