There’s tightness in my upper back.  Maybe it’s masculine energy stuck on the right side.  Or maybe it’s feminine energy stuck on the left side.  There’s a tightness or tension between my shoulder blades. It could be repetitious unconsciousness instead of repetitious awareness (Thank you, Daniel Stewart).  There’s tightness when I breathe.   Maybe it’s… NO! Wait! It’s your rhomboids!  That’s exactly what it is.

Overworked or overstretched rhomboids can lead to scapular instability.

Two upper back muscles located between your shoulder blades are holding tight because of the way you sit, stand, walk, plank, handstand, text, etc.  Slouch means ouch, even when you’re inverted!  The rhomboid major originates at the spinous processes of T-2 to T-5 and inserts at the medial border of the scapula between the spine of the scapula and the inferior angle.  The rhomboid minor originates at the spinous processes of C-7 and T-1 and inserts at the upper portion of the medial border of the scapula, across form the spine of the scapula.  Meet your rhomboids.  Get to know your rhomboids.

Rhomboids rotate the scapula downwards, retract the scapula and elevate the scapula.

Have thin fibers that lie deep to the trapezius and superficial to the erector spinae muscles.

One rhomboid is the major, the other the minor.  The minor is located superior to the major.

Major and minor rhomboids are known flat, rectangular muscles.

Both rhomboids have fibers that run on the diagonal or oblique angle.

Overworked and over tired, these muscles need to be rolled out with YTU Therapy Balls.

Indeed, scapular instability can result if the rhomboids are not doing their job.  (no winging!)

Direct antagonists of the serratus anterior muscles?  You know it!  Your rhomboids.

Stretch the rhomboids in Reverse Crucifix. Contract the rhomboids in Standing Bridge arms.

Get real with your rhomboids using the Yoga Tune Up® Rib Rock.   Really real.  This totally uncorks tension in your upper back and improves your posture and so much more.  Ready, set, ROCK your rhomboids!

Discover Yoga Tune Up® at home.

Learn about our Therapy Ball Programs

Watch our Quickfix video for upper back pain.

Terry Littlefield

Terry Littlefield, RYT-500, Integrated Yoga Tune Up® teacher, and long-time practitioner, is a passionate educator with a big sense of humor and an even bigger heart. Her classes are a blend of science and spirit, breath work and ball work (Yoga Tune Up® therapy balls, of course), movement and meditation. If you want to have fun and experience safe, functional movement within your yoga practice, she’s your yogi.

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How tragic to think that practicing Thich Nhat Hanh’s hugging meditation might be painful :^( Anyway, as one who has experienced problems with winging of the scapulae and its accompanying pain from too much typing, who then found relief in the the popular yoga cue of shoulder blades together on the back, for a while, I appreciate your detailed description of how to achieve rhomboid balance and health.

Hannah Anderson

This is a great intro to the rhomboids article! My rhomboids are often tight from everyday use and the more I use and abuse them it seems to more I forget to pay attention to their upkeep. It’s the common out of sight out of mind situation. Until its painful of course and by then it can be really hard to relax and stretch. The therapy balls are amazing for the rhomboids and I use them when I work the front desk any chance I get to lean up against a wall. It’s helped to calm my whole thoracic region… Read more »

Cailyn Edwards

I was experiencing some major back pain this weekend and sure enough after taking the balls into my Rhomboids it was long gone! I find if I roll out the rest of my back but miss this area they complain loudly! I assume that when other muscles relax these guys pick up the slack.

Natalie Persaud

rhomboids are something I definitely forget about. hugging is what drew me to this article! now I’m thinking of other ways this muscle is involved in my movement practices and noticing that I’ve neglected how tight I am to wrap my arms around things, maybe I haven’t been giving enough hugs 🙁

Terry Littlefield

Yes-ish. That is more about range of motion of the shoulder joint. Flexion, extension and circumduction of the arms. Of course the rhomboids are related so continue to fly with PROPELLER ARMS! That’s what it’s called and it’s one of my favorites. It will definitely warm up the whole shoulder girdle and it’s so much fun.

Jen Licursi

Hello, rhomboids! And here I’d been blaming my trapezius muscles for that nagging pain lurking near the medial border of my scapulae. With a 9-5 desk job and one hour round-trip commute, I’m not surprised that my slouching has exacerbated it, but wonder if I’ve been overzealous in my plank/chaturanga practice as well. I’ll look into the YTU Rib Rock, but in the meantime, does the swinging-arm shoulder warm up do anything to loosen the rhomboids? You know what I mean: that pose where you swing your arms full circle in opposite directions and try your best not to hit… Read more »

Emill Kim

The rhomboid and serratus anterior balance is something that I’m finally trying to understand. As an old Anusara yoga junky, They constantly reiterate shoulders on your back. unfortunately it totally took the curve out of my spine.

Also love the energetic “red herrings.” As an acupuncturist, it’s so easy to fall into that trap. Thanks!


Very good description that helps me use my YTU Therapy Balls effectively. Thanks! For a nice illustration of the described muscles check:


Love the focused blog on the Rhomboids and Hugging. Favorite YTU poses, Shoulder Circles and Epaulet Arms. These help me feel the movement of my scapulae and the corresponding muscles (rhomboids, traps, serratus, pecs) involved in this movement.

