Tips for Thoracic Spinal Extension

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Do you struggle with the Swan exercise or backbends in general? Shari Berkowitz is here to help! Very often when we do backbends we end up bending too much in the neck and low back and we skip the stiffer area of the thoracic spine, thereby leading to strain in the areas we're overdoing. Get Shari's tips for strengthening your thoracic extensors (your upper back area) and you'll feel the difference in all backbends and even better, in your awesome upright posture. Visit Shari for teacher training, workshops and lessons at The Vertical Workshop. Our thanks to Shari’s student Roccio Cárceles and The Contrology Cohort in New York City where this was filmed.

What Others Are Saying


  1. tlbsis 2 weeks ago

    Thank you Shari. Just found this tutorial which helps in my previous question regarding the towel roll! I should have searched first and asked second. So much excellent information. Thanks again! Tiffany

    • Author
      Shari Berkowitz 2 weeks ago

      I’m so glad you got what you needed! Holler if you need more!
      – Shari

  2. Ste70
    Ste70 5 months ago

    I really like the way you explain where is the focus in this pilates exercise!
    Thank you very much Shary, it’s very useful especially for the Pilates techers don’t loose the goal of Pilates esxercises!
    Well done,

    • Author
      Shari Berkowitz 5 months ago

      Stefano, thank you for watching this and for your feedback! I am so glad it’s effective!
      Wishing you well!
      – Shari

  3. stewingabout 8 months ago

    wow that was amazing! thank you ! First time watching you and def loving your verbiage and your energy!

    • Author
      Shari Berkowitz 8 months ago

      Thank you so much for taking a look at this! And for liking it!
      Please reach out with any questions about this or anything else Pilates or biomechanics! I’m happy to share with answers, resources, workouts, etc.!
      All the very best,
      – Shari

  4. DonnaLongo

    Hi Shari! So happy to see you here. Look forward to more great tips!

    • Author
      Shari Berkowitz 8 months ago

      Donna! Well, it’s taking me time to sort out replying on this platform! Sorry for that!
      Thank you for checking this out!
      I hope you’re well!!
      – Shari

  5. Chris7 1 year ago

    great to see you on this platform, Shari!!

    • Author
      Shari Berkowitz 8 months ago

      Hi, Chris! My apologies that it’s taken me so long to write back! I don’t have the knack of the message notification here, yet! Working on it!
      Thank you for checking out this video! I hope they are useful for you! Join me by watching more and holler if I can be of service with questions, workouts, etc.!

  6. tracy 1 year ago

    Shari Fan here!!! Whenever any of my teachers ask what I’d like to work on, I say – extension! Great tips, want more!

    • Alisa Wyatt

      :)) we have lots more Shari coming for you Tracy! Stay tuned!

    • Author
      Shari Berkowitz 1 year ago

      Thanks, Tracy! It’s lovely seeing you here! There will be a whole lot more tips videos from me!

  7. Tracy Sue Du Plessis 1 year ago

    Really looking forward to more. Yay!!! Thanks you.

    • Author
      Shari Berkowitz 1 year ago

      Thanks, Tracy! More coming your way!

  8. Alisa Wyatt

    To all of you Shari fans out there–we are thrilled to finally have Shari on Pilatesology and wanted to let you know we have tons more videos coming up so stay tuned!

  9. 1 year ago

    Wonderful video! Hoping you can do more here!

    • Author
      Shari Berkowitz 1 year ago

      Hi, Shannon! Indeed…there are many, many more coming!

  10. excellent! thank you.

    • Author
      Shari Berkowitz 1 year ago

      Melania! Thank you for checking it out!

  11. davidjsterry 1 year ago


    • Author
      Shari Berkowitz 1 year ago

      Thank you, David! More is coming for sure! Like 20 or so in this first batch!

  12. Jennifer Allen

    Super excited to see Shari on Pilatesology!!!

    • Author
      Shari Berkowitz 1 year ago

      Thank you, Jennifer! Glad to be here!

  13. Andrea

    Yes please! More Shari! Great cue: reverse the curve of the thoracic spine.

    • Author
      Shari Berkowitz 1 year ago

      Thanks, Andrea! And…I’m super glad you like that cue!

  14. michellando 1 year ago

    Wonderful! Would love to see more from Shari here!

    • Author
      Shari Berkowitz 1 year ago

      Thank you! I’m happy to be here and we’ll have many more videos here, indeed!

  15. Victoria Sommer 1 year ago

    Soooooo happy to see you here finally!!!!!

    • Author
      Shari Berkowitz 1 year ago

      Victoria!!! I’m happy to be here, as you know!

  16. Martin 1 year ago

    Shari! So excited to see your videos live on Pilatesology! Can’t wait to watch all the others. : )

    • Author
      Shari Berkowitz 1 year ago

      Thanks, Martin! I’ll be so happy when they are available to share! Let’s stay tuned!

  17. pilenthuses 1 year ago

    Dear Shari Berkowitz:

    You speak about:

    1. “Release the Upper Abdominals” – Could you please define the muscles you speak about releasing?

    2. “Effort in the middle back & Upper Thoracic Spine” – Could you please define the muscles you are speaking about here please?

    Thank you.

    • Author
      Shari Berkowitz 1 year ago

      Thanks for watching and for asking!
      1 – Release your upper abdominals
      In order to achieve thoracic extension and therefore true spinal extension, you must make sure that you are allowing the thoracic spine to move. When we hold onto the upper abdominals, then the thoracic spine will be stuck in its natural curve or even in a slight bit of extra flexion. The thoracic spine will remain immobile. The cues that typical hold the upper abdominals are as follows: closer your ribs, knit your ribs, melt your ribs… Pretty much anything to do with the rib cage. For many reason, it’s wise to let go of those cues, but especially for thoracic extension. Why let go of that set of cues in general? Because they reduce the ability of your entire breathing mechanism and thereby negatively affect your nervous system. Additionally, they lock down the thoracic spine which will surely affect the cervical spine and shoulder girdle.

      2 – Effort in the middle back and upper thoracic spine
      This means that you’ll want to make real muscular connections around the joints of T1-T7 in the attempt to reverse the curve there. It is tempting to let that area stay still and focus on the mobility of the lower thoracic spine. However, it’s the upper-middle portion that really requires our attention.

      I hope that helps. And if it brought on more questions…just ask! If here is not the right place, feel free to email me directly:

  18. JuliaHart 1 year ago

    Shari!!!!…!!! so happy to see you on Pilatesology

    • Author
      Shari Berkowitz 1 year ago

      Julia! I’m glad to be here! Happy to see you here, too!

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