Rami's Blog

Like the Yin-Yang, Eastern Martial Arts and Western medicine are two halves of a whole my mission is to preserve the ancient mind-body tools, and pass them on to you.


Correct Alignment in the Spine and Shoulders

The Up & Down Forces: Part 2

Compressed vertebrae & pinched nerves, shoulder & neck problems, headaches & migraines

Hello again mind body students!

My last blog challenged you to keep your spine straight as much as possible throughout the day.

How did you do with the Up & Down Challenge No. 1?    Were you able to keep your spine straight when sitting, standing and walking?

How did you do with the Up & Down Challenge No. 1?

Were you able to keep your spine straight when sitting, standing and walking?

Your next challenge is to learn and practice dropping your shoulders until, over time, they are dropped and relaxed all the time.

Remember, you still want to lengthen UP through the spine while dropping and relaxing the shoulders DOWN and be sure to breathe deeply in and out through the nose!

At this point, you now have 2 up forces - the lumbar and thoracic spine (in and up) and 1 down force - the shoulders.

3 Common Shoulder Misalignments

The shoulders have 3 common misalignment positions - floating, rounded and shrunk or squeezed. You might have one or all three of these issues in one or both shoulders. Let’s find out!

1. Floating Shoulders

Either one or both shoulders float or are held upwards. Most people have one shoulder floating up, usually the opposite shoulder of the dominant hand. In some ways, the dominant hand has a better aligned and healthier shoulder.

If you don’t use it, you lose it applies to correct shoulder alignment!



Check yourself in the mirror

Stand in front of a mirror and see if one shoulder is higher than the other one so you know if you have a floating shoulder. You might even have 2 floating shoulders.

2. Rounded Shoulders

Either both or one of your shoulders could be rounding forward. Like a floating shoulder, if you are a righty, usually the left one rounds forward. Rounded shoulder is common for people who work at a desk for long periods of time. Hunching over your computer or workspace breaks alignment of the spine which allows the shoulders to round forward.

Over time this incorrect alignment stays, even when standing up straight and can radiate pain down the arm or up into the neck.

In order to reverse this lack of alignment keep working on lengthening the lumbar and thoracic spine upwards wile moving the shoulders back by opening the chest. Pretend like your chest is smiling.



Is this you?

After a while, with practice, your shoulders and maybe even you will be smiling!

In yoga it is believed that rounding the shoulders, collapsing the thoracic spine and having a concave chest effects your mood in a negative way and the opposite, as well: lengthening and opening the thoracic spine, dropping and rolling back the shoulders while opening the chest will effect your mood in a positive way.

Turn your shoulders and chest into a smile that starts on a physical level and spreads to your soul.

3. Shrunk or Squeezed Shoulders

Both or one shoulder is squeezed or shrunk inwards towards your neck, usually the opposite shoulder of your dominant hand.

Stand in front of the mirror and eyeball the distance from the base of the neck to the edge of your collar bone or shoulder.

See if both sides are equal in length or if one shoulder is squeezed in towards your neck or is shorter than the other one.



Sometimes a squeezed shoulder is the result of a floating and a rounded shoulder. Some shoulders are not rounded and not floating but squeezed.

If you have one or more of these 3 common misalignment situations it may be causing muscle tension which can lead to headaches and migraines. Tightness in the soft tissues can lead to compression on vertebrae which then compress or pinch the nerves causing pain and numbness which can radiate down the arm or up into the face.

The second challenge in my Major Up & Down Forces Series is important for correct alignment which reduces physical stress off of your skeleton. Lengthening the spine and relaxing the shoulders creates better flow, less stagnation and frees your skeleton from being a prisoner of your soft tissues.

Challenge 2 in the Major Up & Down Forces Series

Sit on the edge of a chair, or, if possible, on the floor

Close your eyes

Lengthen your spine up while dropping the shoulders down 

 Open/smile the chest

Take deep breaths

Calm and empty your mind

Remember to breathe in and out through your nose

From my books  Sunrise Tai Chi  and  Sunset Tai Chi

Try to practice 3 times a day for 3 to 5 minutes

Sit on a chair or on the ground

Deep breathing will help you Empty your Mind

Keep practicing the Up & Down Challenge No. 2 to achieve better alignment through the spine and shoulders and experience freedom and relief.

What is the difference between a headache and a migraine?

A headache is the result of contracted muscles between the head and the neck. The pain can be unpleasant to severe and usually is felt on both sides of your head and around the forehead. Headaches can be triggered by poor posture, stress and anxiety but normally happen without warning while a migraine usually has warning signs.

A migraine is moderate to severe pain at the front or the side of the head, usually one side, but not always. Migraines usually are accompanied by other symptoms such as pain in the temples, nausea, sensitivity to light and can be so unpleasant as to interfere with daily tasks. According to the World Health Organization migraines affect about 1 in 7 adults in the world and headaches affect women 3 times more than men, likely because of hormones.

70 percent of monthly migraines sufferers are women. Out of that, 30 percent are related to hormones and 30 percent are because of physical stress and tension in the neck and shoulder area. The last 30 percent is a combination of both hormones and physical stress and tension.

Another common cause of headaches and migraines is fatigue and mental stress.

Some people get headaches because they need glasses for reading. When is the last time you had an eye exam?

I started practicing Tai Chi when I was 15 because I suffered from regular headaches and migraines caused by sinus infections. Learning and practicing correct alignment of my shoulders and spine helped me and it can help you, too.

Whatever your situation, a mind-body approach will lead to better health. I challenge you to try it.

Happy Stretching, Deep Breathing, Empty your Mind, Strengthen your Energetic System & Evoke your spirit!