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Yoga Bad Posture

When students walk into my yoga class, I inevitably notice their posture. It tells a lot about their physical and emotional issues and helps me help them. It is also something I get asked about often – if yoga can fix bad posture. 

Yoga, because of its inherent ability to bring mindfulness to the body and keep attention on the body, is a great way to fix bad posture. 

Bad posture is mostly a result of habit. When we are constantly and frequently keeping our bodies in a certain position, muscle memory develops around that position. Without even us realizing it, the body naturally takes the shape in which we keep it. Think hunched backs. 

In this article, we’ll look at what causes bad posture, what is good posture, and how yoga can help bridge the gap between the two. 

What causes bad posture?

There are some telltale signs of bad posture. The most obvious ones are rounded shoulders, a hunched back, a droop in the head, a jut in the chin, and even back pain

There are a variety of factors that come into play when it comes to bad posture, habits for one. Constant repetition of a movement leads to learned behavior. For instance, bending forward while working on a computer, slouching while watching the TV, or the tilting down of the head to look into the phone. Sitting for long periods without a break also leads to bad posture.

Another reason for bad posture could be frequently carrying heavy objects. Heavy backpacks or purses and grocery bags are some common examples. 

Frequently leaning forward to pick up things is another contributor to bad posture. Injuries can lead to bad posture. 

Our emotions also affect our posture. Periods of intense grief or depression, lack of self-confidence, and chronic stress can distort posture.

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Sitting for long periods without a break also leads to bad posture.

What are the risks associated with bad posture? 

There are several risks of bad posture, the first being a decrease in breathing capacity. When we are hunching forward, the capacity of the chest and lungs to expand is inhibited. It takes more work to move the ribs and fill in air. 

Bad posture can lead to chronic back and neck pain. There is much more pressure on the upper part of the spine and there is compression of the lower spine. It can also lead to injuries. 

Another risk is that of falling. Bad posture often leads to an impaired balance thereby increasing the chances of falling. 

Bad posture can also affect mood. This study published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology talks about how our posture gives signals to the brain on how to respond. In a posture that is tense and unnatural, the signal that the brain receives is that something is not right. Over time, this can lead to feelings of anxiety and unease. 

What is good posture?

A good posture is having a neutral spine. The three natural curves of the spine – at the neck, the middle back, and the lower back, should be maintained. There is no exaggerated curve in any of these parts.

The head is directly above the shoulders. The tops of the shoulders are above the hips. 

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A good posture is having a neutral spine.

How can yoga fix bad posture? 

There are several ways in which yoga can fix bad posture. 

Enhances awareness of the body 

The most important thing that yoga does to fix bad posture is bringing awareness to the body. This is already half of the work done. Yoga asanas lay a lot of emphasis on body parts and movement. A study done with participants who practiced yoga in trained groups showed that they had significantly better body awareness compared to those who did not.  

Over time, this awareness of the body is present even off the mat. Yoga makes us more mindful and present with our bodies. As the body-mind connection becomes stronger, it becomes possible to adjust the posture over the day. Eventually, the body learns to fix its posture and comes into alignment. 

Savasana or the corpse pose is a great way to enhance awareness of the body. A yoga class typically ends with a guided relaxation, which invites awareness to all the different parts of the body. By observing the whole body and its sensations, we learn to pay attention to body parts that we sometimes do not even realize exist. 

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Savasana or the corpse pose is a great way to enhance awareness of the body.

Builds upper body strength  

Bad posture affects the muscles in the neck, shoulders, and chest. Hence, these muscles become tight. As a result of the tight chest muscles, we tend to pull our shoulders forward, further closing the chest.

The muscles of the trunk help to maintain the body’s upright position. They also help in maintaining balance and stability. 

Yoga is an effective way to build upper body strength. Some of the asanas that open the heart are Dhanurasana or Bow pose, Ustrasana or Camel pose, Natarajasana or Dancer’s pose, and Setu Bandhasana or Bridge pose.

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One of the asanas that opens the heart is Camel pose.

