Bad Yoga Tip #1—Shove Your Shoulders Down Your Back At All Times

There is nothing wrong with learning to roll your shoulders away from your neck and ears,especially if you have a habit of keeping tension there (after long days at work for instance) and more so if  you cannot tell the difference between when your shoulder blades are up and when they are down.  It is also important to know the difference between shoulder blade movement, spinal movement and arm movement.  But there is no benefit to constantlyshoving your shoulders down your back ALL the time and in EVERY yoga pose. Let’s talk over two main points that illustrated this point best.
  • Moving the shoulders down your back does not always improve posture.–Most of the time, posture has more to do with your spinal alignment than anything else. If your spinal alignment is off, this affects your posture, but for most people this seems to be the most visible in the shape of the shoulders.  The shoulder blades (scapula) are not directly attached to your spine, they are attached to the collarbones and upper arm bones only. Pulling the scapula down the back or squeezing them toward each other may give you the feeling of better posture simply because you are stretching certain muscles that may be shortened throughout the day, but the reality is that moving your shoulder blades by themselves does not move the spine or make you sit up straighter.  Should you learn to relax the shoulders down…YES! One way to do so is by getting into your lungs and breathing so that you can create space within the rib cage, upon which you can gently rest the shoulder blades. Learning to do this will give the shoulders the supportive feedback they need to feel in order to relax and release any tension they may be holding.
  • Pulling your shoulders down does not necessarily help you relax. — If done all day long, it especially does not considering that it actually LIMITS your ability to breathe! In fact, holding yourself in this restrictive position actually ties up muscles that would be normally used for breathing into the upper portions of your lungs and will not allow for the full potential of an inhalation. In a forward bend you’ll often hear the teacher move your shoulders down your back.  This in itself is not a bad tip, especially if one is working toward a particular experience.  But if the goal is to relax, it is also just as important to allow the shoulders to fall forward and yield to gravity, which is the hallmark of being relaxed.

So the next time you find your shoulders up to your ears and you want to relax them, do some shoulders rolls to loosen up the muscles, maybe. Or try breathing into your upper lungs and letting your blades just rest and yield to gravity. Just do not pinch them in the back or try to keep shoving them down your back. Breathe, feel the lungs fully inflate and move the rib cage.  Practice till you can feel the shoulder surrender and float up and down with each breath.

Obviously, the conversation can go deeper, so feel free to make comments, disagree, or ask questions