The most effective Clinical Somatics exercises to resolve upper crossed syndrome
First, if you’re not familiar with pandiculation and why it’s the most effective way to reset gamma loop activity and release chronic muscle tension, I recommend that you read What is Pandiculation?
Below I’ve listed the exercises from the Level One & Two Courses that are most helpful for releasing the pattern of muscle contraction present in upper crossed syndrome. Pandiculation exercises don’t just release chronic muscle contraction—they also improve voluntary control of inactive muscles. So, there are exercises listed below that work with the pectorals, upper trapezius, and levator scapula as well as with the middle and lower trapezius and neck flexors.
If you’re just starting your Clinical Somatics practice, be sure to read Developing Your Own Daily Practice.
LEVEL ONE COURSE
Arch & Flatten: This exercise is the most basic movement in Clinical Somatics. It allows you to release and regain voluntary control of the extensors of the lower back and the abdominals, and maintain neutral pelvic alignment. While this movement does not work directly with the muscles involved in upper crossed syndrome, it’s common for upper crossed syndrome to occur along with either anterior or posterior pelvic tilt. It’s important to address patterns of tension in the core of the body first, as our core is where our posture and movement patterns begin. Tension and misalignment in the upper spine can be simply a reaction to an imbalance in the lumbar spine and pelvis, so the Arch & Flatten is an essential exercise to practice daily.
Arch & Curl: This exercise pandiculates the abdominals, pectorals, and neck flexors, directly addressing upper crossed syndrome. This is also an essential exercise to practice daily.
One-sided Arch & Curl and Diagonal Arch & Curl: These have the same benefits as the Arch & Curl, but they focus on one side of your body at a time, allowing you to even out imbalances in your muscular patterns.
Back Lift: This exercise allows you to release and regain control of the upper, middle, and lower trapezius, along with the lower back and gluteal muscles. If you have significant rounded posture, you may find this exercise uncomfortable at first. You may need to make progress in releasing your pectorals before practicing this exercise comfortably.
Upper Trapezius Release: This movement (found at the end of the Bonus: Ultimate Pandiculation video) releases the upper trapezius and levator scapula.
Flowering Arch & Curl: This is a full-body version of the Arch & Curl, involving arching and curling of the back, internal and external rotation of the arms, and internal and external rotation of the hips. You can practice just the upper body portion of this movement to focus on the muscles involved in upper crossed syndrome, or include the leg movement if you wish.
LEVEL TWO COURSE
Head Lifts: This exercise pandiculates the muscles involved in forward head posture: the sternocleidomastiod and anterior scalenes.
Proprioceptive Exercise 1: This is a very important exercise for anyone with upper cross syndrome to practice regularly, as it allows you to retrain your posture and proprioception (your internal sense of your body position). This exercise is practiced seated in a chair in front of a full-length mirror, allowing you to compare how your posture feels internally to what you see in the mirror.
Scapula Scoops Part 1: This exercise pandiculates the upper and lower trapezius and levator scapula.
Scapula Scoops Part 2: This exercise pandiculates the pectorals and the middle trapezius.
Diagonal Curl: This exercise releases the pectorals and abdominals; it is an excellent exercise for opening up the chest.
Breathing Exercises: If you find that your breathing is shallow due to chronic tension in your chest and abdominals, these breathing exercises will help you regain voluntary use of your diaphragm and take fuller, deeper breaths.