This is an exercise that is great to do if you feel that you “carry” your stress in your shoulders. If you have tension in your upper to mid back, between your shoulder blades, or you do a lot of work with your arms in front of you, such as riding a bike, chopping vegetables, typing on a computer, holding a steering wheel, carrying a backpack, and photographing cats.
Tension in the upper shoulders and back can be an indicator of overuse. In our culture, we tend to be very good at recruiting these muscles more than necessary when lifting our arms out in front or overhead. This exercise is about seeing if you can still accomplish these tasks without hiking your shoulders up to your ears. This can help create more balance in muscles of the shoulders.
Gently feel what it’s like to slide your scapulas (shoulder blades) down toward your back pockets. This isn’t about rolling your shoulders backward: the movement should only be vertical. It ends up being a very small, subtle movement—you don’t have to reach those back pockets! Also, you need to be forceful about it. Just let gravity take your shoulders a notch lower than they are used to.
Now play with moving an arm around, and see if you can keep gently depressing your scapulas during the movement. Try raising your arm in front, out to the side, rotating away, and notice when your shoulder blade wants to come with. This isn’t to say that your shoulders should never move up toward your ears, but this will give other muscles a chance to do their part, too.
Next time you are working at your computer, bringing a mug of coffee to your lips, reaching for something on a high shelf, or carrying something, practice letting your scapulas drop. You can see if your stress drops a bit, too.