5 Yoga Poses to Improve Your Posture

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Stand up straight! Don’t slouch! These are reminders you probably heard growing up, but healthy posture truly is an important element of overall wellness. Harvard Medical School defines “good posture” as:

  • Chin parallel to the floor
  • Shoulders even (roll your shoulders up, back, and down to help achieve this)
  • Neutral spine (no flexing or arching to overemphasize the curve in your lower back)
  • Arms at your sides with elbows straight and even
  • Abdominal muscles braced
  • Hips even
  • Knees even and pointing straight ahead
  • Body weight distributed evenly on both feet

Research shows that standing up straight is essential for building self-esteem, improving mood, and managing stress. Living life with a hunch in your shoulders, unnatural rounding in your back, or extreme arching in your back can lead to neck pain, chronic discomfort, and a general feeling of malaise. In her oft-viewed TED Talk, social psychologist Amy Cuddy extols the benefits of “power posing,” which involves standing like Super Woman for a few minutes to improve confidence and give yourself a mood boost (Try it, it works!). In yoga philosophy, standing up well is related to the Solar Plexus Energy Center or Manipura Chakra, physically located at the core, waist, and mid-back. When the Solar Plexus Chakra is in balanced, you feel confident and you’re able to (physically and mentally) stand up for your beliefs and yourself.

Picking up children, driving, carrying bags, working at a computer, and any number of other daily tasks can really do a number on your back and upper body. There are several yoga poses to improve poor posture and most are easy postures that can be done at home. If you’re looking for a simple back posture corrector, give yourself the gift of better posture by moving through some of these yoga poses.

Try these yoga poses at home to improve your posture. They can be done on their own whenever you find time, or as a simple sequence upon waking or before bed. One of these poses might be the posture corrector that does the trick.

1. Reclining Spinal Twist (Supta Jathara Parivartanasana)

If you’re only going to do one yoga pose to help improve your posture, please try this one. A simple, yet powerful pose that you come into from resting on your back, this pose is wonderful to do first thing in the morning or right before getting into bed (or even IN bed!). This pose will help to release kinks and tension built up from long bouts of standing, sitting, and all of your other daily tasks. Give it a try:

  • Come to rest on your yoga mat on your back. If you like to have your head supported, place a pillow or blanket beneath your head.
  • Hug your knees into your chest and enjoy a few deep breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly.
  • Extend your arms out in opposite directions, like a capital “T”.
  • Bring your knees out at 90 degrees so that your shins are parallel to the earth and your knees and torso create an “L” shape.
  • Take a big breath in and press your mid-back into the ground.
  • As you exhale, tip your knees over to the left side of your body. Allow your feet to come to the ground and your knees to come to the ground.
  • Bend your left elbow and push it into the earth. Slide your left shoulder several inches to the left so that it is untucked. Rest both shoulders and arms on the ground.
  • Turn your head left and right like you’re saying “no” a few times. Allow your head to turn either direction that feels most natural for you without any struggle or strain and rest there.
  • If you can breathe comfortably, stay there. If you don’t feel comfortable, try these variations: place a blanket or pillow between your knees so that your ankles, knees, and hips are in one line. If you like extra support, place your left hand on your left knee for some grounding. If you like extra support, place a pillow or bolster behind your back for some grounding.
  • Settle into stillness and stay in the pose for three to five minutes, breathing deeply.
  • Bring your knees back into your chest and roll around on your back a little bit.
  • Repeat your twist on the second side and hold for three to five minutes.
  • Bring your knees back into your chest and roll around on your back a little bit.
  • Take a few moments to rest flat on your back.

2. Supported Fish Pose (Matsyasana)

This supported heart opener helps to open up the chest and upper back. Many of us hunch forward or round during our daily activities and this pose helps to counteract the effects of that rounded action. Use a block, bolster, or roll of blankets for support in this pose. Give it a try:

  • Come to sit on your yoga mat and gather your block, bolster, or roll of blankets.
  • Roll back onto your support props until they rest just beneath your shoulder blades. It is not an exact positioning! Roll around, move the props, and adjust until you feel comfortable.
  • Tip your head back onto your mat or onto another prop for support.
  • Rest your arms open or down to your sides.
  • Extend your legs out in front of you. If you experience low back tenderness, place a pillow or blanket beneath your knees.
  • Settle into stillness and stay in the pose for three to five minutes. Relax your shoulders, neck, and forehead. Breathe deeply.
  • Roll gently to your side, slide the props out, and come to your back.
  • Bring your knees back into your chest and roll around on your back a little bit.
  • Take a few moments to rest flat on your back.

