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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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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