Yoga for Posture Correction

Caitlin ParsonsFounder of The Aligned Hygienst

The average American spends three and a half hours looking down at their devices every day, according to this peer-reviewed publication.  Looking down at your smartphone and slouching at the computer is correlated with neck pain, back pain, and a slue of other physical issues. In addition to physical health, poor posture is also related to poor circulation, digestive issues, heartburn, and other problems if left untreated. In this article, I will share how we can utilize yoga for posture correction.

Most people learned about posture with the phrase, “Sit up straight!” But sitting up straight isn’t just important for the way you look. The way you sit, move, and position yourself throughout your life can drastically affect your health.

You may not realize how your posture is affecting your health. “Posture is not only about how well you sit, but how well you move and go about your daily life,” says Dr. George Salem in this article. Dr. Salem is a researcher who studies how movement affects health and quality of life at the University of Southern California.

How can you optimize your health? 

In this article, we’ll discuss a simple 6-step process to improve two types of posture: static and dynamic. Static posture is how you hold yourself when you are not moving–sitting, standing, or sleeping. Dynamic posture is how you hold yourself when you’re moving–walking, twisting to get something, and bending over to pick something up.

While there are many things that determine our posture, like genetics and age, how you hold yourself creates a ripple effect in your whole body, starting with your musculoskeletal system. The musculoskeletal system is comprised of your muscles, bones, joints, and other tissue that help keep your body together. This system provides support and stability while also allowing movement and fluidity.

How you hold yourself through life directly affects your musculoskeletal system. Most people don’t realize how slouching their shoulders forward, even slightly, can bring this system out of alignment. You’d be surprised how small habits–one way or the other–can dictate the health of your body.

Through the 6-step process, you’ll be able to create new habits that create a positive ripple effect throughout your whole system. Because poor posture can decrease flexibility and strength, our ability to move our joints, and cause long-term effects on our spine, yoga therapy is a powerful practice proven to improve your health. Let’s dive in.

Step 1: Awareness

Awareness of your body and the position you’re in is the first step of the process. Without awareness, you cannot change. Being able to notice your alignment is the first tool to improve your posture. Yoga teaches us how to increase our awareness of ourselves, including our bodies. There are many practices that help improve our ability to notice.

One practice I want to share with you is called a Body Scan. You can begin in a seated, standing, or lying down position. There are many ways to do a body scan, but I recommend starting from head to toe. To start, you simply bring awareness to different parts of your body. Start with your head, neck, upper back, and shoulders. Move to your arms, your spine, and your hips. Keep going down the body. Notice sensations. Notice your alignment. Notice how it feels to adjust in any way.

I recommend doing a body scan at least one time a day. You can set a reminder on your phone or write a post-it note at your desk to remind you! It sounds simple, but it’s extremely effective.

I teach a lot of these practices in my yoga therapy classes. If you’re interested in online yoga therapy classes that will help to improve your posture and overall health, check out my monthly yoga therapy membership, Aligned Online.

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Step 2: Counterpose

One of the most important things you can do is to counter the position you’re in. According to the Cambridge Dictionary,  counterpose is to be the opposite of one thing. In this case, for many of us who sit for extended periods of time, we want to counterpose sitting, hunching, leaning, and slouching. 

An example of a simple counterpose you can do after sitting for a long time is to get up and stretch. Simply standing up can be a counterpose for sitting, but I’ll share a couple of others ones with you. One example to counterpose poor posture is standing up, bringing your hands behind your back, and opening the chest. This not only helps your musculoskeletal system, but your circulation, digestion, and your breath.

Another example of a counterpose would be to lie down with your legs up the wall. This position does many things. Legs up the wall is a great position to find your neutral spine. This will help bring your back into a state of balance and relax the muscles around your spine. In addition, legs up the wall can be extremely relaxing and a great way to open the chest and support your nervous system.

For more examples of counterposes, I highly recommend taking one of my classes! You can check out my classes inside Aligned Online. You’ll find lots of classes that will teach you more about yoga practices for posture correction.

Step 3: Breathe

This is one of the most important yet underutilized tools for improving posture. You can use your breath to facilitate a relaxation response in your musculoskeletal system and throughout your whole body. The reason the breath is so powerful is because of its effect on our nervous system. 

Yoga teaches us how to breathe to support better posture, circulation, and an overall healthier system. One easy breathing exercise you can inhabit to create better posture is called a 3-part breath.