3. Mountain Pose (Tadasana or Samasthiti)

This neutral standing pose is a helpful practice for how to actually stand well. This is a beneficial yoga pose to improve your posture because it requires balance, poise, strength, awareness, and both effort and ease. To the outside observer, this pose may appear as if you’re just standing there, but you’ll know that, at least at first, this pose requires mindfulness. Give it a try:

  • Come to stand on your yoga mat.
  • Turn all your toes to point forward and bring your feet parallel with each other. Stand with your feet just as wide as your hips. One method to find this alignment is to place your fingers on the front of your pelvis (the anterior superior iliac spine/ASIS bone) and line up your feet just below.
  • Rock back and forth and side to side to evenly distribute the weight between your feet and into all parts of your feet.
  • Engage your legs without locking your knees.
  • Angle your tailbone to point slightly more down towards the ground.
  • Stand up tall and reach your hands down beside your thighs. Spin your palms to face forward and actively reach your fingers towards the earth.
  • Allow your chest to open without arching your back and allow your shoulders to relax away from your ears.
  • Reach the crown of your head up toward the ceiling while keeping your chin parallel to the earth.
  • Feel the long line of energy along the length of your spine from your tailbone to the base of your neck and up to the crown of your head.
  • Stand well and breathe easily for one to two minutes.

4. Seated Side Stretch (Parsva Sukhasana)

You bend forward and back throughout the day, but the sides of your body are often neglected. The muscles around and between the ribs, the intercostals, and the abdominal muscles that wrap around the waist, the transverse abdominis, are important muscles to stretch and strengthen for better posture. This is a beneficial pose to help with taking deeper breaths and for supporting a healthy spine. Give it a try:

  • Find a comfortable seat on your yoga mat. You can cross your legs or sit back on your heels. For low back support and added comfort you may like to sit on a pillow or folded blanket.
  • Enjoy a few deep breaths to get grounded and centered.
  • Crawl your left fingers out to your left side. Place your hand or elbow flat on the ground and push gently to maintain both sitting bones connected to the earth.
  • Reach your right arm over and across your ear.
  • Allow your head and neck to relax toward your shoulder.
  • One option is to hold there and breathe deeply for one to two minutes. Another option is to circle your wrist, circle your arm, or move organically to open up various areas of tightness on the entire right side.
  • Come back up to center and repeat on the second side.
  • Take a few moments to rest in a comfortable seat at center when you complete both sides.

5. Corpse Pose (Savasana)

To the outside observer this pose may appear as if you’re just lying there (honestly, you ARE!), but you know that to get set up and comfortable, this pose requires mindful awareness. As you learn to surrender in this pose, all of the muscles in your body that work hard for you while you’re standing, sitting, and walking are able to relax. Learning to allow your back muscles to relax is key to making sure your body isn’t too fatigued to allow you to stand with better posture. Note: This pose is often much more challenging mentally than physically! Set a timer or give yourself a pep talk beforehand if it’s a new one for you. Give it a try:

  • Come to rest on your yoga mat on your back. If you like to have your head supported, place a pillow or blanket beneath your head. If you experience any low back tenderness, place a pillow or rolled up blanket beneath your knees.
  • Tuck your shoulders slightly and comfortably underneath you to prop up your chest.
  • Spin your palms to face up and open down by your sides.
  • Shake out your legs and allow your feet to flop gently out to the sides.
  • Take several deep, sighing breaths and close your eyes.
  • Rest in savasana for five to ten minutes (or longer if you have time!) When you’re ready to get up, roll gently to one side and rest there for a few breaths before coming up to sit.

Have you been experiencing back or neck pain? Has anyone ever told you to stand up straight? Have you been feeling low self-esteem? These simple yet profound yoga poses may be the posture correctors you’ve hoped for. Whether you rest on your back in savasana once a day (don’t knock this “easy” pose till you try it!) or create a short sequence to do before bed, over time these poses will be highly beneficial for supporting proper posture without having to step foot in a traditional yoga class. And you may even notice the effects on your mind and spirit as well!


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About the Author
woman smiling in yoga pose

Lena Schmidt

Certified Yoga Instructor
Whether it’s exploring the local trails, playing pretzel on the yoga mat, or diving into a book on inner peace, Lena loves an adventure. You can find her teaching yoga in San Diego, leading retreats near and far, and empowering others to be the change they wish to see in the world. Learn more about Lena at www.yoginilena.com The spiritual aspects of yoga have aided Lena in the never-ending search for peace, calm, and positivity within, and she’s passionate about sharing these tools with others. She is intentional about taking yoga off the mat and loves finding the bridges between the heart and mind, the individual and community, and mindfulness and expression...Read more