Weekly Wellness: Can Yoga Help Your Posture?
COLUMBIA- It seems like our entire world is set up to create bad posture. Think of how often we put ourselves in a position where we are slouching or rounding forward: Sitting at a computer, sitting when we drive, reclining in a recliner, sitting at the dinner table, and on and on. It’s so easy to let our posture get sloppy – especially since most of us actually think we have better posture than we actually do.
This week we are going to answer the question: can yoga help your posture? The short answer is: YES! Yoga can be a great way to help reverse bad posture. If we stretch and strength the shoulders, chest, back and trunk (the areas affected by sitting all day), we can help to relieve the discomfort that comes from long hours of sitting and the bad posture that accompanies this.
There are a LOT of yoga postures out there so I’m only going to focus on a small handful that should be relatively easy to do (without any equipment).
Plank Pose: Plank is a core strengthener.
- Spread the fingers wide and bring your feet hip-width distance apart
- Press the floor away with the hands and keep all muscles of the legs active – thighs lifting the kneecaps and extending energy through the back heels
- Lift your hips to be in line with shoulders – don’t allow them to sink or sag towards the mat
- Keep the core active, drawing navel in towards spine
- Hold for as long as you can (working up to 30 second intervals)
Cobra Pose: Cobra Pose strengthens the arms while opening the upper back and shoulders.
- Laying on the belly, place your hands beneath the shoulders
- Spread the fingers wide and press down evenly to lift the head, neck and chest off the mat
- Squeeze the elbows in tight to the sidebody and slightly tuck the chin without putting any strain on the neck
- Hold for three to five breaths for two or three rounds
- Release and press back to Child’s Pose
Wide Leg Forward Fold: this pose is a great way to lengthen the entire spinal column.
- From standing, heel toe your feet wider than hips distance apart – typically about four feet apart (or what feels good)
- Interlace your fingers behind your back
- Inhale to lift the gaze and open the chest towards the ceiling, drawing the palms closer together
- On the exhale, fold forward and allow your arms to hang up and overhead
- If it is uncomfortable to keep your fingers interlaced, hold a yoga strap behind your back to create the same stretch but less intense
- Breathe here for 30 seconds
- Engage the core and inhale with a straight back to bring your body back to standing
Downward Facing Dog: Down Dog strengthens the arms, shoulders, and core; and opens the hamstrings, back, chest, and shoulders.
- From Plank Pose, press the hips up and back, and press your chest towards your chest
- Heels are hip-width distance apart and reaching down towards the mat (it doesn’t matter how close they get)
- Fingers are spread wide with weight evenly distributed through the hands
- Relax your head and neck, shoulders away from the ears, and send your gaze towards your toes
- Stay here for five breaths (up to one full minute)
Bridge Pose: this pose strengthens the lower body while it opens the spine and neck.
- Laying on your back, palms face down at your sides, bring the soles of your feet to the mat with your knees up. The feet should be close to the fingers and hips-width distance apart
- On an inhale, lift the hips to the sky while pressing down through the soles of the feet and the hands
- Stay here for three breaths
- Releasing on an exhale, lower down one vertebrae at a time
- (If you would like to progress: For the second round, begin the same as the first. Inhaling the hips to the sky. This time, option to clasp the hands behind your back and roll the shoulders underneath to get into a deeper backbend. Breathe here for another three breaths before releasing on the exhale, one vertebrae at a time.)
Supported Legs Up the Wall: this pose is fantastic for stress, resets the spine, helps the heart effectively distribute blood throughout the body, and reduces any inflammation in the legs.
- Sit with your side close against the wall
- Leaning back onto your hands, slide the back of your legs up the wall and recline onto your back with your feet facing the ceiling
- Make any small movements necessary to inch your seat closer to the wall, removing any space between
- From here, the hands can either rest on your belly or spread out to a “T” with palms facing up
- Close the eyes and relax
- Stay here for three to five minutes
For more information and other poses that are helpful for bad posture, I encourage you to visit a local yoga studio and take a class!