In this breathing exercise, you’ll focus on expanding your inhalation and exhalation. As you inhale, focus on creating space throughout the belly, sides of your rib cage, and chest. As you exhale, notice the chest, rib cage, and belly relax and recoil back to the center. I recommend practicing this for 10 breaths as a break from work or your day. Focus on expanding and slowing down each breath. This breath will help bring awareness to and release areas of tightness and tension, a common side-effect of poor posture. 

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Step 4: Movement – Yoga for Posture Correction

Based on the idea of counterposes to improve posture, it’s vital to move in order to support your health and longevity. There are many exercise practices that can support you including walking, tai chi, pilates, yoga, etc. 

Yoga, in my opinion, is one of the most accessible types of movement that supports overall health. Movements based on yoga support our musculoskeletal system. Yoga improves flexibility, strength, circulation, and, our relaxation response. Yoga can bring the body into balance by reducing areas that are overworked and tight, while also building strength and stability to the weaker areas of the body.

Yoga teaches us the proper movements of the spine, which is vital. fora healthy back and good posture! Healthy movement of the spine includes sitting up tall (axial extension), forward bends (flexion), back bends (extension), twisting (axial rotation), and side bends (lateral rotation). When you add regular movement of the spine in all directions, you are supporting your musculoskeletal system. 

In my online membership program, Aligned Online, I have a ton of classes that help you understand and adapt these movements to support YOUR body’s unique alignment. I’m hosting an upcoming 8-week Yoga for Healthy Posture class series. If you’re interested, click here to learn more and become an Aligned Online member today!

Step 5: Repeat

Repeating movements that support your body’s overall health on a regular basis is important. By doing so, you train your body how move effectively, while also building new habits each time you practice. 

Repetition is what the body needs to create new habits. If your body is used to sitting for extended periods of time, or hunching over your smartphone, you are training your body to mold into that shape.

My question for you is, how do you want to train your body to feel? Whether you realize it or not, you have the ability to train your body–to form into a good posture or less than ideal alignment.  You can teach your body to move easier and create better alignment by repeating exercises that feel good to you and open your body. Although there are many practices to help, I find the tools of yoga extremely effective for posture correction.

Step 6: Rest

Rest is one of the most important ways to combat poor posture. It sounds crazy, and perhaps extremely simple, but trust me when I say this is SO important.

Adding intentional rest into your routine will dramatically effect your posture in a positive way. Rest can reset your nervous system, also described as the managing system of your entire body. Resting counters the effect gravity has on your body, while also allowing chronic tension in the muscles to release. Mindful rests helps to bring necessary fluid back the spinal discs and relieves general pain and tension.

There are a few ways to incorporate rest into your daily routine. Savasana is one of the most common poses of yoga, and my favorite! Savasana, also known as corpse pose, invites your body into a lying down position. There are many modifications to this pose, like adding a pillow or rolled blanket under the knees. By lying down and resting in this way, you regular your nervous system and reset your entire system.

Try setting your alarm for 1-2 minutes every day to find a restful pose. Lay down, breathe, and let your body relax. My favorite way to do this is by incorporating a guided meditation to help deepen the mind and body into relaxation. I have a ton of guided meditation and relaxation practices on my monthly membership portal, Aligned Online.

Yoga for Posture Correction

There are many fundamental elements of yoga practice beyond physical practice. Each part of a yogic practices, including the physical practices, help your body return to homeostasis. When we become aware of our posture, body and how we’re moving in space, we can create a change. Through intentional counterposes, breathing practices, movement, repetition, and regulating our nervous system through rest, we can achieve better posture.

With better posture comes a healthier body and mind. This week I’m hosting a Free Healthy Posture Masterclass and I’d love for you to join me. In this masterclass, we’ll take a deeper look into each of these steps to help you create healthier routines that feel good.

If you want to learn more about the body, healthy posture, and how to incorporate yoga therapy practices to optimize the health of your whole system, please join me for the masterclass. The class will be recorded, so if you can’t join live, or you missed the date, you can still catch the replay. Click here to join the masterclass.

I hope this article was helpful for you to understand how many natural resources there to improving your posture. I hope this article helped you understand how the body functions and the natural healing capacity of your body. I’m a firm believer that our body has an innate capacity to heal itself, and I have seen through my own experiences and my clients, that the human body is extremely profound. We have the capacity to heal, one new habit at a time.

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