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Five Yoga Poses to Improve Your Posture

Roll out your mat - it’s time to focus on posture. No matter your daily routine, we all have a tendency to develop habits that lead to a slumped forward posture. Often, we spend a lot of time looking down at our phones or computers, but it can also be found reaching the head forward to see better on a regular basis or sliding down to get comfy in your favorite chair. I find myself doing all of the above! It can turn into a habit that leads to discomfort or even pain. The following poses can help you improve your posture, especially if you tend to slump forward. 

Reclined Arms Overhead Pose

In this yoga pose your back is more neutrally aligned just naturally on its own from lying on your back. Moving your arms and shoulders up and overhead can help open your upper back and support a gentle back bending action of your upper spine to help increase spinal flexibility and strength. 

  1. Start by lying down on your back with support under your head.

  2. Engage your legs and on an inhale, draw your arms up and overhead beside your ears.

  3. On an exhale, bring your arms back down to your sides. 

  4. Repeat 6 times

Cat-Cow Pose

Setting Up

This pose helps to release stiffness in your entire spine, including the upper back area. It helps strengthen the spinal muscles and stretch and strengthen your abdomen and chest muscles.

1. Come into a hands and knees position, with your hips directly over your knees and your shoulders directly above your wrists. If your knees are uncomfortable, place a folded blanket crosswise in the middle of your mat to cushion your knees. Now, evenly spread your palms and fingers, and press your hands into the floor.

2. To keep your arms straight, firm the muscles around your elbows. While keeping it parallel with the floor, lengthen your spine from your tailbone to the crown of your head.

3. As you inhale, gradually arch your spine into a backbend shape (Cow Pose). Start by moving from your pelvis, lifting your tailbone and sitting bones up as your pelvis tips forward over your leg bones, relaxing your belly and lower back down, and lifting your chest and head forward.

4. As you move, focus your attention on the smoothness of your breath and sensations that arise.

5. As you exhale, gradually round your spine toward the ceiling (Cat Pose). Start by moving from your pelvis, turning your tailbone and sitting bones down as your pelvis tips backward, hollowing your belly towards your spine, and releasing your neck and head toward the floor and looking back to your knees.

6. Keep your neck relaxed as you continue pressing your hands into the floor and firming the muscles around your elbows. As you move, focus your attention on the smoothness of your breath and sensations that arise.

7. When you’re ready to inhale, you’ll move back into Cow Pose. Repeat this Cat/Cow flow 5 more times, then sit back on your heels.

Arms Overhead Pose

This is a standing version of reclined arms overhead pose and will continue to stretch any front body tightness that might be leading to poor posture while also strengthening your upper back muscles to help support your improving posture. 

  1. Start by standing, feet about hip width apart, arms by your side.

  2. Engage your legs and on an inhale, draw your arms up and overhead beside your ears.

  3. On an exhale, bring your arms back down to your sides. 

  4. Repeat 6 times

Warrior I Pose

This pose begins to increase the back bending from the last two poses, increasing both the stretch in your upper chest muscles and strengthening your upper back.

1. Stand in the center of your mat. Step your left foot back about 3 feet.

2. Turn your right foot to 90 degrees, to face the short end of your mat. Rotate your left leg in, turning your left foot so that it angles about 45 degrees, or at 11 on a clock face, toward your right foot. Your pelvis will be facing to the front end of the mat, toward your front leg.

3. Begin with your arms down by your sides. Then, on an inhalation, sweep your arms up overhead so that your elbows are straight, and your palms face each other.

4. On an exhalation, lower your arms and bend your right knee so that your knee is directly over your heel.

5. On your next inhalation, straighten your right knee to come back up. As you exhale, release your arms down by your sides again.

6. Repeat this sequence five more times.

7. Then repeat the sequence for six rounds with your left leg forward.

High Lunge Pose

Tightness in the front of your hips can contribute to poor posture, so this pose stretches the fronts of your hips and thighs.

If you’re new to the pose, hold for just 30 seconds and gradually work up to 1 to 2 minutes over time.

1. Start by standing at the front end of your yoga mat feet about hip width apart, arms by your side.

2. On an inhale, step your left foot back toward the back edge of your mat, with the ball of the foot on the floor. Step back far enough so that your right knee can form a right angle.

3. Keep the ball of your foot and toes of the back foot on the ground, and keep your toes pointing straight forward. Position your arms parallel with your front shinbone, pressing your fingers or hands down while simultaneously lengthening back up your arms toward your shoulders. 

4. Imagine a straight line moving from your back heel through your back leg and spine and out to the top of the head. Actively firm and fully straighten your back knee joint.

5. Press down firmly into your front foot to activate the supportive muscles of the front leg without going to the point of straightening the front knee. Imagine lengthening the front surface of your body from your pubic bone to your collarbones.

6. Stay for just a few breaths or up to 1 to 2 minutes in the full pose.

7. Step your back leg forward and return to standing.

8. Repeat on the other side.

Notice how you feel. How does your left side feel now? Your right side? How is your breathing? Are you able to breath a little more freely? You can come back to this short sequence anytime you need a mini movement break throughout the day.

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