What is “Good Posture?”
It is no joke that maintaining a “good” posture is becoming harder and harder these days. With 100s of hours spent in front of technology screens at home or work, our bodies are suffering from more physical stiffness than ever before. Being sedentary is an abnormal lifestyle for humans, who are evolved to be moving more than we currently are doing. Even with the workouts that we do, many of them neglect the stretching part, which negates the postural benefits of exercise. In today’s article, we will look into 9 yoga poses for better posture, but first…
What does good posture even mean?
Ideally, the shoulders are over the hips, the toes point forward, the spine maintains its natural curves, and the chin is parallel to the floor. The legs should be straight, but the knees are relaxed (1).
However, sitting for so long encourages the shoulders to slouch, the back to lose its muscle, and the hips to stiffen. This inevitably leads to physical symptoms like back, neck, and shoulder pain, and even mental health effects (2). The truth is, none of us have perfect posture. With differently abled bodies and lifestyles, we are all beautifully imperfect. While yoga can’t cure any health issues, it can be an excellent tool to help achieve a better posture for your body.
YOGA FOR BETTER POSTURE
How Yoga Helps
Yoga’s popularity is growing with the need for more mindful exercise in the modern world. While the stretching and breathwork in yoga are known for their mental benefits, it is also a full body strengthening exercise.
A well-balanced yoga sequence targets all parts of the body, including those that are often neglected. It provides us with the exercise that we need to maintain and improve the body’s strength and range of movement in the long run. Our bodies aren’t built to spend so many hours sitting in front of screens, which is why yoga is a perfect way to incorporate conscious movement into our lives.
Yoga poses target all parts of the core to help build a solid center to maintain alignment with. Many of the poses in yoga open areas that tend to be tenser from being sedentary, such as the shoulders and hips. Furthermore, standing and balancing poses will strengthen the glutes and draw attention to the unequal weight distribution we (most likely) have.
The combo of stretching and strengthening also protects the joints and bones, which helps with healthy ageing. Yoga isn’t magic, but with consistent and focused practice, the benefits of the yoga poses you do will subconsciously seep into your day-to-day life.
Meanwhile, you may gain an increased awareness to maintain correct alignment and a more equal weight distribution in your body. You can read more on yoga for bad posture here: https://mbzen.com/can-yoga-fix-bad-posture/.
Why Good Posture Matters
Besides the aesthetics of having good posture, it is necessary for our holistic wellbeing.
Increased space in the chest has been linked to cardiovascular benefits. Heart opening poses in yoga can release tension in the lungs and can help asthmatics. Also, one of the famous teachers of yoga, BKS Iyengar, claimed that the postural benefits of yoga could lower blood pressure and even help with relieving anxiety and depression, claims backed by science.
Furthermore, the strength and flexibility that yoga provides in the back muscles also help reduce common symptoms of lower back, neck, and shoulder pain. Releasing the tension in these areas can also relieve headaches and migraines (3).
The breathwork in yoga is also incredibly powerful. The flow of breath creates balance throughout the energy systems (chakras) in the body as well as the nervous system. Difficulty and shortness of breath can help guide you towards areas of stiffness and imbalance. So, always pay attention to how your body reacts under every circumstance.
Besides the aesthetics of having good posture, it is necessary for our holistic wellbeing.
9 YOGA POSES FOR BETTER POSTURE
This pose looks simple, yet is incredibly active. Within its steadiness, it forces you to be aware of all the crookedness and tension you have in your body.
Take your feet together in a standing position and leave your arms along the sides of your body, with the palms facing forward. Everything in the body should be working: the arches of the two feet should be curved and the weight should be equally distributed throughout the soles and toes. You will feel the micro-adjustments happening in your feet for the body to maintain its balance. Tuck the tailbone in slightly by engaging the glutes and core and make sure the navel is tucked. Relax the shoulders, but keep them pulling away under the ears.
Finally, relax your jaw and check that the crown of your head is aligned with the neck, as if someone is pulling a string from your hair.
