Rolling Your Shoulders Back

West Coast Swing Online Grab Bag

Let’s face it: most of us have poor posture. Computers, cell phones, and desk work encourage us to slouch forward, hunch our shoulders, and generally look like cavepeople. Even if you are one of the few people that has good posture in your daily life, you still might need to improve while dancing—almost all beginning dancers unconsciously lean in towards their partner, letting their shoulders go. Poor posture makes you look nervous and small, it hurts your connection, and it often results in back pain, so how can you improve your posture?

The Drill: Stand or sit up straight. Lift your shoulders up. Then push them back as far as they go. Now pull them down as far as they will go—this will probably feel a lot lower than when you started. In that lowered position, slowly let your shoulders come forward until they are in line with the side of your body. You want to go forward just enough to flatten your back: if your scapula are sticking out, your shoulders are still too far back.

This series of movements—up, back, down, in line—is designed to let your shoulders sit naturally on top of your torso. If you try to lower your shoulders immediately from a hunched position, you will lock your shoulders into an internally rotated position, in which your shoulders are rolled in front of your body. Going up and back first is necessary to externally rotate your shoulders and correct the hunched posture.

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Left: shoulders are rolled forward. Right: shoulders are in line with the rest of the body. [mediacredit id=”2346″].

The last part of the sequence—moving the shoulders forward until you have a flat back—is also important. If your scapula are protruding from your back, your shoulders are pulled too far behind your back. That position can be useful as a stretch in order to open your chest (most of us have tight pectoral muscles from sitting hunched in front of computers or cell phones). But, that position puts a lot of stress on your spine if you stay there.

Practice going through this sequence of up, back, down, and in line regularly during your day. Posture is a habit that needs to be strong outside of dancing before you will be able to keep it while you are dancing.

Once you can effortlessly go through that sequence and know what it feels like to have your shoulders in line with your body, try running through that sequence while dancing, right before you get to the post. If you wait until you connect with the post, you won’t have enough slack in your arm to easily reset your shoulders, so do it right before you need to connect. You will be amazed at how much you can loose your posture in just a couple of beats of dancing: that’s ok. Just keep practicing and keep resetting. Eventually you will train your body to hold that position naturally.

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Dance Instructor

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