Shoulders back…Shoulders down

Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy on Unsplash

The more I do yoga the more I notice bad habits which affect my posture. My yoga teacher will say “shoulders down” and I will correct them. But it has felt unnatural. When you need to tuck your backside in and engage the (hidden) abs – fine. But how do I tell if my backside is sticking out too much normally (aka bad posture) when my view of it is that it is just a fat arse (it’s not really that bad…I am just being overly dramatic)?

Tight most things

I wouldn’t class myself as flexible. I have tight hamstrings, quads and shoulders. The hamstrings and quads will get there. I can see the change already in poses even as basic as Downward Dog and the fact that I can now grab my foot heading towards King Pigeon. I can’t do the splits yet, in fact I am nowhere near, but one day.

I am also getting better with the much needed back bend after a lot of help from my teacher; working to raise my chest up to bend rather than just trying to bend back (not sure that makes sense on paper but hopefully you get what I mean). My shoulders, however, are a bloody nightmare in lots of poses and I think (ok I know) this is down to bad posture.

Tight shoulders

The weird thing is that I actually quite like my shoulders. Lots of kettlebell swings, snatches and general weights over the past few years has given me ok definition in them and my upper back. This is great for any top I wear that slides over one shoulder. But the look doesn’t equate to actual strength. When I work on shoulders in the gym I always have to go pretty light. Same for chest (I clattered the bar the other day when I shoved a little too much on it). I don’t do lots of weights at the moment but my sessions now tend to focus on this area now to help with my yoga.

This area (shoulders, chest, upper back) is pretty important in loads of yoga poses. Any binds, inversions and even puppy pose work on them. So the “shoulders back and down” comment gets said a lot by my Hatha teacher. I get it. My shoulders want to raise right up to my ears every time my arms go above my head. I can’t grip my fingers together in the pose like the picture above and a lot of binds are beyond me. Even in shavasana my shoulders want to relax in a rolled position rather than flat to the ground.

For inversions you need to understand the feeling of open shoulders so that you can feel like you are wrapping them in to hug a ball without them pinching your neck. This kind of thing takes focus when your shoulders naturally just want to rise.

Bad posture

When you notice things in yoga you start to notice them generally. My relaxed position is to roll my shoulders. It is for a lot of people but it is bad posture and no one wants to end up hunch backed…right?

The problem with posture is that it gets bad over a long time. Bodies are great, they can mould themselves to whatever you need in life. The fascia (connective stuff with collagen) will set itself up in this way and so if you sit with your shoulders rolled at a desk your shoulders will eventually find this the most comfy position.

Sorting it out

Yoga is slowly doing that for me but it does need practice. Over 40 years of habit will take a while to rectify. So I am doing more and more to get comfy on good posture.

  • Shoulders back and down
    • I travel for work so in the car I have set up a good seat position and on the commute I roll my shoulders back and down (like putting your shoulder blades together). That’s a good two hours a day of practice
  • Using my yoga wheel
    • 10 minutes a day involving just being draped back over it and also doing a shoulder stretch with arms front
  • Keeping them down in movement
    • Any time I move my arms in daily tasks I am trying to focus on not hunching my shoulders up to my ears. Weirdly this takes effort.
  • Yin
    • Yin is helpful because the poses are long held and there to work the fascia.
  • Hatha
    • Hatha gives you time to correct in your poses. Tough going but worth it.

It’s all helping. I was never a hunched up person but i definitely roll my shoulders. After a few weeks I am starting to find more comfort in shoulders being back and down so it must be helping. My Hatha class today was working towards handstand. Purely focused on gaining the right posture to get to the strength in order to push up.

Sorting my posture will definitely be worth it…says me currently typing whilst keeping my shoulders back and down.