Yoga for good posture and health
The other day I had one of those “mother knows best moments” when I realized that the pestering I received as a child about my posture and gait actually served a good purpose. The epiphany came when I learned that one of my acquaintances who I thought was in his 70s was actually several decades younger! This gentleman has weak muscle tone. He slouches and shuffles his feet when he walks, so I just assumed he must be fairly advanced in age.
“Stop slouching, sit up straight, don’t drag your feet” were like little daily mantras I heard from my adult relatives. Like many children I would do as I was told but the minute I was out of sight, I’d be back to my old habits.
In my early 20s I discovered yoga. Just a few months into my practice I noticed my posture improving and my gait becoming more vibrant. I also noticed that my face would look younger and fresher after my yoga class. That part was not a big deal when I was in my 20s, fast forward fifteen plus years, now it pleases me to no end.
There are countless benefits to practicing yoga, I call them “Yoga Magic”. Yoga helps to release stress, find balance, become more peaceful and lose weight, but my favorite benefit is that yoga helps us live a more vibrant life!
Here’s a simple yoga routine that will help you have better posture and live a healthier and more vibrant life.
Yoga for healthy posture:
Tadasana (Mountain Pose):
Stand with your feet together or hip width apart and spread the weight evenly through both feet. Gently lift up your knee caps as you engage your front thighs, roll your inner thighs back as you draw your tailbone toward your heels. Pull your belly in and up, spread across the collarbones while reaching your lower ribs toward the front of your hips. Draw the shoulders gently away from the ears.Take your hands palms together in front of your heart into the Namaste position. Inhale a deep breath, feeling your feet pressing firmly into the earth and the earth pressing firmly into your feet. Spend a few breaths in the Tadasana position, centering and quieting your mind and body.
Warm-up with a ½ sun salute:
Inhale, stretch your arms up either directly overhead or with a slight back bend.
Exhale, keeping the back long, fold forward. Keep the knees straight as you reach your hands toward the floor. If this is too intense, place your hands on your shins, thighs or yoga blocks. Take several long breaths here, surrendering to the forward fold and opening your back and hamstrings. Inhale and lengthen your back, coming half way up. Exhale, fold forward once again. Inhale, keep the back long, knees straight and come back up to standing. Exhale to the starting position, Tadasana. Repeat 2-3 times.
Heart Opener Gomukhasana Arms:
In this routine we will just do the arm part of Gomukhasana to open through the chest area, undoing the damage caused by slouching.
Sit comfortably on the floor or a chair. If you have tight shoulders then grab a strap or a towel. Hold the towel or strap in your right hand and lift your right arm overhead. Bend the right elbow reaching the palm down toward the back of your right shoulder. Take the left arm down and around behind your back, bend your left elbow with the palm facing out and work it up toward your right palm. Either clasp both hands or hold onto a towel. Work your right elbow up toward the ceiling as you reach your low ribs toward your hips to avoid overarching your back.
This is my favorite back strengthening pose. The idea is to remain in this pose for several minutes, keeping your back and legs and isometric contraction. If you are new to yoga, you may perform this pose on a chair instead of the floor focusing on keeping the back long and the spinal erector muscles engaged. Another variation, is to sit on the floor with the back against the wall using the wall for feedback. Here’s the traditional Dandasana:
Sit on the floor, extend your legs straight in front of you, legs and feet together, front thighs engaged, feet flexed with the pinky toes reaching toward the outside of your hips. Inhale as you lengthen through the entire spine. Imagine a straight line which starts at the base of your torso, moves up your center body and out through the top of your head. Pull your shoulders down and away from the ears, open through the collarbones but keep the lower ribs reaching towards the hip flexors to avoid overarching your back. Place your hands on the floor next to your outer thighs. Try to stay in this pose for 10 long breaths, feeling the muscles on either side of your spine engaging and keeping the back long.
You may finish here if you are new to yoga, or for an extra boost of strength do the next one–Dolphin Plank.
Though not traditionally a yoga pose, Dolphin Plank is a great core strengthener. Come to the floor and onto your knees. Place your forearms parallel to each other on the floor, elbows directly underneath the shoulders and palms flat on the floor shoulder width apart. Extend the right leg back and then the left leg back coming into the forearm plank position. Press your forearms and feet firmly into the floor, keep the belly engaged drawing a straight line from the back of your heels to the top of your head. Hold this for 15 seconds if you are new and then work your way up to several minutes.
Article originally published in Holistically Savvy