Improve Your Posture with These 3 Yoga Poses
- Written By:Danielle Diamond
Whether it’s your mother’s voice coming back from childhood, or your yoga teacher’s request this morning, people like to point out bad posture when they see it. People quit engaging their core muscles to keep them upright years ago, but it’s only gotten worse since iPhones and computers have taken over our day. Tech neck is real, and desk hunch shouldn’t be ignored.
The good news is, with just a few adjustments to your body and your mind, to actually notice when you’re slouching, you’ll be standing straight like Charlize Theron, who is known for having great posture, in no time.
But what does having good posture really mean? Basically that you want to keep your main joints and bones correctly aligned so that they’re being supported by the attached muscles, with just the right amount of tension.
That doesn’t sound so urgent, does it? Trust me, it is. Ok, you don’t have to trust me solely, but I asked David S. Feldman, MD and you can trust him completely. He’s the, Director of The Center for Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity at The Paley Institute in West Palm Beach, so he’s knows all about posture.
Dr. Feldman schooled me on why bad posture is beyond what you look like in the mirror. He said, “Bad posture is a symptom of overall poor conditioning, and that is a problem for both your heart and lung function.” That’s because when your body isn’t aligned and your shoulders are rounded forward constricting your chest, it prohibits your organs from doing their job 100%.
Bad posture can also lead to the shortening and contraction of the lumbar muscles, which can contribute to unhealthy tightness and lower back pain. Plus, when you’re not properly aligned, your ligaments, tendons, and muscles constantly need to fire up to support that same weight, so you’re making your body work harder to do a job that should be second nature.
But when you align your joints, your skeleton can more efficiently balance and support the weight of your body. It decreases the stress on the ligaments that support the joints to hold the spine together, so you don’t wind up looking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Cliché, I know, but absolutely true.
Correct posture can:
- Reduce strain on the body during movement and exercise
- Help you maintain balance while moving and exercising
- Reduce the risk of muscle strain and overuse conditions
- Improve spine health
- Help you appear taller and more slender
- Increase your confidence and boost your mood
- Reduce back pain
One of the most important things I’ve noticed, is how much my posture has improved from the body awareness I’ve gained on my yoga mat. I used to walk around with my shoulders hunched forward, my knees hyper-extended, and my head three inches forward of my shoulders.
Now I immediately catch myself when I’m slouched over my shopping cart, or sitting at my computer with my shoulders rounded forward, constricting my rib cage.
With just a few adjustments to your posture, you’ll not only stand taller, and be able to breathe better, but you’ll also appear more confident- and confidence is one of those things you just can’t buy online.
Here are three of my favorite yoga poses to help stretch and strengthen the muscles you need to engage while keeping your body aligned. Of course there are many others, but this is a great place to start because they target different muscles.
In yoga, we build a pose from the ground up, and Mountain Pose is a great example of what a confident, supportive posture looks like - on the mat and off. It may look like you’re just standing, but it’s the epitome of proper posture, and it’s the foundation for all other poses. So whether you’re standing in Warrior 1or upside down in Handstand, the muscles are engaged, and the joints are stacked.
- Start in a standing position with your feet together or hip distance
- Press all four corners of your feet down into the floor – the inner and outer heel, and the big and little toe mound
- Bring your knees over your ankles
- Stack your hips over your knees
- Drop your tailbone down toward the ground into a neutral position - not tucked
- Pull your navel in and up toward the spine to keep the core engaged
- Pretend you’re zipping up a jacket and bringing that engagement right up through the crown of your head- creating space between the hips and the shoulders
- Stack your shoulders over the hips
- Bring your ears over the shoulders
- Press down through your feet and lift up through the crown of the head
- Notice how different that feels from how you might normally stand
Cobra is a back bend that’s accessible to most people. It’s a great way to lengthen the spine and open up the chest, which counteracts hunching over all day.
- Lie on your stomach and bring your palms back by your ribcage
- Bring your legs together and roll your thighs in and up
- Press the tops of your feet into the mat to engage the legs
- Draw your shoulders down your back
- Reach your tailbone toward your heels
- Pull your palms back isometrically on the mat, toward your feet, as you pull your chest forward, lengthening the spine
- Keep your gaze down towards the mat to keep the head more in line with the spine
- The stronger your back muscles get, the higher you’ll be able to come up
Tree Pose forces you into proper posture in order to balance and it reminds you to engage your core, which helps you to stand up straight.
- Ground all four corners of your left foot into the floor
- Turn out your right knee and lift your right foot to press the sole of your foot against your left inner thigh or calf
- If you’re new to balancing you can keep your big toe on the floor
- Make sure not to place the foot on the knee joint
- Make sure to align the joints as we did in Mountain Pose
- Engage your core, and lift through the crown of your head
- Keep your hands at your heart center or reach them toward the sky, palms together or apart
- Keep your gaze soft and focused, this will help you balance
Charlize Theron, look out.
Danielle Diamond has been a yoga and lifestyle expert for over 17 years. She has written for Yahoo Beauty and The Huffington Post, and has appeared on the Today Show, Dr. Oz, Shape, Yoga Journal and Self Online. She was featured in Bobbi Brown’s Pretty Powerful campaign and is a featured teacher on YogaVibes and YogaDownload. Danielle teaches at A-list wellness events in NYC and The Hamptons, hosted by Wellthily, Gurney’s Inn and Yoga Journal. You can grab one of her free, 30 minute yoga with weights videos here.