5 Yoga Poses to Improve Posture

I giggle when I’m complimented on my “perfect posture.” If only they had seen me before yoga. Research shows we’re all constantly, more than ever, looking down at our phones, hunched over laptops, spending endless hours at an office desk or sitting for hours. We’re also training our muscles to maintain their hunched state, which has led to a huge increase in tension, aches, pains, and soreness most often felt around the neck, shoulders and back. Yoga is an absolute miracle worker for reversing poor posture, minimizing or eliminating these aches and pains.

Here are my top 5 yoga poses to improve posture:

MOUNTAIN POSE

Outfit:  Helen Jon  Yoga Mat:  Jade Yoga

Outfit: Helen Jon Yoga Mat: Jade Yoga

  • Bring your feet together, press the four corners of your feet down and lift your inner arches up.
  • Engage your abdominals and lift your chest up.

  • Raise your arms up to the sky and draw your shoulder blades together and down your back.

  • *Customize this pose for posture by bringing your shoulders up to your ears, roll shoulders back and draw shoulder blades down. Visualize that you’re tucking your lower shoulder blades into imaginary back pockets.

DOWNWARD FACING DOG

Outfit:  Helen Jon  Yoga Mat:  Jade Yoga

Outfit: Helen Jon Yoga Mat: Jade Yoga

  • Make an upside down “V” with your body, step your feet hip-width apart, maintaining a small bend in your knees to protect your joints.

  • Engage your abdominals by feeling as if you’re sucking your belly button back to your spine.

  • Place your hands shoulder-width apart, spread your fingers wide, and press all ten fingers firmly through the mat.

  • *Visualize as if you’re pulling your chest through your biceps while simultaneously reaching the back half of your body towards the back of the room.

UPWARD FACING DOG

Outfit:  Helen Jon  Yoga Mat:  Jade Yoga

Outfit: Helen Jon Yoga Mat: Jade Yoga

  • Bring the tops of your feet to the mat, press all ten toes into the mat, and lift your knees and thighs up.
  • Straighten your arms, stacking your shoulders over your wrists, press your fingers into the mat in the exact same way you’ve just done in down dog.

  • Ensure the only things touching the mat are your hands and the tops of your feet.

  • *Visualize yourself pulling, as if you are pulling your chest through your biceps, while drawing your shoulder blades back and down.

CORE: FOREARM PLANK POSE

Outfit:  Helen Jon  Yoga Mat:  Jade Yoga

Outfit: Helen Jon Yoga Mat: Jade Yoga

  • My favorite variation of the plank pose is Dolphin Plank, in which you dip your hips side-to-side. Any core-focused pose will work -- so go ahead and change it up, play around with variations, but always be mindful that you are building and strengthening the core.  
  • When someone talks about the core, they’re referring to the muscles deep within the abs and back, attaching to the spine or pelvis.

  • The torso is the body’s center of power, so the stronger you are in that area, the more muscular support you’ll have for your other movements. The core is the center for building muscle strength and muscle-memory for all that we do, especially for improving and strengthening our posture.  

STANDING FORWARD FOLD

Wide Leg Forward Fold for Pregnancy (PreNatal Yoga)

Outfit:  Helen Jon  Yoga Mat:  Jade Yoga

Outfit: Helen Jon Yoga Mat: Jade Yoga

  • Press the four corners of your feet down and lift your inner arches up, bring your hips over your heels.
  • Hinge from your hips, draw your tailbone up, bring your belly button in as if it’s trying to reach your spine, and move your chin in towards your chest.

  • Bring your hands to your mat, if flexibility allows, or be okay with wherever it is that they fall (ex: thighs, shins, but avoid placing your hands on your knees to protect the knee joint).

  • *Customize this pose for improved posture by interlacing your hands behind your back, maintain a slight bend in your elbows and gently fold forward, allowing your arms to drop back towards the earth. Repeat, and this time, interlace your fingers with the opposite hand as the lead hand to ensure you’re building equal balance on both sides of the body with every movement.

BREATHE into each pose. Breathing is what makes it yoga, otherwise it’s just movements. Give yourself grace and know that you’re doing the best you can. Practice these 5 postures daily. You will begin to retrain your muscles and, over time, you will build muscle-memory, gifting you the incredible outcome of beautiful posture and relief from aches and pains.

Thank you -- and namaste! -- to Helen Jon for a memorable day at the Nelson-Atkins Museum filled with light, love and, yes, improved posture.