In my previous post, I started writing about counterbalancing body patterns. Here, I want to talk about balancing the part of the body most people think about when they think about their “bad posture”: the shoulder girdle, neck and head.

First, let’s put it in context. If you think your only postural problem is that things fall forward in the upper body, you’re wrong. Anything that falls forward has to be counterbalanced by other parts that fall back. (In standing position, the most common candidate would be the lower-to-mid ribcage.)

The shoulder girdle counterbalances with the sternum and mid-ribcage below. In other words, if you’d like your shoulder girdle (and upper ribs) to shift back, you’ll need your sternum to shift forward. When people try to improve their posture, they often pull the sternum up and back; for most of us, that’s not going to work.

When you play with this, a simple logic emerges: what we’re looking for is front-to-back depth at the upper ribcage and shoulder girdle. If you can feel that as you gently shift the shoulders back, your sternum moves forward, you’re on the right track. If you can feel that as you gently shift the sternum forward, your shoulders move back, you’re on the right track.

It’s easy to tell when you’ve gone too far: it’s when you shift the front (sternum) so far forward that the shoulders come forward too, or when you shift the back (shoulder blades) so far back that the sternum comes back too. 

Finally, notice that the head and neck, broadly speaking, like to follow the shoulder girdle…forward or back. (Some people, in fact, may find it easier to lead with the head when counterbalancing, rather than the shoulder girdle.) In any case, when the sternum, upper ribcage and shoulder girdle make a big, deep base of support, the head and neck have much improved opportunities for graceful poise.