By Denise Vidal In the last blog, we demonstrated how core strength can be supported through the shoulder girdle's connection to the ribcage. We did this by exploring motions called protraction and retraction, that is the shoulder blades' moving toward and away from each other along the ribcage. In this blog, we are going to explore upward and downward rotation of the shoulder blades, while continuing to practice our protraction and retraction. To do this exercise, you need a dowel of some kind that is wider than shoulder width. You can do this exercise sitting or standing; however, whatever position you choose be sure to align your head on top of your ribcage and pelvis. To begin, hold the ends of the dowel in each hand and rest it on your thighs. Take a deep breath. As you inhale, feel your ribcage expand into your shoulder blades. As you exhale, engage your abdominals, feeling the front and back of your abdomen hugging towards each other. On your next inhale, maintain your abdominal tone as you raise the stick to shoulder height. The shoulder blades will begin to widen on your back, just as they did in last week's blog (picture 1). As you exhale, continue to lift the dowel to the height of your forehead. The shoulder blades will widen more as they upwardly rotate around the ribcage (picture 2). I like to imagine the tips of my shoulder blades following the path of my little finger. At this point, your shoulder blades should be as wide as possible against your ribcage. Continue to lift the stick up over your head. As you do this, your shoulder blades will begin to narrow towards each other, or retract from the previous position (picture 3). On your next inhale, begin to reverse the pattern until you come back to the original position. The shoulder blades will widen as the stick comes down toward your forehead, and then narrow slightly as the dowel comes to rest on your thighs. Do this motion 5-10x every morning. Remember to connect your breath and the engagement of your core to the movement.