How to Have Anti-Desk Shoulders

At this time of year, you begin to think about summer bodies and getting your arms out! Then you realise all that cold had your shoulders in our ears, they are rounded forward and sore. Here is how to get your shoulders and arms back in place and ready for sunshine!

Discover Your Feel Good Shoulders

First, we want to know what good alignment for our shoulders feels like. This is neutral and balances the muscles. As your muscles retrain and strengthen to hold the bones back in neutral you will discover a new feeling of ease in your life. So, what is your neutral? 

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Whatever position you are in (lying, sitting or standing):

  1. Breathe deep and wide into the back of your ribcage expanding your angel wings.
  2. Widen your collar bones like they smile softly with love. 
  3. Soften your sternum like it melts into your heart. 

Try these steps in different positions, e.g. a plank or at a wall, to see how strong this feels at different angles. It will show you the areas of strength or mobility that you need to develop. 


When you need a break check-in with your posture, do these 3 steps to get the shoulders back into your 'neutral'. 

Often the thoracic spine (upper back) gets stuck in 2 directions – collapsed and rounded forward hunched at a desk, or over-corrected and the shoulders pulled back too far, the ribs pop forwards. Both of these lack mobility in this region of the spine and shoulder girdle. So we move onto mobilising the spine with the shoulders.

Mobilise Your Heart

The shoulder girdle and upper spine around the heart reflect your ability to respond with compassion in your life, especially to yourself. Move this region of the spine through twists to massage the heart and awakening your energy.

Practical with our modern seated lives is to twist properly in a chair. Often chairs have arms or backs that you can use to help lever your spine further.

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  1. Sit tall & feel your sit bones equal weighted balls on your chair. Keep your hip bones level facing forward.  
  2. Inhale & lengthen the spine filling your back ribs with air.  
  3. Exhale & draw your waist in to twist from your low ribs, but keep growing tall!
  4. Rest your arms on the chair AFTER you have twisted the spine & soften your shoulders.
  5. Hold the twist for 2 breath cycles, easing the shoulders down onto the ribcage with each breath.
  6. Return to centre before repeating on the other side.



Before bed lie down and draw the knees high into your chest. Take the twist lying on your back with deep slow breaths. Release the tension of the day.

Energise From Your Heart

Heart-openers can be heaven or hell for shoulder pain. The shoulder girdle must move down and inward to help the thoracic spine extend and lift the heart forward. All the time you have to keep the connection of your abdominals so that you do not compromise the mobile low back region. This opening of the heart uplifts your mood and energises the body.

  1. Lie on your belly & relax your arms in a wide W position.
  2. Exhale – feel your front 3 hip bones on the floor & draw the navel up into your spine.
  3. Inhale & draw your collarbones wide. Imagine them rolling over onto your shoulder blades.
  4. Let the shoulder blades V into behind your heart & push your heart forward. 
  5. Lift your chest and top ribs off the floor, eyes look just forward of the hands on the floor.
  6. Hold for a full breath cycle before releasing back down to the floor.


Add lifting the hands off the floor to strengthen the upper back and muscles between the shoulder blades. Watch out for your belly pushing down to the floor – keep drawing the navel into the spine as you backbend.

Side Bend for Boundaries

How often do you lift your arm to the sky & stretch your under armpit area? Awakening the muscles of the armpit is like knitting together your back and front body. Anatomically connecting the front and back body, it is the region that reflects how you set your boundaries in life. You want to protect yourself whilst being empathetic with others for true connections.

  1. Sit or stand with an equal weight of both sit bones into the ground. Interlace your fingers.
  2. Inhale & reach both arms up to the sky turning the palms upwards like you are trying to push the sky away.
  3. Exhale & lean to the left side slightly, keeping both arms pushing away the sky.
  4. Inhale & hold the stretch checking the shoulders are square front like bread in a toaster.
  5. Exhale come back to centre & release the right hand down. Repeat on left side.



Get strong and use your body in the weight-bearing Pilates side-bend. This exercise will improve your boundary setting and strengthen your shoulders in a balanced way.

Build Strength In Connections

Your arms are how you interact with the world. Your exchange of what you give and take, and with what energetic quality. This means it should feel fluid and responsive to the world around but respect the boundaries of your alignment. Push-ups are a fabulous example of how you might lead with your head, or lose your core when connecting with others.  

Do the push up on all 4s to start until you have your shoulders always relaxed and comfortable throughout the exercise! Then progress to more weight-bearing. 

(C) Michael @ Blue Osa 

(C) Michael @ Blue Osa 

  1. Hands under shoulders. Spread fingers wide. Slightly lift the heel of your palm from the ground, notice your fingers grip the ground a bit.
  2. Elbows can face inwards or to the side of the ribs, whatever feels comfortable with your shoulders (this is where to start).
  3. Inhale into your back ribs & feel them expand to the sky like you are a hot air balloon about to take flight.
  4. Soften your elbows widening your collar bones as your body moves towards the floor.
  5. Keep the eye-line forward with energy in the back of your neck & crown of head shooting forward.
  6. Exhale and draw the low ribs into the spine to straighten your arms back up to the top.




Do it against a wall! Any old wall works. It is still a great shoulder strengthener and allows time to focus on technique.

Want to Discover More?


Private tuition of Pilates and/ or Yoga can really help progress or address specific issues. Both at your home or private online sessions with us can get you confident in group classes, or achieve specific goals.


Our Posture Workshop for Workplace Wellbeing is a fun and practical guide on how to release shoulder tension when in the workplace. Learn more about our workshops to support your wellbeing at work. 

Want a supercharged summer sculpt challenge?

Do this video for 2 weeks and see the difference!

You just need a flex band and a mat to tone, strengthen & control your shoulders.