Try a variety of tips and yoga poses to remove tension in your upper body and maintain the natural curves in your spine.
During the week, I sit at a desk with the intention of maintaining a tall spine and healthy posture. Yet after about 20 minutes (yes, I have actually timed myself) my mind becomes absorbed in the digital world and I start to slouch forward. When I finally resurrect after hours of being distracted from my physical body, my neck and shoulders are tense and my hips and lower back ache. Do you experience this too?
Poor posture causes soreness, stiffness and pain in the body. Over time, this can lead to misalignment and a loss of balance and flexibility, leading to a higher risk of injury. Additionally, slouching can make it harder to digest food and breathe due to pressure on the organs.
The key to a healthy posture is maintaining the three natural curves in the spine — in the neck, mid-back and lower back. Here are my top tips for better posture throughout the day:
Sit upright with your head over your shoulders and your shoulders over your hips. Plant your feet firmly on the ground and don’t cross your legs
If you are sitting on a chair, you can place a pillow against your lower back to maintain the curve in your lumbar spine
If you are sitting on the ground, you can sit on a cushion or pillow to prop your hips up
If you find yourself rounding forward, roll your shoulders down your back and gently squeeze the space between the backs of your shoulder blades
Take movement breaks every 20 minutes to counteract the effects of sitting still and hunching forward. Stand up, go for a walk or press play on the video below to stretch your neck muscles, open your chest, strengthen your back and engage your abdominal muscles. Make sure you are cleared by your doctor before exercising
Here are the yoga poses from the video you can try to realign your posture:
Shoulder shrugs: Take a seat on a cushion. Inhale and shrug your shoulders up toward your ears. Exhale and drop your shoulders down to release tension. Repeat a few times
Shoulder flossing: Grab a strap or the tie of a bathrobe. Hold the strap with your arms wide. As you inhale, reach your arms up over your head. As you exhale, bring your arms behind your back. Inhale to bring your arms back up. Exhale to bring your arms in front. Repeat this process several times
Cat (marjariasana)/ cow (bitilasana): From a table top position (bharmanasana), inhale to drop your belly, open up through your chest and extend your spine for cow pose (bitilasana). Exhale to round your spine and gently let your chin come toward your chest for cat pose (marjariasana). Repeat several times
Thread the needle (parsva balasana): From a table top position (bharmanasana), inhale and reach your right arm up, twisting open from the rib area. As you exhale, thread the right arm through the space between your left hand and leg, resting your right ear and cheek on the mat. On your next inhale, lift your right arm back into the arm and exhale to repeat, threading your hand through. Complete 3-5 on one side, then repeat on the second side
Puppy pose (anahatasana): From a table top position (bharmanasana), walk your arms forward and let your heart melt toward the mat
Downward facing dog (adho mukha svanasana): From a plank pose (phalakasana), lift your hips toward the ceiling, lengthen your spine and release tension in your neck
Rolling cobra (bhujangasana): Lower your belly down to the ground. Press the tops of your feet on the mat. Walk your fingers to the edges of your mat and tent your fingers. As you inhale, lift your chest. As you exhale, lower your chest. Repeat 3-5 times in a wave-like motion
Locust pose (salabhasana): Lower down to your belly. Plant your palms by your chest and squeeze your elbows in. Engage your core by hugging your belly button in and up. Plant the tops of your feet on the mat, hip distance apart. Lift your chest and hands off the mat and stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths. Lower down to the mat, resting one ear and cheek on the mat
Version 2: Reach your arms out in front with your palms facing each other. Lift your arms and legs up off the mat and begin kicking your opposite arm and leg like you are swimming in water. Continue kicking rapidly for 3-5 breaths. Then lower down to the mat
Version 3: Reach your arms behind you. Lift your legs and chest up off the mat. You can clasp your hands behind your back for a deeper backbend
Humble warrior (baddha virabhadrasana): From warrior 1 (virabhadrasana I), clasp your hands behind your back and roll your shoulders down away from your ears. You can hold a strap behind your back for more space between your shoulders. Inhale and lift your chest as you lengthen your spine and hug your ribs in. Exhale and bend from your hip crease, lowering your head to the inside of your right knee. Make sure your knee faces forward and stays aligned over your ankle. Lift your arms up toward the ceiling to stretch your chest. Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths. Release the clasp of your hands. Repeat on the second side
Wide-legged forward fold (prasarita padottanasana): Stand with your feet spread wide. Turn your toes in slightly. As you exhale, begin to fold forward initiating the movement from your hips. Shift two-thirds of your weight into the balls of your feet. Lengthen your spine. Clasp your hands behind your back and squeeze the space between your shoulders to open your chest. Release tension in your neck. Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths
Camel (Ustrasana): Come onto your shins. Place your hands on your lower back to stabilize your pelvis. Squeeze your posture muscles. Picture a string pulling your heart up to open your chest. You can drop your hands down to your heels or to blocks on either sides of your feet if you would like a deeper backbend
Scorpion stretch: Lay down on your belly with your elbows bent. Roll to the left side. Bend your right knee and take your right leg up and over your left leg so your right foot touches the ground. Walk your right hand close to your chest for support. Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths. Then come back to the center and repeat on the second side.
Child’s pose (balasana): Use child’s pose as a way to counter stretch after backbending. Kneel on the floor with your knees hip-width distance apart (you can have your knees closer together for more rounding of the spine or farther apart for a deeper hip stretch). Touch your big toes together. Sit your hips back toward your heels. Reach your arms forward. Rest your forehead on the mat or a block. Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths
Yoga is a great way to get the blood flowing, reconnect to your body and stretch tight areas to keep your posture in alignment. Share which poses helped you release the most tension in the comments below. If you have questions or want to practice in a one-on-one setting, send me a message in the contact form on the home page and we can set up a private Zoom session. I look forward to hearing from you.