Our world pulls us forward. It’s undeniable. The prevalence of desktop, laptop and handheld technology, coupled with the irrefutable demand of gravity, draws the posture of modern day man into a “locked long” position of the rhomboid muscles. When the rhomboids are long, the shoulders round and the chest collapses and, as a result, full steady breathing becomes limited, the natural upward energy of human beings is instead dragged down toward the earth and the vital connection to the core disappears as the pelvis is shoved forward flattening the lumbar curve. This full reversal of the natural state of the spinal column exhausts the entire body, physically and mentally.  Bringing these upper back muscles into a more engaged status for a healthy spine and posture is the solution and, with awareness, Yoga Tune Up® can get you there.

Get rhomboids working well for healthy shoulder placement.

The rhomboids are a pair of muscles that reside on each side of the spine.  These upper back muscles, named for the geometric shape they share with the rhombus, are deep to the trapezius muscle and connect the spine to the scapulae on both sides. Rhomboid minor, the smaller of the two, originates at the spinous processes of cervical vertebra seven (noted for its protrusion from the spine at the base of the neck) and thoracic vertebra one. It then stretches diagonally across the inner, upper back to insert at medial edge of each scapula. The larger half of the pair, rhomboid major, connects exclusively to the thoracic spine (thoracic vertebra two-five) and reaches in a diagonal direction across the upper back to insert at the lower medial edge of the each scapulae.

From this placement, it is no surprise that these muscles contribute significantly to the placement of the shoulder blades on the upper back. When they are “locked long”, the scapulae drape out to the side body, forcing the heads of the shoulders forward, and shorten the complementary muscle pair along the front body – the pectorals. This unfortunate placement translates into distinct weakness of both muscle pairs – the rhomboids and the pectorals. It makes breathing laborious and shallow, leaving the lower lobes of the lungs trapped under the descent of the ribcage.  In essence, it adds to the burden of the forward pull of our world and drags bodies down.

Yoga Tune Up® incorporates balance into all it offers and options for rhomboid strengthening and opening their partner, the pectoral muscles, abound and focus on returning the spine to its natural curves and supporting movement.  The YTU action, Shoulder Circles can begin a journey of getting to know your rhomboids by taking the scapulae through their full range of motion. Here the rhomboids are required to engage and take on their responsibility of stabilizing, retracting and downwardly rotating the scapulae, in turn opening the chest and allowing the neck to balance the weight of the head evenly atop the spine. This action educates the body to recognize an engaged rhomboid and how toning the muscle can support the innate curves of the spine.

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Kate Krumsiek

From the start, the practice of yoga did it all for me – fitness, awareness, breath, alignment and clarity of mind. My YogaWorks 200 hour training, with the divine Natasha Rizopolous, provided an exceptional foundation of yogic knowledge from which to learn, teach and cast a wide net for continued study. Yoga Tune Up teacher training refined my lens of understanding to shine it upon the anatomical and corrective aspects for practice – helping students, alongside myself, identify and address postural habits that impair efficient, effective movement in the body. Smooth joints, lean muscles and boosted proprioception make each visit to the mat an individualized, satisfying and fun exploration of the human body in motion and stillness.

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Janice Quirt

Amazing – I have had issues with my right rhomboid for years, and everyone has had me stretch it out, when I truly needed some strengthening. Thank you for reminding me of shoulder circles as an accessible exercise for me and my participants. And, as another commenter noted – it is something we, as well as our students, can do at work or at home. And I will pair that with some work to loosen the front of the shoulders and chest with some rolling.


Thank you for the detail on the rhomboid anatomy. I love how shoulder circles are such a simple but brilliant way to bring proprioception into this area and I see the immediate relief and awareness in clients when they get this action going. It’s also something they can do anywhere at anytime. Thank you.


Hi Kate, I`m observing, that the space between the shoulder blades is often a blind spot to my students. Since I added Shoulder Circles they are able to have a better access to this space. They even told me, that they are practicing in the office to relax/activate their shoulders while sitting at the desk.


Shoulder rolls are such a great exercise for discovering your blind spots around you shoulder joints. As I roll them I feel painfull spots, painfree spots, looser spots and tighter spots totally asymmetrically. What is happening in one shoulder is very different from what is happening in the other one.
I plan to do these more so help balance my shoulders out. Thanks Kate!

Eva Hamilton

My rhomboids are definitely “locked long” this week from long sessions of driving. Thanks for bringing awareness to this important region of the body.

Alison Ahmoye Buchanan

I have to consistently remind myself to sit up tall, and employ the posture my Mom would be proud of. It’s very true that our entire society is constantly rounding due to the new norm of computer work/texting/driving too much etc. I’m glad to read your post as it is a reminder that we must not only strengthen our pectoral muscles, but we must roll them, just as we did with our posterior muscles. Thank you!

