What on earth does that mean? Welcome back! We’re up to Part 4, the last in the 4 part mini-series about “how to fix your neck and shoulder aches and improve your posture” is now in your hot little hands.

Time to talk about shoulders and backbends

The first backbend you do is in Half Moon right after your side bends. Here’s where you will use the techniques from the previous blogs. Need to find them in a jiffy? Here are the links to blogs 1, 2 and 3.

Part 1: Shoulder breathing? Your mission! 🙂

Part 2: What do cucumbers and shoulders have in common?

Part 3: How do you get your teeth into your shoulders?

Here’s what you should be doing. When you come up from your left side bend, you have to AVOID going straight back into your backbend.

  1. Bend the arms and drop the shoulders back before you do anything else.
  2. Drop the head back gently, on a soft neck
  3. Extend the arms upward. Lengthen them keeping attention on your soft neck.
  4. The moment it tenses, bend the arms again and soften the neck.
  5. Re-lengthen arms as you inhale and lengthen the back.
  6. Exhale as you LOOK back and start to bend the back.
  7. Bring the arms back with you. They don’t have to be WITH the head or squeezed to the side (remember those are problems you must avoid).
  8. If you feel the need to come back out, instead of doing that, look back toward the floor, bend the arms for a sec, drop the neck and then lengthen the arms again.
  9. BONUS: If you want a deeper backbend, bend the arms ever so slightly whilst you’re IN your backbend, make sure the neck is completely relaxed, and then lengthen the spine again.


What to do with your teeth (actually … what NOT to do!)

Now another matter to get your teeth into

Did you ever hear that you ought to bite the teeth together and that will improve your backbend?

Well, don’t! That’s right, don’t bite your teeth together unless you’re eating. (Take it from me – I practised as a dentist for many years, and biting your teeth together at any other time is NOT a good idea!) Eating is the only time you should create that tension.

So many teachers think that it’s a good idea. But bringing your jaws together, massively involves muscles in your head, neck and shoulders. If you have any dysfunction at all in your jaws, your TMJ, or you have existing aches in the area, then teeth together will only make it worse.

What’s worse, is that with teeth together in a yoga pose, your muscles will strain and if you stretch against that tension you will feel something, but it’s not a stretch. It doesn’t matter if your intention is to stretch. It’s just bad news, so don’t ever do it.

If you find your teeth are clenching, open your mouth wide, actively and feel the big stretch in your face. THEN, just relax the jaws and bring the LIPS together. Yes! Now that’s nice.

You can even do this DURING a pose. And feel the calming magic.

(BTW, if you have the Hot Yoga MasterClass manual, I actually explain the mechanism with the teeth and how it affects your yoga, on page 44. And if you don’t … use the link below!)

The Manoobri-what? … A brilliant piece of work in your chest

I promised you 2 wonderful tools that you can teach ANYBODY to fix their posture. The first one is from my very popular video (which you’ll find at my HotYogaDoctor website (under free videos). ‘Shoulders in your back pocket’ is instrumental in transforming postures all around the world.

The other tool is the manubrium. The manoobri-what, you ask? Hehe. At the base of the neck, in the center, joining your 2 clavicles and at the top of your sternum.

Lifting this little triangular shaped bone is another highly effective key to ideal posture. It’s incredible how easily it works. When I walk with my mum or my family I only have to touch my manubrium (or theirs) or whisper the magic word (manubrium or even just the word ‘lift’) and they lift it and voila! It’s literally transformational.

So from now on, draw from your postural box of tools!

Lift your manubrium. Or if you prefer to think of your shoulders in your back pockets, then so be it! Whatever works.

  • But notice how you can take the basic foundational principles of relaxation, and fine and functional posture into the yoga room with you.
  • Use it when you bring your arms over your head.
  • Use it when you interlock fingers and when you CONSIDER straightening your arms.

Remember that you can ONLY do something like that IF and ONLY IF you make 100% sure that your shoulders are in the best possible position.

Everything, and I mean absolutely everything you do can connect with these simple and crucial tools.

When you hear someone saying to you “squeeze the head with the arms” or “bring the arms back behind the ears” or a hundred other potentially risky commands, you’ll KNOW what to do to keep yourself safe.

Realize that most commands given to most hot yoga and Bikram method students are designed for the super flexible and regular practitioner who can ALREADY do the poses.

If that’s not you, and even if it is, use these overriding principles to navigate your practice so that you can keep on feeling the benefits and keep on improving. In some way, every single class!


Gabrielle 🙂

I use principles of excellent and ecological body function in everything I do, and in everything I write about. If you want to see the comprehensive collection of all the major tips and techniques that guarantee a safe, risk-free and super-satisfying Bikram or Hot Yoga practice then please take a look at Hot Yoga MasterClass. It’s the manual that more hot yoga teacher trainings use than any other, on the planet!

Check it out here:

>> http://www.hotyogamasterclass.com/ for super value packages at our own Shop.

and even at Amazon for the paperback in either Black and White or Full Color.