3 Somatic Exercises for Healthy Posture

Somatics exercises and how they can help improve posture and overall well-being.

Article At A Glance

Posture is not just the result of sitting or standing up straight. The state of our autonomic nervous system, stress and our emotions can all influence our posture. These three somatics exercises can lead you to discover the deeper aspects of your being that determine your posture.  

You can create healthy posture by using the somatics exercises I share below. But first, please realize that healthy posture is not a consequence of forcing your body to sit, stand or walk tall, upright, or even aligned.

You can feel and sense your body from the inside out. It’s a subjective process, as opposed to looking at your body from the outside and trying to get it to behave in a certain way or to achieve an ideal. These somatic practices for healthy posture are just that. They are practices. They take some time.

Stress and Your Autonomic Nervous System

Stress is created in the autonomic nervous system, contributing to poor or painful posture. Among other things, stress in the autonomic nervous system can give you chronic back and neck tension, tight muscles, and a tight jaw. 

Posture also results from how fluidly you move and how integrated your movement is. Your somatic nervous system influences the quality of your movement. If you have had accidents or injuries, you have firsthand experience with hurtful adaptations in your movement that inhibit fluidity.

1. Somatic Exercises: Check in with Your Posture

Two beautiful diverse yogis practicing yoga Padmasana exercise or Lotus Pose with mudra, Well being, wellness concept, concept of posture improvement.

Emotional responses can change our level of body tension or tone. We think of tension as a bad thing, but without tension, our posture would be saggy and collapsed. Instead, let’s think about tone. The tone of our body tissue both varies and has a general level of activity that reflects us. Importantly, emotions influence this range. Let’s see if we can feel some of this range:

  1. Sit quietly and as objectively as you can; feel your posture. 
  2. Is your weight even from side to side? 
  3. Does your head slump? 
  4. Are you slouching or making yourself sit up?

2. A Somatic Practice for Emotions and Postural Tone

  1. To experience overall tissue and nervous system tone, think of a time you felt both easy and exhilarated. Drawing up this experience is a somatic experience because it is just about you and your life.
  2. As you draw up that experience, can you feel a positive shift in how you experience being “tall,” “full,” or “upright?” If not, continue below; I will help you find ease and integrity in your posture.
  3. Now, think of a time you felt worried, alone, or injured. Can you feel a shift in your posture?
Middle age beautiful woman smiling happy. Standing on mat practicing mountain pose and somatic exercises to improve posture and overall well-being.
(Somatic Practice for healthy posture lets you experience healthy posture without effort)

3. A Somatic Exercise for Healthy Posture

Our bodies are a fantastically complex arrangement of muscle, bones, connective tissue, fluids, and nerve impulses, and respond to all kinds of internal and external perceptions. For instance, perceiving body weight or lightness can support healthy posture. Try this Somatics Exercise for perceiving your posture.

  1. Stand up and notice how much effort it takes you to stand. You can also notice details like which foot has more weight or if your hip, back, or neck has tightness or pain.
  2. Use the video below as a guide to begin to feel your weight softening into gravity. Just imagine you are a fluid container of sand that shifts, rolls, glides, and slides. If you prefer to do this lying down, you can.
  3. Now feel how, at a certain point, your body responds to feeling heavy, sinking into gravity with a lightness. This may take a while, especially if you have put much effort into standing up “straight.” Give it time. Play with it. The short video below is short, but you can spend 10 minutes.
  4. Now, stand again. What has changed about your posture? Do you feel more grounded or lighter? Do you feel fuller or have more ease? Emotionally, do you feel more relaxed?
  5. If so, you are well on your way to a somatic embodiment that makes for healthy posture, pain-free movement, and nervous system regulation. 

Video Tutorial: Somatic Movement to Help Improve Posture

Reprinted with permission from Donna Brooks and Orignal Body Wisdom
donna brooks

After four decades of experience helping my clients unwind limiting movement patterns and heal body-mind disconnection, I have put together simple but profound embodiment exercises that help everything from pain to Parkinson’s Disease and pelvic floor issues to the trauma of grief and loss. I have a broad toolbox that relieves stress in the nervous system so you move with more ease and integration while also gaining perspective, insight, and courage.

I have also taught yoga, meditation, and relaxation for chronic pain through the Valley Medical Group and assisted Iyengar teacher Karin Stephen in her programs for people with HIV-AIDS.  I teach popular walking and pelvic floor clinics and create somatic yoga programs for YogaUOnline.

But my biggest lesson has been the death of my 36-year-old son. He died at a peak point of his career. This could have destroyed me. Certainly, it is devastating but instead of collapsing, I am understanding my own work more deeply. I have been so fortunate that I have tools that let me feel the goodness of being alive and in that goodness, my pain, horror, frustration, and panic can arise without overwhelming my system.

I am a certified Yoga Therapist and a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist and Educator. I hold a Bachelor’s degree from SUNY Stony Brook. I have been teaching yoga since 1981 and somatics since 1993. I am trained in Iyengar yoga, I have studied with somatic movement/ embodiment pioneers including Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen and Emilie Conrad.

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