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Posture 411: Conquering rounded shoulders and forward head position

Updated: Nov 16, 2022

GOALS: Correct rounded shoulder (kyphosis), forward head position (fhp) and imbalances in strength and flexibility in the upper (thoracic spine) to improve posture and reduce pain and fatigue.

Correcting rounded shoulders is not as easy as you think! It is not as simple as just “standing up straight” There is a lot involved and if you have this problem it has probably developed over many years.

If you are a yoga or fitness instructor or the person with rounded shoulders it’s important to be able to understand what is going on with the body and what needs to be done to correct this issue.

Awareness of the problem (mirror observation)

I. When standing in front of the mirror with hands to your side. (try not to do anything different than what you normally do or do not make any corrections) Where are your thumbs facing? (a or b?)

a. Thumbs facing towards your body?

b. Thumbs facing straight ahead or slightly outward ?

If you/student answered #a, then your shoulders will likely round forward. If you answered #b you may not have an issue with rounded shoulders also called upper crossed syndrome.

A good tip to those who answered yes to #1 is to turn your thumbs forward or slightly outward which creates external rotation in the shoulders when you are taking a walk.

II. Looking sideways in the mirror what is the position of your head?

a. over your shoulders or earlobes are lined up over shoulders.(neutral position) straight line/ plumb line down the body.

b. Head is forward of shoulders one to more inches.

If you/student answered yes to #a, then you likely have good postural alignment. If, #b is true then you/student has some degree of Forward head syndrome. A huge problem today because of all the time we spend on our computers and phones (too much time in shoulder and spine flexion) poor posture. My son reminded me that this can be avoided with some attention to the right computer/chair set up ! I will save that for another blog/video.

This picture gives you a good idea why this is so bad: Yikes!

*Check out how much weight you are putting on your neck and back with various degrees of FHP! Good idea to FIX IT NOW.

Exercises for FHP:

1. Chin press - press two fingers on your chin. If you have FHP the. Once you are in position you can remove your fingers and just hold the stretch for 15 seconds- repeat 10x. You will feel a stretch in the back of your next because FHP creates tight (short) muscles.

-try to get into the habit of doing this exercise every time you get into the car!

2. Wall lean exercise to get in the correct position.Video-how to do 1 and 2

- try to get into the habit of doing this every time you get up from your desk.

3. Side neck stretch and semi circles (demo in video routine)

Drop your right/left ear to your right shoulder and hold (just using the weight of your head to stretch out tight scalene muscles. Then, with your breath do a front semi circle- inhaling in one direction and exhaling as you come back the other direction. Repeat five times. * This exercise is demonstrated in the Posture 411 video.

-Try doing this one when you are at your computer reading emails.

:*In red below- why we are doing this posture/exercise and how this is helping correct your posture

1. bridge- passive shoulder stretch and pectoral muscle stretch (yoga block)

*pectoral muscles get really tight and pull shoulders forward. This passive stretch is great to stretch the chest.

2. Apanasana- roll around figure 8’s on spine- organically

3. Active supine twist with rotation

*thoracic spine mobilization

4.Sukhasana (neck stretches,neck retraction, side bends, twist holds right/left and elbow circles with fingers to shoulders)

*Fhp- all part of the pore posture equation

5.Table top (chakravakasana, cat/cow)

*six movements of the spine (side to side, front to back and twisting right and left)

6.Down dog

*Give your back a break in the perfect inversion. Homebase in vinyasa yoga

7.Rag doll

*Let gravity do the work in ragdoll.

8. Urdhva Hastasana Shoulder flossing (yoga strap) front and back

*Increase shoulder mobility and stretch tight pectoral muscles.

9.Urdhva Hastasana (posture check and side bends forward arms in extension to pull backs into opening chest and shoulder - ie face pulls with or without band

*do these without band until you are strong enough to perform exercise correctly. Strengthen the upper back.If your shoulders are rounded chances are pretty high that your middle back is weak.

10. Standing Sun A with cactus arms - squeeze /break pencil between shoulder blade

11. Plank/ hands or forearms - scapula retraction and protraction

*Creating scapula awareness and mobility in this exercise.

12. Child's pose with palms up

*By flipping your palms up in this position you are externally rotating the shoulder back.

13.Prone shoulder stretch

*A great posture to open up shoulders using gravity.

14. Repeat Child's pose palms up (right, left) and center.



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