Yoga Wellness Educator. Certified to teach Hatha Yoga, Meditation, Pilates, Reiki. Yoga Therapist-in-training. I love to write.
The health of your back influences your breathing, the flow of nerve information in your body, the health of your organs, the digestive process, and your level of energy and sense of wellness and well-being.
A regular practice of yoga movements to improve the posture yields many benefits such as:
- Optimal breathing and blood oxygenation,
- Improved mood,
- Enhanced ability to concentrate, and
- More confident and youthful appearance.
When you are standing, make sure that:
- your ears line up with your shoulders
- your shoulders line up with your hips
- your hips line up with the outside of your knees and ankles.
To improve your posture, restore the natural alignment of the spine so that the centers of gravity are aligned over each other. Your center of gravity is the point around which all the parts of your body are balanced.
Curves of the Spine
The spine has three curves when it is naturally aligned:
- the inward curve of the neck region,
- the forward curve in the upper and mid-upper back, and
- the inward curve of the lower back.
These three curves offset the impact of gravity as they function as shock-absorbers when you move. The natural shape of the spine diminishes the weight-bearing load your body carries.
The three curves of the body lose their shape when they become either flatter or too curved. Losing their optimal shapes hinder the shock-absorbing capability of the spine and increases the wear and tear of your joints.
The back becomes vulnerable when the three curves of the body lose their best shape.
How Posture Impacts Your Health
People who have an upright posture have better resilience and self-esteem.
When your brain receives information about your posture, it translates them into emotions. If people are sad, they are likely to slump, and if they are slumped, the brain associates this position with past experiences of sadness and stress. Any change in posture, even minor, can affect the feelings of depressed people.
What Muscles are Impacted?
Muscle imbalance involves a compression of the following muscles:
- The muscles at the base of the skull
- Pectoralis major and minor
- Lumbar extensors
- Hip flexors
- Calf muscles.
Weakness of the following muscles ensues when they are kept in a stretched position for an extended period:
- Rhomboids and middle traps
- Deep neck flexors
- Glutes (especially gluteus maximus)
Connection Between Posture and Chronic Pain
According to Dr. Paul D’Arezzo, “Bad posture not only manifests in our appearance, but also affects our physical functioning and contributes to muscle and joint pain and disability”. Many muscle and joint injuries and problems ¾including carpal tunnel, rotator cuff, back pain, knee, and ankle disorders¾ are caused by a loss of alignment. (Posture Alignment-The Missing Link in Health and Fitness)
Posture problems mean some degree of loss of the natural curves of the spine. Problems can also be caused by an imbalance within or between the centers of gravity of the body.
When the spine loses its natural stacking, the muscles stabilizing the spine and the core must work much harder, which leads to muscle imbalances.
Muscles work in pairs. A muscle that is too tight or too lax will cause an imbalance between that pair.
When a muscle group is weak or tight, the opposing muscle group must work harder to keep the body balanced. The harder the muscles work, the more they get tired and weak, which may lead to chronic pain.
When a muscle becomes weak, it no longer functions properly. Weak muscles cannot contract and support properly when needed, which causes imbalances in the musculoskeletal system.
Muscle imbalance due to tightness and weakness can lead to the deterioration of joints and changes to the posture that could lead to pain and inflammation.
When poor posture becomes a habit, it leads to many health issues. These issues include back pain, shoulder or knee injuries, and the loss of the ability to balance and move freely. The trouble is the result of a slow buildup of imbalances and growing dysfunction in the body.
People emphasize nutrition, weight, and regular exercise. It is vital to keep focus on posture improvement to keep good health and well-being.
Forward Head Posture
A forward head posture is a common posture imbalance known as “text neck”. The head is in front of the center.
The head weighs about ten to twelve pounds. The further your head is off center, the heavier it becomes. When your head is stacked correctly, your neck can easily support it. But the neck struggles as the head moves forward and the feeling of its weight increases to 27 pounds at 15 degrees, 40 pounds at 30 degrees, and 60 pounds at 90 degrees.
Sitting for prolonged periods in one position, hardens the soft tissues in that position. In advanced stages, this condition becomes Hyperkyphosis, an extreme curvature of the thoracic spine, commonly referred to as hunchback. The thoracic spine goes from the base of the neck down to the abdomen.
Yoga Movements to Improve Your Posture
A regular practice of yoga movements to improve the posture yields many benefits. Here are six movements that you can do every day or every other day to improve your posture.
Remember to do yoga movements for posture improvement every day, or at least every other day.
I. Elongate your Spine
- Lie on your back with your hips relaxed and your feet hip-width apart.
- Raise your arms over your head and take them back keeping your elbows straight. Try to have your arms and hands touch the floor behind you.
- Squeeze your core muscles and pull in your navel toward your spine.
- Breathe slowly for 30 seconds.
- Come back to the original position with your arms by your side.
- Repeat two more times.
II. Supine Crescent Moon
- With your arms behind you, arch your upper body to the right keeping your elbows straight and your shoulders on the floor.
- Move your feet over to the right so that your body arches on the floor like a crescent moon.
- Relax and breathe slowly, keeping your core muscles engaged.
- Hold this for 30 seconds.
- Do the same movement but this time to the left side and hold it for 30 seconds.
- Repeat this movement two more times.
III. Supine Position with Arms in Cactus
- Release your hands and bring your body in a straight line.
- Now, bend your elbows so that they are at 90 degrees.
- Your palms face up toward the ceiling, and the back of your hands touch the floor. If your hands do not touch the floor, place a small cushion or blanket under each hand.
- Gently bring your shoulder blades together and down your back.
- Hold this movement for 30 seconds while you breathe normally.
- Repeat this movement two more times.
IV. Knees to Chest
- Pull your knees up to your chest.
- If it is difficult to hold your knees, hold on the back of your thighs.
- If your abdomen gets in the way, then spread your knees apart as you pull your knees close to your chest.
- Breathe slowly and hold this pose for 30 seconds.
- Repeat this movement two more times.
V. Knee to Chest
- Let go of one knee and lower the foot to the floor.
- Keep the other knee close to your chest and press the foot of your opposite leg to the floor.
- Breathe normally and hold this position for 30 seconds.
- Now bring the leg back up so that both your knees are close to your chest.
- Lower the other foot and repeat with the opposite leg.
- Hold again for 30 seconds.
- Repeat this movement two more times on each side.
VI. High Cobra
- Lie on your stomach and place your hands under your shoulders about shoulder width apart.
- Extend your legs with the top of the toes touching the floor.
- Your back is relaxed, and your hips touch the floor comfortably.
- Push your upper body up as far as it is comfortable.
- Keep your shoulder blades down and close to each other as you push up with your hands.
- Hold this pose for two to three seconds.
- Lower your body to the floor.
- Repeat this pose a few more times.
Yoga Wellness Educator professional training (2020). YogaU Online.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.