This pose is great to begin to activate the muscles and create awareness in your body before you start your practice. Use the breath to help your balance and focus, and stay here for about 10 cycles of breath.
It looks simple, yet is incredibly active. Within its steadiness, it forces you to be aware of all the crookedness and tension you have in your body.
This pose is active, yet perfect for a quick body check during your technology breaks. It is less active than the previous pose but still helps you realign and improve that mind to muscle connection for your posture.
To enter, get on your knees, either on a mat or flat cushion to protect the kneecap. Sit the glutes back on the heels, place the palms on your thighs, and keep the spine long. Work on leveling the shoulders and keeping them relaxed away from the ears. Notice any tension in the jaw and/or if the chin is poking out or leaning upwards. Make these adjustments and remind your body of its natural state before you come back to more sitting at the desk (or watching Netflix…). Hold for at least 10 breaths or even 5 minutes as a short meditative practice.
Hero Pose (Virasana) is active, yet perfect for a quick body check during your technology breaks.
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
This pose is perfect for those who spend lots of time sitting and suffer from slouching and/or “text neck.” It is one of the best heart openers to do, as it is beginner friendly and lets you work on your strength and flexibility in the spine at your own pace. It also releases tension from the hips that can be caused by sitting a lot.
Start by lying down on your stomach, on a mat, or a folded towel under your hips. Plant the palms under the shoulders, with the elbows bent, facing upwards along the ribcage. The legs are on the floor at hip distance apart and the feet are pointed. With the help of the back muscles, glutes, shoulders, and palms, begin to peel the chest off the floor. Only go as far as the lower back can handle, as it is important you engage the muscles instead of compressing the joints.
After 5 -10 breaths of this, take a counter stretch to decompress the spine (such as child’s pose or downward facing dog).
Cobra Pose is perfect for those who spend lots of time sitting and suffer from slouching and/or “text neck.” Only go as far as the lower back can handle.
This pose is a deeper backbend and hip stretch compared to the cobra pose and, therefore, should only be done when the spine and back muscles are healthy. This pose is an intense heart opening stretch, which is perfect to fight against hunching and slouching. The hip stretch opens up space in the hip flexors and helps prevent the pelvis hold its place.
For this pose, start just like you would for the cobra pose. Instead of keeping the thighs on the floor, you bend the knees together and start to reach behind you in order to grab the outer ankles. If you can’t reach yet, you can modify this pose by using a strap or a towel. If you can grab the ankles, then you can kick the feet into the hands to intensify the backbend and engagement in the glutes and hamstrings.
Hold the pose for 5 breaths, but stop immediately if you feel any pain. Afterward, make sure you do counter stretches, like forward fold and supine spinal twist on each side.
This pose is a deeper backbend and hip stretch compared to the cobra pose and, therefore, should only be done when the spine and back muscles are healthy.
Low Lunge Pose (Anjaneyasana)
This pose is excellent preparation for a lot of the postures in a traditional sequence.
The low lunge provides a deep stretch in the psoas (hip flexor muscle) and builds strength in the glutes and thighs. It helps those of us who are crooked in our weight distribution, especially if we tend to lean to one side while standing and/or carry weight on a specific shoulder. This pose forces you to square the hips and shoulders while also testing your balance. The low lunge is also an isolated movement, which makes you work on one side at a time; this helps you even out the stretch and locate your stiffer side.
Enter the pose from downward facing dog and take the right foot between the hands. Bend the right knee just above the ankle, and drop the left leg straight behind the left hip. Square the hips by pushing the left hip forward and the right hip back. Depending on your balance, you can place the hands on the floor, the hips, or reaching above you. You can even take the stretch deeper by leaning back slightly for a backbend and heart opener.
Hold this pose for 5-10 breaths before repeating the other side.
Low Lunge Pose (Anjaneyasana) is excellent preparation for a lot of the postures in a traditional sequence.
Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
This classic pose is another isolated move that is excellent for improving posture by working the legs, glutes, core, and your awareness in alignment. Increased strength in the glutes prevents an anterior pelvic till, where the butt sticks out. The alignment in this pose makes you aware of the shoulders being over the hips and at level with each other.
