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.
How can you optimize your health?
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.
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.
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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About the Author
My name is Caitlin, I’m a chronic pain survivor, Certified Yoga Therapist, Registered Dental Hygienist, and founder and CEO of Caitlin Parsons Yoga Therapy, a yoga therapy and wellness company. I recently made my dreams a reality by quitting my full-time job as a dental hygienist to pursue my passion and purpose helping others get back into alignment.
Now I use my personal and professional experiences with chronic pain, stress and anxiety, and injury recovery to help women step back into their own alignment – in their bodies, minds and throughout their lives. I help empower women to create balance in their bodies and minds so they can access greater levels of freedom in their lives inside my monthly membership program (Aligned), group coaching program for hygienists (The Aligned Hygienist), a Yoga + Coaching Program for Dental Teams, and private yoga therapy coaching.
I love to share my knowledge and expertise on mindfulness and therapeutic yoga for back pain through my blog and social media platforms as well as guest appearances on other inspiring and like-minded podcasts.
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Client Success Stories
“I started working with Caitlin because I was tired of being in pain all the time and had learned about yoga therapy from a friend. I had such bad hip pain, it hurts to sit down, get up, exercise and walk around. The pain moved down my leg sometimes and up into my low back.
Now I feel amazingly strong, am able to actually bend down and reach my shoes so I can tie them! I gained an immense amount of strength in my hips as well as have learned many things I can do on my own to keep going in the right direction. I really enjoyed the one on one time! And the fact that Caitlin came to my house was amazing. I had no excuses to not show up for myself and the results paid off! I have already recommended Caitlin to my friends and will continue to do so.” – Cary
“I started working with Caitlin because I had recently gotten surgery from a brain tumor. I had very little mobility in my shoulder and arm. I was concerned that the lack of mobility, discomfort and reduced strength would increase chances for more pain and injury. Working with Caitlin was amazing, I would recommend her personal approach to anyone. She is dedicated to her work, has great knowledge and communication. Caitlin does a wonderful job guiding you back to your body and yourself.” – Ania
“I started working with Caitlin because I had chronic low back pain and regular flare-ups. I was told by multiple doctors that I would always be in pain and my posture would never improve unless I had surgery. The pain got so bad that I couldn’t play volleyball anymore, which created a negative spiral in my mood, energy and throughout my life. The results I got with Caitlin was amazing. I no longer have chronic pain or chronic acid reflux which I was on medication for. I’m much healthier and happier now than I ever have been!” – Russ M.
“I started working with Caitlin because I had neck pain, shoulder pain, neck congestion and ringing in my ears. I was working a lot, taking care of my family, and I was beginning to spiral downwards in a state of stress and pain. With all of that, life became a chore. I wanted to learn how to take care of myself so I could live a happy life and take care of my responsibilities from a place of joy, not dread. I wanted to get my neck to a place where it wasn’t painful and tightening every time I was stressed.
Now I no longer have neck pain or tightness, I’m stressed and ear ringing has greatly reduced. My body feels so much better as a whole. Caitlin helped me find peace. Caitlin has an innate sense of knowing how to tailor each session to fit how I’m feeling in my body and what I need. Caitlin helped me change the way I react to stress; now I’m more mindful of my reactions and the way I take care of my body. I’m stronger in my body and mind now which has positively affected my entire life.” – Donna M.
“I started working with Caitlin because I was completely disconnected from my body because of a genetic disease, having constant, chronic pain, extreme trouble sleeping and anxiety living in my own skin. I wanted to feel better- I wanted to have less pain and have a better quality of life–building strength and reconnecting with my body were a bonus. Working with Caitlin exceeded my expectations- I sleep so much better now and my pain has improved significantly. I’m less anxious and have practices to help when my symptoms flare. I’m more grounded and embodied, I have a daily yoga practice that continues to build on the foundation Caitlin helped me create.