Strengthens the core 

A strong core is vital to good posture. It takes some pressure off the back and helps in standing straight. When the core muscles are weak, the body is standing on an unstable foundation. It can lead to experiencing more pain and fatigue and also cause problems with balance and coordination. 

Core strength is also directly linked to lower back movement. If the core muscles are strong, the lower back receives greater support and can help find relief from back pain. 

Some excellent yoga asanas for strengthening the core are Adho Mukha Svanasana or Downward Dog pose, Utkatasana or Chair pose, Planks, Navasana or Boat pose, Bakasana or Crow pose, and Marjariasana or Cat pose. 

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Core strength is also directly linked to lower back movement. Boat pose is excellent for strengthening the core.

Strengthens the back muscles

Since the key to good posture lies in the spine, it is imperative to have strong back muscles. When the back muscles are weak, the body, to avoid pain, inadvertently leans forward. As a result, the muscles in the back are used lesser, thereby weakening them further. 

One of the best ways to fix bad posture is to work on strengthening the back muscles. Yoga asanas that incorporate backward bending are a great way to reverse the forward position of the back.

Some helpful asanas for strengthening the back muscles are Salabhasana or Locust pose, Bhujangasana or Cobra pose, Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana or Upward facing dog pose, Salamba Bhujangasana or Sphinx pose, and Balasana or Child’s pose. 

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One of the best ways to fix bad posture is to work on strengthening the back muscles. Cobra pose is a helpful asana for strengthening the back muscles.

Improves alignment 

How the body is positioned in yoga is essential to the practice. In any asana, there is an emphasis on how the different body parts come together to form the pose. 

In poses where the arms are outstretched, there is a structural alignment of the wrists, hands, arms, and shoulders. Then there are poses where the feet and ankle are aligned in a way to create greater balance and stability. 

When these asanas are held for longer periods, the body learns to shape itself into the correct or aligned position, thereby improving posture. 

One great pose for checking and coming into alignment is Tadasana or Mountain pose. It is a standing pose where the entire body is mentally checked for alignment. A practitioner observes and corrects how the feet are placed. The tailbone is tucked in, shoulders pulled back, and chest expanded, thus straightening the back. There is a gentle tucking in of the chin thus ensuring that the neck is directly above the shoulders. Attention is paid to whether the weight of the body is balanced or if it is leaning forward or back.

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When these asanas are held for longer periods, the body learns to shape itself into the correct or aligned position, thereby improving posture.

Increases flexibility 

What flexibility ensures is a fuller range of motion. When the body is flexible, there is more movement in the spine. This is helpful to prevent any back injuries and also enables keeping the back straight and erect for longer. 

Flexibility also helps reduce muscle tension. When there is tightness in the body, it puts the body under stress and creates stiffness. By working on flexibility, it becomes possible to open the body and release stored tension. When flexibility improves, posture also improves as it now becomes easier for the body to assume the right position.

Some yoga poses to increase flexibility are Supta Padangusthasana or Reclined Hand to Big Toe pose, Sucirandhrasana or Eye of the Needle pose, Anjaneyasana or Crescent lunge, Parsvottanasana or Pyramid pose, Ardha Chandrasana or Half Moon pose, and Malasana or Garland pose.

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When flexibility improves, posture also improves as it now becomes easier for the body to assume the right position. Garland pose helps reduce muscle tension.

In closing  

The beauty of yoga is that the tools and techniques it provides us can enable us to overcome any physical or emotional challenges. Yoga can not only fix bad posture, it is also a wonderful way to work on the causes that lead to bad posture. While these causes appear to be physical, they often begin with our thought patterns and emotions

Yoga, by helping us connect to our true selves, brings us closer to what lies inside. It is through undertaking that journey that it becomes possible for us to restore our natural state of health and wellbeing

If there are ways in which yoga has helped you fix your posture, please share them with us in our FB page or drop us an email. And if there are any questions that you would like to ask about how yoga can help you, we would be happy to help you.

BINDU

Bindu

Nidhi @thebigbindu is a practicing yoga therapist and an advanced yoga teacher. Her writing is inspired by her experience of yoga and her study of Ayurveda, Yoga philosophy, and Yoga psychology.