The core needs to be engaged, by tucking the navel in towards the spine. The pose also helps with stiff hips by stretching the inner thighs and opening the sacral area.
Enter by taking a classic lunge with the right knee bent and left leg lifted off the floor. Un-square the hips by opening them up to the left and root the left heel on the floor with the foot now pointing to the left. Reach the arms out with the hands at the same level as the shoulders, and look over the right fingertips. Make sure that the hips, core, and chest are all facing the left side now, while the right knee facing forward and bending over the right ankle.
Hold it for 5-10 breaths on each leg and take a forward fold to release the legs.
This classic pose is another isolated move that is excellent for improving posture by working the legs, glutes, core, and your awareness in alignment.
Plank Pose (Kumbhakasana)
This pose is a full body strengthener that works on the key muscle groups for our alignment. At the same time, it works the shoulder, core, neck, back, and glutes. Because of the strength it builds, it helps the body keep alignment on a day-to-day basis.
From downward facing dog, shift the weight forward so that the shoulders are over the wrists and the hips are lowered. The shoulder blades should be working so that the space between them doesn’t sag, and the weight in the palms should be equally distributed. Keep the gaze down so that neck keeps straight. Finally, engage the core by sucking the belly button in.
Hold this pose for 5-10 breaths, and feel free to do more repetitions of this. Oh, and DON’T DROP THE HIPS!
Plank Pose is a full body strengthener that works on the key muscle groups for our alignment.
Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
This pose is incredibly simple and can be done any time and anywhere. From standing, simply bend forward using your hips. Depending on your flexibility, you may be able to reach the floor. Otherwise, grab the opposite elbows and sway your body from side to side to loosen up the hamstrings and lower back.
This pose ultimately releases the tension that builds up the spine and increases the blood flow to the upper body for an energizing stretch.
Hang out in this pose for at least 10 breaths, and feel free to walk the knees, sway, and/or nod the head to make the stretch more comfortable.
This pose is incredibly simple and can be done any time and anywhere. From standing, simply bend forward using your hips. Depending on your flexibility, you may be able to reach the floor.
This is another classic pose in the traditional sequence. It helps our posture by specifically engaging the lower abdomen.
The problem with the classic crunches is that they only work the upper abdominals, which don’t support the pelvis for our posture. A stronger lower core keeps the pelvis in place to further prevent that anterior tilt that we get when the glutes shift back.
To do this pose, it is imperative that the navel stays tucked to keep the core engaged. Enter from a seated position by leaning back slightly and lifting the legs off the floor so that your body creates a “V” shape. You can keep the hands by the sides of your hips at first, but you ultimately want to be able to balance with the hands reaching off the floor. Working on our balance helps us with evening our weight distribution while our muscles are working. You can keep the knees bent with the shins parallel to the floor, or you can straighten the legs to intensify the pose. Remember to relax and level out the shoulders so that you don’t worsen the tension there.
Stay for 5 breaths and repeat the pose for up to 5 repetitions if you want to work!
Boat Pose is another classic pose in the traditional sequence. It helps our posture by specifically engaging the lower abdomen.
The benefits of yoga are endless and, when practiced under the right guidance it can be a sustainable form of exercise for us all. With stress and anxiety being on the rise, the care for our posture can be the last thing on your mind. However, the mindfulness and strength that yoga focuses on will help keep us aligned both mentally and physically. These poses are just a snippet of an entire catalogue of beneficial poses but can help you kickstart the journey to holistic health.
If you liked reading this, check out this article on yoga poses for improved posture: https://mbzen.com/5-yoga-poses-to-punch-your-hunch-good-bye-and-correct-your-neck-posture/.
Hi, I’m Amanda! I’m a singer/actress as well as a yoga instructor, who is super passionate about holistic wellness. Having suffered mental and physical stresses due to the hectic life of a performer, I have regained strength through practicing yoga, mindfulness, and healthy eating. I am a firm believer in the power of holistic health to navigate this crazy world we live in, and I hope to help and inspire others on their journeys to a healthier, happier self.