3 yoga poses to improve your posture and your health
The reality of working life means that many of us spend long hours sat at our desks, hunched over a screen, making us more prone to bad posture. We spend a lot of time sitting down at work, during our commute, and lying in bed or on the sofa, with less time spent up on our feet and moving around.
Good posture is important because it keeps the spine upright, long and healthy with your joints in proper alignment. Continuing to sit or stand with poor posture can create aches and pains that could, over time, even lead to permanent damage. Good posture also plays a role in helping us to breathe better, which keeps us calm throughout the day. Yoga can be a great tool to teach you to focus and improve on your posture.
Here are 3 simple yoga poses to get rid of that slouch:
1. Mountain Pose
Mountain pose, called tadasana in Sanskrit (the traditional language of yoga), is the most basic yoga pose. All other poses stem from mountain pose, so it’s important to learn this one properly. While it may seem simple, it really requires you to focus your attention on the posture throughout your entire body.
To practice Mountain pose you must ground your feet into the mat, while focusing on keeping your spine's natural shape upright and long. Keep your feet together and legs strong, thinking about pulling your thighs upwards and sending your calf muscles back at the same time. Your core (meaning your abdominals) is fully engaged, so you are sucking your stomach in, while tucking your tailbone under. Your shoulders are parallel to the ground, not hunched over, but relaxed and not pulled back too far either.
In Mountain Pose, you should feel like one long line is connected from your feet right through the top of your head. Let your arms hang by your side and imagine a string is being pulled straight up above you, holding everything firm. Maintain this pose for at least 5 breaths and up to 10 breaths to start your practice.
2. Plank Pose
Plank pose involves holding yourself in one long line, engaging almost every part of your body, but especially your chest, shoulders, core, and lower back. Once you’ve built up more strength in these body parts, your shoulders and chest will be better at keeping you standing upright without slouching.
To perform a plank correctly, get onto your hands and knees. Place your hands directly under your shoulders as if you were going to do a push up. Step your legs back so your legs are fully extended behind you and off the ground. Ground your toes into the floor and squeeze your core in while pressing your hands into the floor.
Look about a foot or so in front of your hands. Focus on keeping your body in one straight line from your head to your toes, so that nothing is sagging towards the ground but without pushing up too high up and arching your back either. Try to hold for 20-60 seconds.
3. Bridge Pose
Bridge pose engages your back muscles and core, which are important for maintaining a proper upright posture.
Start by lying on the floor on your back, with your arms alongside your body. Keep your palms facing down and bend your knees. Bring your heels as close to your bum as you can and then press into the ground with your feet so you lift your hips off the floor.
Your back muscles, core, and thigh muscles will be supporting your body and building strength. These all help to keep good posture. If you can, roll your shoulders under you and clasp your hands so you can push your hips up even further, building more strength. Try holding for 5-10 breaths.