The Promise of Good Posture

Image depicts a hack with yoga student using a strap to help retrain and improve posture.

Article At A Glance

From neck and shoulder strain to back pain, poor posture can have a myriad of impacts on our health. Fortunately, there are simple solutions to improve posture that can be easily incorporated into your daily routine. This article explores easy ways to improve your posture and explains how to customize your yoga practice to enhance posture and overall health.

How’s your posture these days? Have you caught a glimpse of yourself in a store window lately and been surprised by what you saw? Are you experiencing some nagging discomfort in your neck or back recently without a clear change in your activities?

Attractive happy young woman working out indoors. Front view . standing in Tadasana or Mountain Pose, a pose used to help train and improve posture.

The topic of good and bad, or healthy and unhealthy posture is one frequently written about in newsletters and blogs from renowned health centers such as the Cleveland Clinic and Harvard Medical to lay publications such as Forbes and USA Today. There is ongoing research on the connection between posture and chronic pain, and the application of specific exercises to improve posture and reduce physical pain. 

How Unhealthy Posture Impacts Our Wellbeing

Attractive happy young woman shown in side view standing in Tadasana or Mountain Pose depicting healthy posture.

Many of these sources point out numerous negative impacts on our health that can arise from poor postural habits:

  • Neck and shoulder strain
  • Back pain
  • Joint damage and arthritis
  • Poor balance
  • Headaches
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Stress Incontinence
  • Constipation
  • Heartburn
  • Negative mood
  • Poor energy levels

5 Ways to Improve Posture

Sporty beautiful young woman practicing yoga, sitting on wooden block in Virasana or Hero's Pose, which is an excellent yoga pose to help teach good posture.I don’t know about you, but this is a rather surprisingly long list of issues and ones I’d prefer to avoid or eliminate if I already have them! Fortunately, the recommendations for improving posture will be familiar to most of us, even though they may not presently be part of our daily health routines. They include the following:

  • Set a goal to have a healthy upright posture when sitting and standing.
  • Increase your awareness of your posture throughout the day (the first step in changing your habits).
  • If you have a sedentary job or lifestyle presently, get up and take a short movement break every 30-60 minutes.
  • Establish a regular movement practice that stresses healthy posture, improving the strength of the core (including the pelvic floor) and spine, and improving flexibility.
  • Make ergonomic changes to your workspace that encourage better sitting posture.

How to Create a Yoga Practice to Improve Posture

Sporty beautiful young woman in white sportswear practicing yoga, sitting cross legged in Revolved Easy Pose, a spinal twist also known as Parivrtta Sukhasana, while maintaining healthy posture.Although yoga is not the only practice that can have a positive impact on posture (others include Tai Chi and regular exercise regimens that focus on improving posture), it is uniquely suited to address some of the goals listed above. From my first yoga class almost 30 years ago, I was immediately asked to bring attention to my posture in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) and encouraged to establish healthy posture. This awareness of healthy alignment was and is encouraged in every pose, including the seated postures that may have more bearing for those who have to sit for work each day.

A well-rounded yoga practice includes poses that target the goals of improving the strength of the core, pelvic floor, and spine, and improving overall flexibility. Pranayama, the breath practices of yoga, brings awareness to how we breathe and provides a path to improving many aspects of our respiratory health over time. And research has demonstrated that regular yoga practice can even address the negative health issues listed above such as arthritis, poor balance, headaches, neck, shoulder and back pain, mood issues, and poor energy.

So, the path to improved posture is now right in front of you. You have a roadmap to make your mom’s admonition to “stand up straight” from your childhood into a healthy reality from now on!

Reprinted with permission from Baxter Bell.

Baxter Bell, MD, has been actively deepening his understanding of the power of yoga since making the stress-reducing move from a career as a busy family doctor to that of a yoga teacher and medical acupuncturist. Baxter is a graduate of the Piedmont Yoga Studio’s 18-month Advanced Studies Program, and served as Director of PYS’s Deep Yoga Program for many years, teaching the Experiential Anatomy, Yoga Technique, and Yoga Methodology portions of that training. He is on faculty for several Yoga Teacher Training and Yoga Therapy Training programs around the country. Baxter is a Certified Yoga Therapist, a level of training denoted by C-IAYT. 

Baxter is involved in the integration of therapeutic applications of yoga with Western medicine and presently serves on the board of the International Association of Yoga Therapists. Baxter teaches public and specialty Back Care yoga classes in Oakland and Berkeley in the San Francisco Bay Area, California, as well as workshops and retreats around the United States and internationally.

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