Yoga is great for reversing and preventing both forward head posture and round shoulders.
Below are my favourite 6 yoga poses to help you beat forward head posture and rounded shoulders. Regular practice of these will help you to improve your posture and alignment by addressing any muscle imbalances. They are also great at beating neck and shoulder pain.
1) Belly Breathing and Restorative Fish Pose
One of the best ways to help forward head posture and round shoulders is to learn how to breathe well. Yoga is great at this. Try the following breathing exercise in the set-up as shown below (known as restorative fish). It will give you an opportunity to practice a full yogic breath and provide a nice easy stretch for the chest muscles. It also helps to reposition the arm bones so that they sit in the shoulder socket better.
How To Do It:
Grab 2 blocks and place them as shown in the photograph.
- Line your body up so that when you lay down onto the blocks your head rests on the highest one and your shoulder blades are on top of the other.
- Get comfortable; tune inwards and observe the breath. You can close your eyes if that helps.
- Begin a full yogic breath by inhaling into the belly, inflating the ribs (like an internal balloon) and widening the chest. On the exhale, empty the lungs fully.
- Continue this wide and full breath for 2-5 minutes.
2: Jalandhara Bandha (Chin Lock)
Yoga can help correct forward head and round shoulders with this practice. I know it sounds like a bit of a mouthful but this practice really helps to bring the head and neck back into a more optimum alignment.
How To Do It:
- Kneel with hands lightly resting on thighs.
- Lift sternum and draw chin back (as though sliding it along an imaginary bookshelf).
- At the same time slide the back of the skull up an imaginary wall and lengthen up through the crown of the head.
- Soften the shoulders away from the ears and draw the front ribs inwards until you feel the lower back lengthen. You should feel a gentle connection with your core and a lengthening sensation in your spine.
- Breathe here for 5 to 10 deep breaths, lengthening the back and sides of the neck each inhale and dropping shoulders a tiny bit more on each exhale.
- Variations: see if you can do some neck movements without losing the position of the head. Try yes and no or little figures of 8 (drawing the number with your nose).
3. Ardha Apanasana (with variations to work core)
The shape of your neck and shoulders is influenced by what is going on around the pelvis area. Sitting for long periods of time can cause muscle imbalances in the hips which in turn, affect what is going on above (shoulders and neck) and below (knees and ankles). This pose will help to target some of these imbalances. This particular variation offers some core work as well, as these muscles tend to get very weak and flabby if we sit a lot! A strong core is essential for good posture (and also helps to rid us of back pain).
How To Do It:
- Come into semi-supine with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Slide the left leg out straight reaching through the toes and rolling the inner leg towards the floor (this helps keep the pelvis in good alignment).
- Lift the right foot off the floor and hold place the hands on top of the knee.
- Inhale and as you exhale, draw the navel down to the spine (without tucking the pelvis under); draw the chin in slightly to bring the head into alignment (avoid tucking though).
- Keeping the shape, with your next exhale, lift the left leg up to the ceiling.
- Inhale at the top and then exhale to lower the leg (without letting it touch the floor).
- Repeat the leg lifts 4 to 8 times.
- Release and repeat on the other side.
Core booster (try this variation for an extra challenge for your core muscles)
- Lift both legs to the ceiling. Cradle head with the hands and float shoulders off the floor.
- As you exhale, draw the navel down to the spine and close the front ribs in (think about pressing the breast bone downwards).
- As you inhale, lift the tailbone towards the ceiling. Hold it here.
- Now repeat 2. and 3. a few times until you really feel a burn in the abdominal region.
- Release all the way down: you made it. Feel free to repeat if you want a little bit extra!
- Finish with some windshield wiper movements (dropping the knees from side to side) to release the spine and to prepare the body for some back extension work. You could also just take a supine twist before moving on.
4. Baby Cobra (Bhujangasana)
Baby Cobra is great for helping to wake up the muscles around the mid-back which tend to get very weak when we sit. It strengthens the spine, legs and buttocks (as well as the arms and shoulders). It also opens the chest muscles as it stretches the entire front body (so continuing the work of Restorative Fish).
