The Position of Shoulders in Opening the Chest

Over the weekend, I went to visit Rick of Wujifa and received a correction on my shoulders. In a zhan zhuang posture, Rick noted that my shoulders are slightly forward, causing some hunching in my back. This prevents me from opening my chest.  The basic correction is to roll my shoulders up, then back, then down. Note, this is just for the shoulders and does not imply sticking the chest out. [More on my visit with Rick on another post.]

I can now recall that I received a similar correction from Master Chen Zhonghua at the March 2009 Milwaukee Workshop.  I was holding the posture for a right handed positive circle with my the tip of my right fingers between nose and eye height. Master Chen walks by, stops in front of me and taps me on the right shoulder.  He then holds my right hand in place and starts to adjust my right shoulder by lifting the shoulder up, rolling it back and then setting it down. However, during this adjustment I start changing the position of my spine, right hip, etc, and he tells me “don’t move anything else”.  Anyone who has been to one of his workshops will know this phrase.

Dave of Formosa Neijia received a similar adjustment from Dr. Ken Fish and offers some corrective exercises:

The first thing he showed me was that I suffer from “Yang style disease.” Basically my upper body posture is rounded forward in the shoulders preventing me from opening the chest.

The way you correct it is to first stand with your heels against the wall, push the back of your head against the wall, and take some of the lumbar curve out of your back. Basically you don’t want the lumbar cure to be exaggerated. Hold that for several minutes.

The next exercise is to stand on the corner where two walls meet. Push your spine and head into the corner like in the first exercise above but this time, push your shoulders back and DOWN like you’re trying to pinch the corner with your shoulder blades.  This really opens the chest and I’m guessing practice of this exercise can lead to this … I was surprised at what this one exercise alone can do to your posture. On both of these exercises, Dr. Fish said to just hold the for several minutes and build up.

— Source: Dr. Ken Fish on posture, kua, and “Yang disease” | Formosa Neijia

To me, the amazing thing is not the differences, but the similarities between the different systems.  What’s even more amazing is the interpretation of teachings. I fell victim to this myself as when I heard the phrase: “sink the chest and raise the back”, I ended up in a hunched posture. My wife used to comment that I should try to stick my chest out more instead of walking around like an old man.  Now I realize that the problem wasn’t necessarily my chest, but my shoulders …

Only so much can be learned from books and videos. In taiji, key instructions are transmitted through physical touch.  This is even more reason to seek out a qualified instructor to learn from.  Being off my a millimeter can result in missing the target by miles.


About wujimon

taiji, meditation and health
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6 Responses to The Position of Shoulders in Opening the Chest

  1. Same-ness and difference sorting at the most basic levels in comparison can open up a lot of insight or data… To play with.

  2. Mike says:

    What I notice in Dave's quote is a mechanistic/structural method or approach. Remember the first wujifa triangle. The mis-transmitted “Yang Hunch” is also a problem I continue working on resolving. Hunching creates shortened (chronically contracted – not relaxed) muscles in front as compared to the back (not balanced front to back). A mechanistic/structural method as Dave suggests, contracts/tightens the back muscles to stretch the front. This works as a short-term medicine but this approach uses force, not relax. A goal is to develop relax. I think Rick had a *bench*mark suggestion on how to stretch the front using relax. Regardless of the method, the over-arching, underlying, long-term, short-term goal is to notice and develop kinesthetic FEELING deeper and deeper which also develops one's eyesight.

  3. Dave Chesser says:

    “A mechanistic/structural method as Dave suggests, contracts/tightens the back muscles to stretch the front. This works as a short-term medicine but this approach uses force, not relax.” There can't be an opening without a closing. Just relaxing won't cut it because there's no movement between the two extremes of maximum open and maximum close. Relax is just a midpoint on that continuum but helps as a starting point for reaching either extreme. Still, relaxation alone won't open up a tight area. Having the extremes of open and close is where the power comes from. Think “Yang family bows” and you'll see where I'm coming from.To really get the shoulders/chest open, I highly recommend shoulder dislocates. I'm rehabing lots of people with this movement:

  4. wujimon says:

    Wow, Dave. I feel pain just watching the video of shoulder dislocates. I didn't think this was something that could be trained.

  5. Dave Chesser says:

    LOL. Well, the shoulder doesn't actually dislocate, the shoulders just stretch. I wrote a blog post about it for more info:

  6. Pingback: Isolate then Integrate | wujimon taiji blog

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