Do you feel an ache in your neck or back? Do you have a sharp pain between your shoulder blades? You may have bad posture, and the medicine cabinet isn’t the first place you should turn.
Sitting leaned over at your desk all day, lounging on a comfy couch, or craning your neck downward to look down into the light of your cell phone can curve the spine. Overworking a certain muscle group at the gym can also put your body off-kilter and into chronic pain. Yoga is an ancient practice that has been seen in many ways as a holistic approach to healing the body. Many of the strains and pulls throughout the musculature can be counteracted with daily yoga moves to stretch and correct the body.
Yoga can help you in a way that honors your spine’s natural curves. Here’s a guide to assess and improve your posture.
Fixing your posture with yoga requires that you do poses that open your chest and shoulders, allow you to gently bend your back, lengthen your spine, and allow you to experience what a steady, balanced, posture feels like.
In addition to increasing body awareness, yoga strengthens the core and lengthens the spine. The spine is the thing that holds up our body all day long, so it’s important to keep it in tip-top condition.
1. Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
Tadasana is really how we should be standing all the time, so if you can do this pose in correct alignment with ease, your posture is probably already pretty good! Most people, however, find this posture to be challenging, as it requires your whole body to be engaged.
Stand with your feet about hip distance apart and parallel to each other, with your toes spread and pointing forward. Engage your calves and quads. Engage your core and slightly tuck your tailbone. Keep your shoulders wide and relaxed. Align your head so your chin is parallel to the floor, and the crown of your head is directly over the center of your pelvis.
Raise your arms over your head, keeping them shoulder width apart. Be sure to keep your shoulders relaxed and down away from your ears. Hold for 1 minute.
2. Vrksasana (Tree Pose)
Stand up straight and shift your balance onto your right foot. Place the sole of your left foot onto your calf or inner thigh, if you can. Once you feel balanced, raise your hands to your chest in Namaste.
Keep your shoulders relaxed and your head in the same position as in Tadasana. Keep your eyes fixed on a point in front of you for better balance. Hold for 1 minute and repeat on the other side.
3. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
Adho Mukha Svnanasana is a great pose for improving your posture, as it stretches and lengthens the spine and opens your shoulders
From table top position, tuck your toes, straighten your legs and lift your hips toward the ceiling. Adjust your hands forward a bit if necessary and spread your fingers. Keep your spine long, and your head and neck in line with your spine. Hold for 1 minute.
4. Plank Pose
Plank pose will strengthen your core, which will take some of the stress off your spine, allowing you to hold yourself up straight with ease.
From table top pose, tuck your toes under and move your feet backward so that your legs are straight out behind you. Check that your wrists are underneath your shoulders, that your shoulders are away from your ears, and your body is in one straight line. Hold for 1 minute.
5. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
Bhujangasana and half bhujangasana gently stretch the spine and open the chest, reversing rounded shoulders and upper backs.
Lying on your stomach, engage your back muscles to lift your head and upper torso. Align your elbows underneath your shoulders for support. Open your chest and relax your shoulders away from your ears. Look straight ahead and hold for 1 minute.
Do these poses every day and you’ll find your posture improving very fast. As your muscles stretch, strengthen and lengthen, you may even find you’ve ‘grown’ an inch or so! Remember, just like our bad habits developed over time, our good habits take time to build back up as well. Try practicing these poses and see which ones resonate with you. Give yourself reminders in your calendar or on your desk to be present to your posture. In the end you will breathe, move, and feel better.