How To Do It:
- Come onto the belly and bring the hands by the side of the body, palms facing down.
- Press all 10 toes down firmly until you feel your legs engage.
- From there press the pubic bone down into the floor and roll the tailbone down (you should feel the glute muscles engage). Gently draw up the pit of the abdomen as though you want to roll a Malteser under your belly and you don’t want to squash it.
- Press, the palms down, draw the inner shoulder blades together; lengthen the chest forward until it lifts away from the floor. Gently activate Jalandhara Bandha so that the head is in line with the rest of the body.
- Hold for 5 – 10 breaths and then release.
- Try rocking the sacrum from side to side to release any tension in the lower back (if some built up).
Cobra with bent arms
As above but this time keep the elbows bent and hugging into the ribs. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
Cobra with leg lifts
- Place hands by the side of the ribs and lengthen the sternum and forehead off the floor and forward.
- From here inhale and lift one leg off the floor whilst at the same time extending it away from the pelvis.
- Exhale and lower the leg.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Do 3-5 repetitions for each leg.
5. Locust Pose (Shalabhasana)
Locust continues the work of baby cobra, strengthening and adding flexibility to the back muscles and spine. It is a key pose in improving ones posture and also helps to slim down the area around the hips, waist and thighs.
How To Do It:
- Come onto the belly and bring the hands by the side of the body, palms facing inwards.
- Press all 10 toes down firmly until you feel your legs engage. From there press the pubic bone down into the floor and roll the tailbone downwards (you should feel the glute muscles engage).
- Gently draw up the pit of the abdomen as though you want to roll a Malteser under your belly without squashing it.
- Squeeze the inner shoulder blades together and draw the bottom tips downwards and towards the front of the heart (as though you were trying to loop the outer shoulder blades towards the armpits).
- Gently activate Jalandhara Bandha so that the head is in line with the rest of the spine.
- Inhale, and lift the toes and the chest reaching both parts of the body away from one another.
- Lift armbones up towards the sky and roll the inner legs up towards the ceiling. Hold for 5- 10 breaths
Play around with the arm positions. Try creating a Y, T or W shape (bending the elbows and drawing them towards the waistline). Each position will work a slightly different area of the mid-back and vary in difficulty (the W being the hardest).
6. Arm Windmills
This is a beautiful twist that helps to release the chest and the lower back. It is a wonderful pose to finish this sequence with especially after the stronger backbends above.
How To Do It:
- Lie on your right side with both arms stretched out at shoulder height (to the right) and the knees bent at 90 degrees.
- Take a moment to make sure that the shoulders are above the hips and also check the head alignment (slide the chin back). Inhale, and float the top arm up to the ceiling and over to the left, with the aim of landing it on the floor, along with the shoulder blades.
- Exhale and return to the start.
- Continue to move with the breath and repeat the movement.
- After a few repetitions, you should notice the left chest wall gradually feeling more open and both shoulders blades getting greater connection with the mat.
- Once you have done 5-10 repetitions rest in the twist. Let your head look towards your knees so that you really open up through the chest. You can, of course, let your head face the ceiling or away from the knees – you do you.
- Now repeat this on the other side.
- Finish in Savasana and rest for 5-10 minutes to reap the full benefits of all your hard work.
Try the full sequence at least 3 x a week to make a real difference.
Further Resources To Help You
- You can watch this sequence on YouTube.
- In my last post, I discussed how our poor postural habits are made worse by a lack of neck and shoulder mobility – both greatly influence one another. Read more about it here.
- You can also try my FREE 5 days to better neck and shoulder mobility which is a week-long plan to help get you started; click here to get immediate access
- If you don’t know where to start or are experiencing pain with your neck and shoulders why not consider a 121 coaching session with me. I can make a tailored plan for you so that you not only improve your posture but also beat your aches and pains.