Why Does Everyone Feel Round Shouldered?

Why Does Everyone Feel Round Shouldered?

Most of my sessions begin with a similar question. I ask everyone who comes in, whether for a private, yoga classes or workshops, if they think that their shoulders are in line with their hips, forward of their hips or behind their hips.

Ninety nine out of one hundred say that the shoulders fall forward of the pelvis. Ninety nine out of one hundred are wrong because the center of their shoulders actually line up behind the center of the pelvis.

Over the years I have grown used to everyone thinking that they are round shouldered and come to expect it. What I love is the reaction of people at workshops when they see that the volunteer/guinea pig standing in front of them—who just said that he thought his shoulders were behind his hips—is actually leaning slightly backwards.

So what is it that allows almost everyone I meet to perceive their place in space incorrectly? Is it the preponderance of parents telling them that they are round shouldered and should “stand up straight”? Is it some weird ingrained sense of insecurity? “Does the mind rule the body, or does the body rule the mind, I dunno.”

Sometimes at workshops I’ll bring three or four people up to the front of the room for everyone to observe this phenomenon. And the fourth person, having already seen three people and the way they stand, will often still think that their shoulders are forward. I find that to be some very impressive cognitive dissonance.

The thing is that you can be round shouldered and leaning backwards. All it takes is some long and loose rhomboid muscles coupled with tight pectoral muscles, but this is far less prevalent than most people think. Many people need to do some work on their rhomboids but the head of the arm bones coming forward isn’t as much of a problem for me as leaning backwards is.

Kinesthetic awareness– our ability to perceive ourselves in space can be cultivated through awareness, practice and repetition. When I first decided to stop hyperextending my knees I had to confront the fact that what I thought was a straight leg was actually my knee locked far backwards beyond its normal range of motion.

Now, when my leg is straight, it feels straight. That took some doing. Anyone who wants to make changes to their posture and movement patterns will likely have to confront some similarly distorted perceptions of their body and its place in the world.