Poor posture is a common result of sitting for long hours hunched over a laptop, spending a long time looking at your smartphone, driving a car, carrying heavy bags, etc. It can lead to a compromised vertebrae alignment, pinched nerve, lower or upper back pain, among other health problems. It can even cause constrictions along the spine. It also affects digestion, leads to fatigue, incorrect breath patterns, poor cardiovascular health and even moodiness.
One of the best ways to correct your posture is through yoga. There are four key ways yoga will help you correct your posture:
Strengthens the core
Yoga practices strengthen the core and make the muscles stronger. This helps maintain the correct posture, support the spine, muscles and connective tissue, making it possible to stay in the right position.
Connecting to breath and conscious breathing are a must for improving posture and sustaining them in the long run.
It’s no secret yoga has a profound impact on improving mindfulness. Improved mindfulness means a sharper sense of knowing when you are slipping into the wrong posture. It even helps you stay aware of what causes you to hunch or slump over - if there are any stress triggers, do you feel tired at some point, etc. When you are more aware of these things, there is a better chance of correcting it.
Reverses unhealthy habits and damage
Regular yoga practice helps correct alignment, existing damage and reverse unhealthy habits. It can even reverse the effects of poor posture and make the body healthy and strong.
Yoga asanas to correct your posture
Also known as Tadasana, the posture teaches you to understand when your body is in perfect vertical alignment. Initially, there might be a tendency to slouch by pushing the shoulders too far back and sticking the chest out. This is incorrect. The idea is to find a neutral position where you are neither leaning forward or back and you bring your body to a symmetrical point on either side of your midline.
How to do Mountain pose:
- Stand with your big toes touching, toes spread and heels separated slightly.
- Contract the muscles on the front of your thighs, raising your kneecaps. Rotate your thighs inward, to widen your sit bones. Keep a natural curve of your spine.
- Brace your core and stack your shoulder blades in line with your pelvic bones. Your shoulder blades should be drawn down and back.
- Your arms should hang by your sides with a slight bend of the elbows. Keep the palms facing forward.
- Keep your neck long and crown rising toward the sky. Take a few deep breaths while maintaining this position.
This is an excellent posture which helps discover the ideal, natural curve of the spine. By moving the spine from flexion (cat) into extension (cow), passing through the middle each time, you learn to judge the neutral position more accurately. The posture increases spinal flexibility and mobility.
How to do Cat-cow pose:
- Come onto your hands and knees with your wrists under your shoulders and knees under the hips.
- Maintain a neutral spine position with your neck long, gazing down and out. Curl your toes with your heels pointing upward.
- Inhale and initiate the movement by tilting your pelvis, bringing your tailbone up.
- Continue the movement up your spine with your neck moving last, looking toward the ceiling without straining your neck.
- Exhale and place the tops of your feet on the floor. Roll your pelvis to tuck your tailbone under, continuing this movement along your entire spine.
- Draw your belly button up toward your spine, then gently tilt your neck down to drop your head.
- Repeat this for a few breaths, moving the entire spine.
This posture improves balance and core strength. It supports your spine and opens the back of your heart (between the shoulder blades). It is important to ensure your shoulders are stacked on above the hips, even if the legs don’t wrap fully.
There's a tendency to lean the torso forward but try to keep the erect alignment.
How to do eagle pose:
- Begin with your legs bent and arms by your sides. Shift your weight to your left foot and lift your right foot off the floor.
- Cross your right thigh over your left thigh, hooking your right foot around your left calf.
- Raise your arms in front of you, parallel with the floor. Bend your arms, crossing the left over the right to connect them at the elbows.
- Now, wrap your right palm around your left palm with your wrists crossing.
- Raise your elbows to shoulder height with your shoulders remaining down and back. Keep the straight spine.
- Hold this position for a few breaths. Repeat this with the other leg.
A gentle backbend, this posture opens up the chest and shoulders. These parts are often compressed and affected by poor posture. The bridge pose will strengthen your back, support the spine and improve breath patterns. When doing the posture, tuck the shoulder blades into the back. This will make the chest and shoulder region open up much more.
How to do bridge pose:
- Lie down on your back with your hands by your sides. Bend the knees, keep the feet flat on the floor under your knees. Now slowly raise the lower back and chest off the mat.
- Your hips will form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Tuck the shoulder blades and make sure the chest is open. Now tighten your core and hold for a few breaths.
A great pose to improve core strength, this posture improves strength and stability throughout. It works on reducing strain on the spine and builds up the muscles.
How to do plank pose:
- From the standing forward bend (Uttanasana), walk both your legs back. You can also jump back if you have the right stability and strength.
- Adjust your posture. Ensure your palms are below your shoulders, and shoulders are not moving ahead or behind the palms. Tuck your toes and keep the feet a foot apart. The back should be straight and should not sink down towards the mat.
- Engage the core and stomach throughout. Pull the navel towards the spine. Ensure the buttocks are not sticking up, nor too low.
- Take deep breaths and hold the posture for as long as comfortable.
Also a great posture that opens up the chest and corrects hunched shoulders. It stretches and stimulates the neck and back. It helps correct posture as well as strengthens the back.
How to do bow pose:
- Lie flat on the stomach with the legs and feet together, and the arms and hands beside the body.
- Bend the knees and bring the heels close to the buttocks. Grip the ankles with the hands.
- Keep the knees and thighs firmly on the floor and the arms straight throughout the practice.
- Place the chin on the floor.
- Tense the legs and lift the feet backward while raising the head and chest as high as possible from the floor without straining.
- Use the backward movement of the legs to assist the raising of the body, allowing the back muscles to remain passive. In the final position, the gaze is upwards without compressing the neck.
This pose expands the chest and strengthens the spine. It also helps soothe sciatica. This pose removes neck, spine and shoulder stiffness.
How to do cobra pose:
- Lie flat on the stomach with the legs straight, feet together and the soles of the feet facing upwards.
- Place the palms of the hands flat on the floor, below and slightly to the side of the shoulders, with the fingers together and pointing forward.
- Position the arms so that the elbows point backward and are close to the sides of the body.
- Rest the forehead on the floor and close the eyes.
- Relax the whole body, especially the lower back. Now slowly raise the head.
- Straighten the elbows, using the back muscles first, then the arm muscles to raise the trunk further and arch the back.
- In the final position, the pubic bone remains in contact with the floor and the navel is raised a maximum of 3 mm.
- The arms may or may not be straight; this will depend on the flexibility of the back.
It’s easy to slip back into old habits. The same applies for hunching and rounded shoulders. With regular yoga practice you can work on reversing damage and completely eliminating the habit of hunching, ensuring your posture is corrected. Give it a try with a few classes and you’ll see the changes soon enough!