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, C-IAYT, YACEP, fell in love with yoga in 1993 while he was working full-time as a family physician. His appreciation for the potential of yoga to foster health, healing, and equanimity was so great that he soon stepped down from his medical practice and trained to become a yoga teacher. Now, he focuses on teaching yoga full time, both to ordinary students of all ages and physical conditions and to the next generation of yoga teachers and yoga therapists, to whom he teaches anatomy and yoga therapy along with his accessible, skillful style of yoga. He also sees students privately, helping them use yoga to help heal from and/or cope with a wide range of medical conditions. At this point, with 23+ years of teaching experience under his belt, Baxter brings a unique perspective to his teaching, combining his understanding of anatomy and medicine with his skill at instructing people from all walks of life and all levels of ability.

In addition to teaching classes, workshops, and retreats internationally, Baxter is a past presenter at Yoga Journal Conferences and the International Association of Yoga Therapy’s Sytar Conference and teaches online courses and classes at Yoga U Online. Baxter is also the co-author of the popular and ground-breaking book Yoga for Healthy Aging and his blog, “What’s On Your (Yoga) Mind,” where he shares his knowledge of medical conditions, anatomy, yoga, and more with practitioners and teachers across the world. He has written articles for the Yoga Journal and the Journal of the International Association of Yoga Therapy. He is often quoted as an expert on yoga and health by major national news outlets such as the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. To learn more, visit www.baxterbell.com, and his YouTube channel and Instagram page at Baxter Bell Yoga. 

Recent articles

Categories

Upcoming courses

Yoga for
every body

How to Avoid the Top 3 Pitfalls of Forward Bends

With Julie Gudmedstad

Recent articles

Share

Sorry, You have reached your
monthly limit of views

To access, join us for a free 7-day membership trial to support expanding the Pose Library resources to the yoga community.

Sign up for a FREE 7-day trial