Great posture not only makes you look taller but also slimmer, and more confident! Yoga opens up the upper back and counteracts the many postural problems associated with working long hours at the computer or driving in a car.
Improved posture will allow you to take deeper, fuller breaths, which will make you feel noticeably more energetic. It’s amazing to see the postural improvement in my students and how they carry themselves differently after only a couple of months of practicing.
Yoga creates good posture by first creating body awareness. You will begin to notice when you are out of alignment, when you are slouching and your chin begins to jut out in front of you. You will become aware of the physical discomfort of not being in alignment. You will also begin to notice how it effects your breathing and therefore your energy and moods.
Physiologically, yoga improves posture by elongating and decompressing the spine and strengthening the muscles around it. It also helps strengthen the lower back and abdominal muscles, which protect the lower back from strain.
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Cat Cow Pose releases back tension. It helps open up the upper back and prepares you for deeper back-bends. It’s a great warm-up.
Come on to all fours with your knees under your hips and your wrists under your shoulders. As you inhale gently arch the spine and let the belly release to the floor as you gaze up. Let the shoulders soften down your back and be sure not to compress the back of the neck by jutting the chin up too high. As you exhale round your spine towards the ceiling and allow the belly to lift up as the head and neck release to the floor. Alternate between the two a few times. This pose also helps ease back pain.
Virasana (Hero Pose) is recommended for a few minutes each day. It is a pose that teaches good posture habits, because it teaches proper alignment in all the spines natural curves. Keep in mind the natural curve in your lower back as well as your neck.
Standing Forward Bend Variation In this variation of the standing forward bend your hands are interlaced behind your back. It is a great pose for opening up the shoulders. I like to teach this pose at the beginning of class along with sun salutations. Draw your shoulder blades together and let your shoulders slide down your back as you bend forward. Your arms extend long over your head. Release your head and neck. Hold for 3 or 4 long deep breaths. Keep the knees soft if you are not warmed up to protect the hamstrings.
Salabhasana (Locust Pose) and Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
Both help open up the chest, which counteract slouching. They increase mobility in the thoracic spine (the stiffest part of the spine). They also strengthen the muscles that run along side the spine which help support and position the shoulder blades.
Supported Back Bends stretch the pectoralis major, so they are a wonderful way to open the chest. They help increase mobility in the thoracic spine
Navasana (Boat Pose) strengthens the lower abdominals, which are important in supporting the lower back and pelvis.
Tadasana (Mountain Pose) This pose helps align the body in a standing position. It is a lot more challenging than it looks! It also promotes postural awareness. You learn to root down through your feet and lengthen up through your spine.
Stand with your feet hip width apart and Parallel. Your heels should be under your sit bones. Lift all ten toes off the four, spread them wide and then bring them softly down to the floor. Without locking your kneecaps feel all four corners of your feet rooting deeply into the earth. Draw your belly up slightly as your tailbone trickles down towards the floor. As you do this try not to flatten the lower back. Keep in mind the natural curve of the lower back. Firm your quadriceps and feel your kneecaps lifting up without tensing the belly or jaw. Widen your collarbones and allow your shoulders to melt down your back. The key is to keep your chest open without jutting your lower ribs out. Feel as if there is a string attached to the crown of your head lifting you up to the sky. In an aligned mountain pose, the ear canal will line up with the center of the shoulder, the middle of the chest is right over the middle of pelvis, and the middle of the pelvis is right over the front of the heels. Capturing the center is not possible or important. What is important is building an awareness of your fluid posture and standing in a way that supports the natural curves of your spin
References: Rodney Yee