Posture Perfect: Yoga Poses to Help You Stand Tall
Ever catch a glimpse of yourself in a store window and feel horrified at how hunched your posture is? Many of our daily activities—driving in a car, working at a computer, checking our phones, sitting at a desk, watching TV—contribute to the rounding of the upper back and shoulders.
Compounding this rounding is the fact that when stressed, we also tend to hold tension in our neck, shoulders and jaw. This tension comes from our body’s stress response or fight-or-flight mechanism. When stressed or anxious, our body responds by speeding up our heart rate, increasing respiration and contracting muscles, such as your jaw, in preparation to fight, flee or defend ourselves. Because life is full of stress, we wind up with our shoulders constantly elevated and/or hunched.
Practicing mindfulness can bring awareness to how our body responds to stress. Deep, slow breathing as well as conscious movements release upper body tension and strengthen the postural muscles of the neck and upper spine.
Here are a few poses to get you started on improving your posture:
Sitting tall in a chair with your hands resting on your thighs, take a deep breath as you roll your shoulders back and lift your heart to the sky. As you exhale, round the back, dropping your head towards your chest. Do this 3-6 times.
This next three poses can be done seated or standing. Interlace your hands behind your back, drawing your knuckles down towards your heels and the shoulders back. Take a few breaths here, softening the shoulders. For added stretch, inhale your arms away from your back and fold forward, bringing your chest towards your thighs. Keep your knees soft and stay here for 1-2 breaths before inhaling up. Release your arms and give your shoulders a few rolls.
Birdwing Neck and Shoulder Stretch
Reach your left arm behind your back so the palm is facing outward. Use your right hand to grab your left wrist, anchoring it by your right hip. Inhale, lengthening the spine. As you exhale, turn your head to the left, bringing your chin over your left shoulder. On your next inhale, turn your head back towards center and to the right. Repeat twice more.
Once more bring your chin over your right shoulder. On an exhale, drop your chin towards your right shoulder. Inhale lifting the chin and look up toward the ceiling. Repeat once or twice more. Then inhale your head to center and release both arms. Pause for a moment to observe any sensations in your neck and shoulders before repeating on the left.
This is similar to the warm-ups baseball pitchers do. Inhale your arms out to the sides at shoulder height with your palms facing the floor. Exhale, bring the arms forward, allowing them to cross at the elbows in front of your chest. Keep the elbows soft as you swing your arms forward and back, switching which arm is on top each time. After 3-5 repetitions, release your arms by your sides. Take a breath, lengthening your spine again. Roll your shoulders back and down a couple of times before taking another deep breath.
Use these poses as a break from computer work or any time you notice you’re slumping. You’ll feel better and stand taller.
Sending love and light,