Bad posture can impact your joints, nerves, spinal discs and even your mood. If you're looking to learn how to improve posture, you may want to consider incorporating some posture exercises into your day with yoga.
It's unlikely that those who practice yoga regularly are among the many Americans slouching at their desks all day. That's because yoga, in its many forms, is essentially a series of posture exercises that can strengthen the core muscles that support your back, make your hamstrings more flexible (which also protects your back from injury) and help you release tension in your muscles when you feel stressed.
Be Mindful of Your Stance
Yoga can also help raise your awareness of the way you hold your body throughout the day so you can sit, stand and walk in ways that support good health. Yoga comes in many styles, with names like Hatha, Bikram and Ashtanga. Some poses are common to many of the different styles of yoga.
Benefit From Reduced Pain
Many people experience back pain from poor posture, but the National Institutes of Health shared research that shows how yoga can ease even moderate to severe lower back pain. Another study, originally published in Spine, credited yoga with helping people who have chronic pain to take less pain medication.
The first part of learning how to improve posture with yoga is to remember to always be safe. For beginners, it's best to take yoga classes in person with a certified yoga instructor. This will help you better understand the poses and maintain good posture long term. However, if making it to class is tricky for you, many certified instructors also have online classes that can be helpful — and many are free.
If you're a beginner without access to any type of yoga class, you can begin by trying these three poses at home to improve your posture in just a few weeks.
1. Easy Seated Pose
When done correctly, this pose gently strengthens the core muscles that support your lower back. It also places your head in the proper position to avoid neck strain.
- Sit cross-legged with your pelvis in a neutral position (don't arch your back)
- Look down, and you should see a triangle formed in the space between your crossed legs
- Make sure your shoulders are stacked over your hips
- Place your hands on your knees, palms down
- Imagine a thick cord running from your tailbone straight up your spine, through the top of your head and lifting you up
- Close your eyes, relax and breathe here for a few minutes
For more instruction, this video from Yoga Journal can help you get it right.
2. Mountain Pose
When done correctly, this pose improves your awareness of standing properly. You can even squeeze in a Mountain Pose at the office — and, most likely, nobody will even know.
- Stand with your feet together, distributing your weight between them evenly
- Lift your kneecaps and press them forward without actually bending them
- Press your upper thighs together
- Face your palms and biceps forward with your arms at your sides
- Stand tall so your neck feels long
- Inhale deeply, then exhale and tighten your waist so your lower back feels supported
- Repeat 10 times
Find more tips on the Mountain Pose by watching this video from Howcast.
3. Sphinx Pose
If you're used to being hunched over a desk all day, this pose will help you recall what it feels like to keep your shoulders back and your chest open. It's also good for your digestive system and can improve circulation.
- Lie on your belly with your legs stretched out behind you and your tailbone tilted down
- Place your elbows beneath your shoulders, keeping your forearms parallel to each other and your hands pressed into the floor
- Lift your head and upper body away from the floor in a gentle backbend
- Draw your lower belly away from the floor toward your lower back
- Hold this for as long as it's comfortable and relax into the pose
If you're uncertain about any of these steps, this video from Ekhart Yoga can help you with this pose.
By adding some yoga poses to your daily routine, you'll take the first step toward achieving better posture, reducing back pain and keeping your spine healthy.