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How to improve your posture with yoga

Updated on May 8, 2015

Bad posture is a common problem. It is the result of long hours sitting at a desk, lack of training and self-awareness, and even low self-esteem. Most of us become so accustomed to slouching in our seats that when we try to stand straight it actually feels like we’re out of our comfort zone.

The best way to improve your posture is to practise the right exercises on a regular basis. Yoga strengthens your back muscles and shoulders, increases your flexibility and helps you maintain a healthy spine. Give it a few weeks and you’ll soon become more aware of your posture as you’re waiting in that long queue or when you’re out having an evening stroll.

First impressions are the most lasting, and a good posture conveys confidence and flair. But most importantly, good posture also makes you feel better about your image and boosts your self-esteem.

It’s never too late to correct poor posture, and the following yoga techniques will help you stand taller and prouder.

1. Mountain pose

Good posture means you keep your back straight, shoulders squared, tummy tucked in, chest lifted and your chin up. A good way to start is to practise one of the basic poses in yoga. As the name suggests, this pose will make you feel and look taller than you normally are.

  • Stand with your feet together with your toes slightly apart and arms at your sides.
  • Your feet should feel like they’re rooted to the ground.
  • Tuck your tailbone and inhale deeply, feeling your thighs getting longer and stronger.
  • Take another deep breath in and open your chest.
  • Roll your shoulders back and bring your chin up.
  • Remain in this position for a few minutes, taking deep breaths and feeling yourself growing taller with each breath.

2. Warrior Pose

This pose releases stress in the shoulders, strengthens the lower back and legs, and improves your balance. Don’t get discouraged if you are a bit wobbly and unsteady at first. This pose requires a lot of practice and focus.

  • Stand straight (mountain pose) and stretch your legs wide apart, but don’t overdo it.
  • Starting with the right foot, your toes should be pointing forward. Meanwhile the toes of your left foot should point to the left.
  • Check that the heel of the left foot is aligned to the center of the right foot.
  • Lift both arms sideways (parallel to the ground) without raising the shoulders.
  • Breathe in, and as you breathe out slowly bend your right knee.
  • Turn your head to the right and keep taking long deep breaths
  • Make sure that your tailbone is tucked in and that your torso is long and straight.
  • Come back up and repeat the pose on the other side, this time bending your left knee.

3. Cat stretch

This pose heightens the spine’s flexibility and erases tension and discomfort from the back. Cat stretches are highly enjoyable and relaxing.

  • Kneel on all fours, rooting your hands firmly on the ground.
  • Make sure that your hands are directly under the shoulders and that your knees are hip-width apart.
  • Inhale and curve your back as you raise your chin towards the ceiling and push your navel down. Feel your spine extend. Enjoy the stretch in your spine, taking long deep breaths.
  • Exhale and this time arch your back up. Your chin should now be facing the floor.
  • Repeat the process. It’s easy to get carried away with this one!

4. Bridge pose

This might be a tough one at first, and you might only be able to hold the pose for a few seconds. It’s a great pose for increasing flexibility in your back.

  • Lie on the ground with your feet placed hip-width apart and your knees bent.
  • Tuck your tailbone in and raise your hips towards the ceiling.
  • Now put your arms underneath you and interlace the hands. This will give you more support and strength to remain in this position for a longer while.
  • Take a few deep breaths, and then lower your hips back on the ground.

5. Cobra pose

This pose does wonders to the back and shoulders. Amongst the numerous benefits of this exercise, Cobra pose strengthens the shoulders blades and increases flexibility in the upper and middle back.

  • Lie on your stomach, with your toes flat against the ground and your head resting on the floor. Your legs should be close together.
  • Put your hands under your shoulders, the palms pressing against the floor.
  • Breathe in and slowly raise your head, followed by your chest and your abdomen. The most important thing at this point is that your navel remains on the floor.
  • Remember to keep your hands firmly against the ground to support your upper body.
  • Tilt your head back and take deep breaths to relish that lovely stretch all the way down your back.
  • Breathe out and slowly lower your abdomen, chest and then your head back to the ground.

6. Child's pose

Think of child pose as that lovely treat at the end of your workout. It relaxes your whole body, especially your back and shoulders.

  • Kneel on the floor and sit back on your heels. Your hips should be on your heels.
  • Bend forward until your forehead rests against the floor.
  • Place your arms to the sides or stretch them in front of you.
  • Remain in that position for as long as you wish. You might even fall asleep!

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