Stacy Jackson

Rolled out the rhomboids yesterday and today I feel so open in my upper back! Today I added the Reverse Crucifix pose after ball rolling and I’m totally uncorked!

Nikki Wong

Once I think I overstretched some muscle in of my upper back in the vicinity of the shoulder blades where it was hard to take a deep thoracic breath. I didn’t know what muscles they were but now I know thanks to YTU. Rhomboids! Breathing shouldn’t hurt 🙂

Morgan Ward

This is EXACTLY where I was feeling pain too! No matter what I couldn’t get it away. The YTU balls have helped so incredibly much, and I make sure I’m always thinking “Posture, posture, posture!”.

Laurie Streff Kostman

Wow! What a terrific way to learn about, emphasis and remember the rhomboids! Thanks! Your intricate descriptions of where the major and minor rhomboids originate and insert are also very helpful in better understanding the true nature of pain that is caused by tight muscles in those areas, and how rolling on the YTU balls in a diagonal fashion targets those oblique angles. Though I often use my YTU balls in the upper back and shoulder areas, I haven’t experienced the ‘Rib Rock’ which I am now very curious about and can’t wait to give it a try 😉

Pat Donaher

I love your opening. Sometimes the body can be mysterious and esoteric… and sometimes not. I know for me, rolling on balls is always an (ow) awakening for my rhomboids, and my traps, and… thanks for more ways to make us better huggers!


This is a very helpful post. I have trouble with my mid back – and have not been sure if it was weakness, neurological or overuse of my anterior muscles (pecs).
I am working on ‘body surfing at the wall’ baby steps until I build the strength to do it on the floor.
Thanks for this informative blog!


An acoustic for remembering Rhomboids- fantastic! I have tight shoulders and after practicing the Yoga Tune up Rib Rock I was able to sleep pain free. I felt so good that it was the firs thing I thought of doing again as soon as I woke up the next morning. And just like that Rad Happy Oscillating Muscles Building Overt awareness In my minD…Sweet!

Leslie Van Schaack

Its taken me a while to truly LEARN the rhomboid location and it was really from always asking massage therapists “oh what is that!” when they’d land on one of many knots in my whole back area. Its still difficult to distinguish all the back muscles and how they work together but I appreciate the effort put in this posting to come up w/ a mnemonic for helping us understand different aspects of these muscles!!!

Yi-Hsueh Lu

I have recently came to realize how tight my rhomboids are when my teacher taught Garudasana (Eagle Pose) to stretch the rhomboids. It is so true that the rhomboids are often overworked as yoga classes are often filled with ques like “gather your shoulder blades.” On the other hand, its antagonist, the serratus anteriors are often underused as they are not as accessible.
YTU pose body surfing is a great pose to address this imbalance. While focusing on retracting shoulder blades and bring the spine to extension, pressing the palms into the floor to active the serratus anteriors.


Being an asthmatic I’m always looking for ways to help me breathe better. As I deepen my understanding of the body I am truly amazed at how much tightness in the back of the body effects my breath. I always come off my YTU balls feeling like I can finally breathe again.

Meredith Brockriede

Thanks for this post, Terry. I think I was completely unaware of my rhomboids for years, even after I’d started practicing yoga. Since I’ve been addressing scapular winging in my own body the last year, I’ve been focusing a lot on strengthening and balancing my rhomboids and serratus anterior. I’m thinking I’ll have to look into the YTU Rib Rock you mention!

If anyone is wondering about the reverse crucifix pose you reference, here’s a link:

Mary Ruth

I love the demystification of our pain! Wait! It’s a muscle that’s hurting? huh… 🙂
Every time I roll out my rhomboids and traps I have to repeat that this is self love… So rewarding but definitely a discipline.


I enjoy your phrasing of “repetitious awareness” as I am learning more everyday about the repetitious unconsciousness that has led to a rounding of my upper back and in turn shortening of my pectoral muscles. Thank you for this wonderful article!


The cue to contract the rhomboids in Standing Bridge arms really helps me access this pose. I can feel how the scapula is so much more stabilized. The therapy balls assists in being to further access this area.


I am taking a yoga tune-up course this week-end and in our morning practice we rolled out our traps and rhomboids. I did not realize just how tight and adhered I was until I rolled. I train hard with weights and do back exercises at least twice weekly so this is a reminder for me to be nice to my rombie’s 🙂 thanks for this


Great post for one of my favorite things – Hugging! Really liked how you break down the rhomboids – will help to remember these details and also remind me how tight mine are! Must go roll them out!

Elissar Hanna

It’s very interesting that you post this as I’ve been recently wondering about tightness in the back of my heart and attributing it to an over-aggressive masculine. Although I do believe that it can be related to masculine softening, this post gives me a tangible way to get to know and work with my rhomboids! …I’m guessing minor is superior because there’s less range of motion necessary in that area? Thanks for posting!

Gary Carlisle

Excellent Information on the tight shoulders,and how the rhomboids relate to the serratus,. and their actions.Thank you for this post.It has been very informative.