5 Tips for Great Posture Through Yoga

Our sedentary lifestyle is very problematic for our spinal alignment. Research shows that when our posture is compromised, it is harmful to our joints and connective tissues, which results in pain, muscular imbalances, and limited range of motion. When you slump or slouch, your lower back becomes compressed, your upper back gets overstretched, your abdominal muscles disengage, your head juts forward which strains your neck, and the front of your hips tighten. Yikes! So how can you do your best to maintain spinal alignment during a yoga practice so you can bring that awareness into your daily life? Try this checklist:

1. Pelvis
The pelvis can reveal weaknesses or imbalances elsewhere in the body. The alignment of the pelvis is crucial to the integrity of the spine and limbs. A good example is Warrior 3 variation (standing splits). The legs should form a ninety degree angle with each other. If the pelvis dips down, the outer hip of the standing leg will get overused. Using the deep core muscles to keep the front of the hip joints level to avoid torquing the sacroiliac joint. 

2. Shoulder Girdle
Many yoga poses are weight-bearing on the hands, which means the bones of the shoulder girdle need to be properly aligned. Sliding the shoulder blades down towards the pelvis, spreading apart the collarbones, and keeping the head of the arm bones firmly in the socket will form a solid foundation for poses like chaturanga, plank, or side plank. 

3. Wrists
Are your wrists turned in instead of in a straight horizontal line? This usually happens as a result of tightness in the shoulders and/or pectoral muscles. When in a weight-bearing position, the wrists should be right below the shoulder joint in an even line. 

4. Neck 
A common yoga cue is “gaze upward,” which is meant to facilitate a lengthening out of the low back by engaging the spinal extensor muscles. However, if all you do upon hearing that cue is lift up your chin, the back of the neck becomes compressed, and there is no lengthening throughout the spine. If you relax your neck and think about lengthening the entire spine, you will likely experience expansion in the entire vertebral column which is safer and healthier for the back. 

5. Muscular Engagement
The bones must be lined up correctly for the muscles to fire properly in a functional sequence. This is how you will continue to improve your yoga practice, which often means advancing to more challenging poses. But success can also come from being in tune with your body so you feel integrated and connected while practicing. As a student, you have to take some responsibility in a group class. The teacher’s cues will guide you into the poses, but you must decide for yourself what makes sense for your own body. 

Consult your primary care physician before you start a new exercise program.