The Bodywork Perspective – The Shoulders

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Shoulder Zone

Well, there’s a bunch of stuff here. Shoul­ders (and the throat and jaw) make up a “diaphragm,” — a band of block­age, if you will, that has to do with the expres­sion of your per­son­al­i­ty — what you’ll let your­self show the world of your­self. Remem­ber that the neu­tral pos­ture places the head cen­tral­ly over the shoulders. 

The Shoul­ders from the front and back

Shoulder Positions.

Neu­tral Shoulders

Neu­tral shoul­ders — as described above.

Stand against a wall, shoul­ders touch­ing the wall, then cross hands over crotch. The shoul­ders will round for­ward just slight­ly. The shoul­ders do not look “over­worked” or sag­gy, but com­fort­able and loose. There is lit­tle or no pain in the shoul­der muscles.

Shoul­ders Drooping

Shoul­ders droop­ing – “the weight of the world is on your shoul­ders” — when you assume this pos­ture, you just want to sigh.

This posi­tion is adopt­ed by peo­ple who are over-respon­si­ble. Oth­er peo­ple and unre­solved sit­u­a­tions are “locked” into the shoul­ders — the sit­u­a­tions that cause the “droop” are always external.

People who take on the burden of others are doomed to failure, as the solution to the external situation lies with the other person.

How­ev­er, the “droop­er” forms a “helper” iden­ti­ty, assumes respon­si­bil­i­ty for the oth­er per­son and there­by lets the oth­er per­son “off the hook.” 

No wonder such people sigh a lot! 

Wid­ow’s Hump
widow's hump

Wid­ow’s hump — an extreme round­ing over of the back at shoul­der lev­el. Deeply over-responsible.

This pos­ture takes a bit of time to devel­op and flows from drooped shoul­ders. Not only is this per­son “car­ry­ing” oth­ers, they look like they’re wear­ing a back-pack up there to hold more.

It’s as if the ini­tial over-respon­si­bil­i­ty (drooped shoul­der over-respon­si­bil­i­ty) did not work, so the per­son decides that they should become ?even more respon­si­ble, to the exclu­sion of their own wants and needs.

Or, per­son­al wants and needs are “snuck in,” and the per­son hopes no one notices. The worst thing you can say to a deeply over-respon­si­ble per­son with a wid­ow’s hump is, “You are so selfish!”

Tur­tle Posture

Shoul­ders to the ears — called tur­tle pos­ture because it looks a tur­tle pulling its head into its shell.

Peo­ple who adopt this pos­ture think: “Maybe if I just hide, no one will notice me.”

Peo­ple who are in this posi­tion are scared, and try to duck their heads to be safe. Typ­i­cal­ly, they see the world as quite threat­en­ing, and are used to being yelled at or oth­er­wise strong­ly punished.

It’s also the “Who, me?” posture — and is a sign of under-responsibility.

Shoul­ders Round­ed Forward
rolled shoulders

Shoul­ders round­ed for­ward — often means “I don’t want my heart to be hurt again.”

This is the yin version of “protecting the heart.” The shoulders are rolled to the front, in a sense protecting the heart and shielding it from further hurt.

Peo­ple with shoul­ders round­ed for­ward think they have been betrayed. Often, the per­son will res­onate with the idea, “My heart feels like it has been broken.”

This per­son wants to be loved, but is afraid of being open and vul­ner­a­ble. Approach­es life cau­tious­ly, and from a posi­tion of weakness.

The pho­to shows both hunched and round­ed for­ward shoul­ders. The two togeth­er are the mark of past defeats cou­pled with “pro­tect­ing the heart.” 

Shoul­ders Back

Shoul­ders back – mil­i­tary pos­ture. “I can take it — I’m tough.”

This is the yang version of “protecting the heart.” Pulling your shoulders back leads to a guarded, armored chest, which is also designed to protect the heart. 

Because the pos­ture “freezes” the breast­bone, there is a ten­den­cy to be quite stuck in non-emo­tion. Invul­ner­a­bil­i­ty — “You can’t hurt me.” By exten­sion, “You also can’t get to me, because I’m unavail­able for depth and intimacy.”

Pos­si­ble repressed anger.

Shoul­ders Not Level

One shoul­der high­er than the oth­er, and/or one shoul­der far­ther for­ward than the oth­er – As we’ve not­ed before, this indi­cates an imbal­ance in Yin / Yang. The per­son­’s approach to life is too heav­i­ly one or the oth­er… not bal­anced. If the right shoul­der is high or for­ward, too yang or mas­cu­line. If left, too yin or feminine.

Shoul­der Blades
normal shoulder blades

Shoul­der blades — this one’s very sub­jec­tive. Go to the beach and look at backs.

Normal Shoulder blades are visible, but not pronounced.


If they’re really sticking out, the person is “sprouting wings” in order to leave a situation.

This is the mark of a per­son who escapes rather than work­ing things through. The escape may be men­tal as well as actu­al­ly run­ning (fly­ing) away. 

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