Posture is a vital component of your overall health. Aligned posture creates harmony and balance in all aspects of being — physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. When your bones and joints are stacked properly and your muscles are engaged, you have more energy and feel less fatigued. Alignment creates a natural free-flow of energy, confidence and range of motion to carry yourself through all of life’s dynamic flow.
So, what is good posture? Upright and engaged.
Here are five yoga poses that are the building blocks for an engaged and upright posture. Start with mountain pose and hold for 5-10 breaths, then try the following five exercises, and then repeat mountain pose. Notice the difference your body feels.
Keep your feet parallel, hips width-distance. Center your weight over your heels, with equal weight in both feet. Knees pointing forward and hips even. Keep your abdominal muscles braced and shoulders stacked over hips, arms by your side with a neutral spine. Tone the muscles between your shoulder blades, palms facing forward and chin parallel to the ground with the crown of your head reaching upward.
Cat/Cow: come into tabletop (hands and knees). Stack your shoulders over your wrists and hips over your knees.
Cow: Breathe in, tilt your tailbone to the sky and contract the muscles one by one along the length of your spine until your shoulders squeeze together and your chin pulls through. Look up.
Cat: Breathe out, push the ground away, tone your lower abdominals and pull your tailbone down and through your legs, taking your front ribs back. Push through your hands, round your upper back and pull your chin toward your chest.
Repeat this wavelike action 5-10 times. This creates strength on your back and front body following the natural curves of your spine.
From table top, turn your toes under, push into your hands and feet, lift your hips to the sky. From your heart to your hands, push the ground away. Press your chest toward your thighs. Strengthen the muscles of your legs, and press your heels toward the earth. Draw your front ribs back like “cat,” and puff up the space between your shoulder blades so you feel broad and steady. Slide your shoulders down toward your waist so your neck feels free.
Hold downward-facing dog for 7-10 breaths. You will feel long in your spine and legs, and your core will be engaged to stabilize your center.
Lower to your belly. Extend your legs back, arms by your side, forehead to the earth. On a breath in, push your hips down, contract the muscles of your legs and back and between your shoulders, and lift everything up away from the earth. Chin to chest to keep your neck long. Push hips down, pull legs and chest up. Lengthen your feet back, reach your crown forward, squeeze your arms up and back.
Hold for five breaths. This activates all the muscles of your back body which ultimately hold you upright when standing.
Lay on your back. Bend your knees, place your feet on the earth, hips width-distance and parallel.
Press down through your heels, squeeze your butt and hamstrings and lift your hips. Tone the muscles between your shoulder blades, and walk your arms under you. You can interlace your hands and press your forearms to the ground, or you can press the backs of your hands into the ground, elbows straight.
Hold 5-10 breaths. This engages your legs, extends your hips and contracts your upper back to promote extension.
Lay down on your back. Open your arms in a “T” shape. Take a breath in, and as you exhale, draw your thighs to your chest using your core strength to pull your legs in. Maintain your core activation, keeping your upper back on the ground. Twist your thighs to the right, hover your knees one inch above the ground, pressing your arms down and turning your belly to the left as your knees hover to the right. On your next exhale, let your knees come to the ground, and release to a stretch.
*If your upper back comes away from the ground, put a block or folded blanket under your knees so you can get a healthy stretch of your side body, and your upper back is supported by the earth.
Hold for 5-10 breaths. Repeat on the second side.