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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