Caitlin is incredible, she validated me and helped me work on my whole self. She customized everything to work specifically for me. I 100% recommend working with Caitlin. She believed that healing was possible and she held that vision for me and brought it to each session, and eventually I believed and embodied it too. She helped me find the power in every single baby step towards a more whole and healthy life, and I am completely transformed by it. This work isn’t the quick fix, it’s deep, holistic, soul-led healing.” – Hayley
“Working with Caitlin was the best thing I ever did for myself. I thought that I would always have pain because I’ve done so many things to try and help but they haven’t worked, until yoga therapy with Caitlin. Now I am living with less pain, my posture has improved, I am getting stronger, and my clothes are getting looser.” – Joan
“Before I came to Caitlin, I was taking Motrin and Tylenol on a daily basis like clockwork. I would skip going to the pool or out with my family after work due to the pain in my body. I was very depressed and isolating myself from activities that I really enjoy doing with my family and friends. I had pain on a daily basis in my lower back, shoulder blades, hips and left knee. Some days I had so much pain and inflammation in my body I felt like I couldn’t make it through the day.
Since starting FTF I am slowly starting to get control of my pain and inflammation through the online program one-on-one sessions with Caitlin. Inflammation is decreasing, I’m sitting up taller and I’m more aware of my posture both at work and in my daily routines outside of work. I am no longer having to take Motrin and Tylenol on a daily basis and I am able to walk longe distances without pain in my knees. “
“I never thought I would get out of back, knee, and postural pain. I also have a curvature in my back that I have been told most of my life cannot be changed. When I came to Caitlin, I wasn’t playing my favorite sport and I was miserable at work. Even doing simple things was really painful. Caitlin completely personalizes her services based on your needs. She takes considerable time to answer all of my questions and targets my sessions for exactly what I need that day and what my goals are. Caitlin always asks me what is going on and listens really well. She is a wealth of knowledge about yoga, human anatomy, and how humans should move. No two sessions are the same. We changed the way I move while doing simple things like sitting in a car or at my desk, putting dishes away and bending over to clean dog poop so that my back is protected from re-injury. I am healing my back partly to return to playing volleyball. I now understand how to be in my volleyball stances and movements so that I can avoid injury when I get back to playing. I am already standing up much straighter and feel more confident. I never thought I would feel this good in my body and I am so wow-ed by Caitlins mastery of her craft.” – Russel
“Caitlin really knows how to curate yoga program for sustainable strengthening. My shoulders and core used to be weaknesses but after a few sessions I see my posture has improved and the range of motion in my shoulders. She’s caring, fun, and a pleasure to work with. I’d recommend her to anyone interested in trying yoga therapy.”
“Caitlin is fantastic. I’ve gone to many of her classes, specifically those with a focus on healthy backs. I’ve worked with her as a therapist on issues I have with my neck and shoulders from work. She’s patient, attentive and offers focused one-on-one sessions. The exercises I’ve done really help me combat the negative effects of sitting at a desk all day, highly recommend working with this lovely and professional woman!!”
“Caitlin has helped me grow and learn a lot about myself. She helped me realize the strong power of breath when I was over stressed and unaware of my mental needs. Caitlin helped me focus my energy, both good and bad, on my breath. With every deep inhale and cleansing exhale, I felt my stress and anxiety lessen and lessen. Eight years later, my main mantra is to ‘just breathe.’ It has literally changed my life. Along with the power of breath, Caitlin has helped me keep a constant awareness of how I physically hold myself. Not only has my posture changed, but I have also become stronger and my confidence has increased. I recently began running and was having pain in my hip and side leg. Through working with Caitlin, my pain subsided. She put together an easy to follow yoga sequence that helped my muscles and ligaments heal. I fully trust in Caitlin as a yoga professional, and recommend her gentle way of teaching to anyone.”
“This program has been so amazing for my pain. In just one class, my neck and shoulder tension released more than it has in years. This program has been so instrumental in managing and controlling my stress. It’s so easy to be “on the hamster wheel”. I look forward to my yoga time and meditation and have noticed a huge difference in my pain level. My family has even noticed my calmer demeanor. I couldn’t believe how much my pain was linked to my stress.”