Alexandra L

A problem I am all too familiar with. By simply being aware of my posture and what actions the romboids are actually responsible for, helps to understand what steps I need to take in correcting this issue. By simply rolling out my pecs and using techniques such as pin the arms on the yogi and propeller arms, I can feel a significant difference in my body, not to mention my breath is fuller, a connection that I had never made. Thank you for sharing!


Thanks for the post! I love the terminology “locked long”. Good description of the imbalances that can develop around the shoulders as the anterior muscles shorten while the posterior muscles are lengthened – no doubt the consequences are felt on both sides of the shoulder as well us up and down the chain. Yoga Tune Up therapy balls offer great assistance in helping to identify and “warm up” shortened muscles and then an option of following with carefully chosen Yoga Tune Up poses can help to strengthen the “locked long” muscles and help to bring the shoulders back in to… Read more »


I, along with 90% of the population suffer from that forward head tilt! The texting neck….ugh, technology reall affecting our body. Being a yoga teacher, I would say I have more awareness of my body than most. I am slowly, but surely trying to reverse this and I ony hope throuh YTU, I cann help others find awareness of their body blindspots as well 🙂

Maya Gil-Cantu

Hey Kate! Thank you for the article. I work with a few Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter and their rhomboids are definitely “locked long” (a term which I love fyi). Shoulder Circles is a great suggestion to rewire their proprioception of their rhomboids, and start getting those suckers to work; eventually un-rounding and de-collapsing the chest. I will definitely try it next time!

MaryBeth Frosco

Hi Kate. Thanks for the blog. Working with lots of students with “shoulder issues”. They describe to me what they feel or don’t feel in this area – pain, numbness, stiffness, poor posture, difficulty sitting upright, limited mobility, etc. But often I can garner alot of additional information by watching them – when they come into the room, set up their mats, sit or stand talking to one another before (and after!) class. Your blog helps to shed some anatomical light on what I am witnessing. Really helpful. My goal is to begin to use our knowledge and understanding so… Read more »


This article clearly explains the problem I might be having with my left shoulder. I have always thought my scapula was causing the pulling and the tightness, but it’s probably my locked Rhomboids. Hoping the appropriate yoga tune up work will help balance me out. I often wonder if this tight upper back/shoulder issue could be contributing to the hyper mobility in my pelvis. Thanks for bringing attention to this issue!

Andrea Loper

I’ve fought over tight pectoral muscles and a rounding in my upper back for years. This article highlighted for me that with a little dedication, I can adjust the imbalance myself without regular chiropractic visits or hours at the gym, but rather merely moving my shoulders through a full, healthy range of motion with yogatuneup shoulder circles. Thanks for this insight.

John Greenhow

I used Shoulder Circles after rolling on the T-spine with Alpha and then Plus balls in my class today at a CrossFit gym. The result was a lot of happy crossfitters with a dramatically improved overhead position. I love this simple movement for a dynamic warm up and to create a stable shoulder position.

Gennifer Morris

Practiced shoulder circles today in class, and why they seem like an easy move, it definitely made me aware of my head forward position. I felt a bit like a bobble head propriocepting where my head should be.

Yvonne Duke

Hi Kate,
Enjoyed your article. I work a lot with athletes and they all have rounded backs with their shoulders rolling forward. The YTU balls are very painful for them. You are absolutely correct…they have no proprioception of their rhomboids at all. Once they roll for a while, through the tension, and we retest, they are always amazed at the results. I also like that you included a visual. This is one article I will print for my students to read.



Hi Kate, Thanks for your insight. I have always wondered why my breathing may be labored at times. It sounds like strengthening my rhomboids and lengthening my pectorals muscles will be one place to start ! Cheers .Nancy Drope

Helen McAvoy

Kate, this article brought to the forefront some issues I have been having…and I think spending more and more time at the computer has created less awareness to my postural placement and the rhomboid/core connection. Thank you!! hope to see you this coming year!

Michelle Dalbec

Congrats Kate! Great article. Love the connection you made from the Rhomboids to the Core.

Geoff Brown

I couldn’t agree more. Our day to day actions are leaving us stooped and hunched. My body thanks me every time my “locked long” rhomboid muscles and exhausted spine are challenged in the other direction! One of the things that I really enjoy about Yoga Tune Up® is that it incorporates pull focused movements for the shoulders creating a balanced practice.

mimi martel

thank you Kate for your post ! As having the shoulders internally rotating is becoming “normal ” in our society this little YTU move can bring great awareness to people proprioception. I also like the “pin the arms on the yogi ” pose that emphasise the external rotation of the shoulders and reposition the arms and shoulder to a optimal position to continue to work at the desk