Yoga is a light that, once lit, will never be extinguished. The more you practise, the stronger that flame becomes. - B.K.S Iyengar
Today, our lifestyle is based on... not necessarily the best behaviours. To wit, we now suffer from a host of health problems because much of our lives is spent in front of our screens. We sit too much and hunch over, fixated on our devices. We suffer more from back pain and muscle weakness.
In short, our modern ways can - and are quickly rotting life as we knew it. But why should we care about how we stand? Do we need to improve our posture?
An OpinionWay study shows that large segments of the population suffer from back pain. Such chronic pain causes us to move less which makes for weaker muscles, which sets us up for more pain and disease. That's more than a talking point, it merits a closer look and, certainly, repair. With yoga, for example!
Yoga gives you the assurance of developing a strong posture through specific yoga pose. From your shoulders to your lower back and all along your spine, targeted yoga asanas can greatly relieve pain and help you centre your balance.
Does this topic interest you? If so, starting with a Sun Salutation and ending with Savasana, here is our selection of the best exercises to work on your posture during your yoga practice.
The Child's Pose - Effortless Back Stretch
Also known as Garbhasana (literally 'fetus asana'), this posture is particularly popular in Hatha-yoga, but it features in many other styles. The focus of this pose is to strengthen your posture in the long term, by relieving the stress on your spine and body.
Generally, your yoga instructor will call for the Child's Pose toward the end of each session.
For all that it looks peaceful and effortless, the Child's Pose works to tone back muscles even as you relax them. Stay mindful of your breathing and you will find yourself at once invigorated and completely relaxed. Especially if you're a beginner, you should seek guidance from a yoga teacher, at least for your first few sessions, to get the most benefit from this pose.
The Child's Pose is an iconic yoga asana; one you are likely already familiar with even if you've never practised yoga.
To start, you only need to kneel on your mat with your glutes on your heels and your hands in your lap. Then, slowly lean forward, sliding your hands as you go, until your arms are fully extended and your forehead rests on your yoga mat.
Alternately, your arms may flow backwards to rest alongside your body. However, stretching them forward works your back muscles more. Only remember your breathing! Don't forget to focus on those inhales and exhales.
In addition to provoking utter relaxation, the Child's Pose stretches the lower back as well as the hips, and helps, in the longer term, to develop flexibility and body support.
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The Cobra Pose Will Work Your Back and Body
Here again is a classic yoga pose whose overall effects are both beneficial and... interesting, for lack of a better word. The Cobra pose is an asana that is often reproduced during a sun salutation. Just be careful, especially if you're a beginner. You will need regular practice to adopt this pose safely.
This is a fairly simple pose but, again, you still need to know how to reproduce it so that you don't injure yourself.
To assume the Bhujangasana pose, lie with your stomach to your mat. Keep your legs straight and your feet together. Place your hands flat on the floor just beneath your shoulders, and then push upward to lift your head and chest. Keep your legs pressed to the mat and make sure your gaze faces forward. If you're more advanced, you may look up to intensify the move.
Learn more asanas to work your upper body...
In this position, your back muscles will be passively worked and strengthened. That's why it is important to not flex your back muscles as you flow into the Cobra. You should also make sure your pelvis stays on the mat.
As you progress through your yoga sessions, your spine and your posture will reflect the reinforcement that the Cobra brings about. Namaste!
The Lying Twist Pose
Yoga is learning to come back to yourself. it's about finding your limits, expanding your boundaries and being able to truly relax in who you are - Christina Brown
Some yoga postures do not seem very easy to adopt even when they actually are. Usually, it is those poses that prove to be the most effective in terms of gains and benefits. That holds true particularly for the Elongated Twist, which stretches and relaxes the back.
Lying on your back, cross your arms over your chest. Bend your knees until your feet are firmly planted on the ground. Knees together, twist to one side until the lower leg rests on the floor while turning your head to the side your knee isn't pointing in. With your shoulders still both on the floor, open your arms so that they also lay flat, with the palms of your hand facing up. Don't forget to breathe!
After holding the pose for a few breaths, repeat the move, but on the other side. It may be a bit difficult at first but, over the weeks you practise, you will start to see the effects.
This yogic posture is very effective to condition your back and, more generally, for working your posture. It helps harmonize the body by aligning your chakras, reduces stress and improves your flexibility.
Also, the more you practise yoga, the more your spine will be stretched. It's a great way to ward off back pain!
The Plank: Ideal to Perfect Your Balance
Also called "Kumbhakasana-dandasana" or "Chaturanga-dandasana", the Plank is a yoga pose that we all know well since it has been co-opted by virtually every fitness discipline from Crossfit to military physical training programmes. You may even have been unwittingly planking since you were a child!
The Plank is a pose that is more than easy to understand and easy to adopt, but not always easy to hold.
That's its main advantage and the reason why it fits so well in so many fitness regimens. Notably, the most important aspects of planking are knowing how to control your breathing and to know how to harmonize breath with movement.
The Plank allows you to tone your abs and back muscles all while conditioning your joints. Rigorous as it is, it results in a level of flexibility which, as you continue with your yoga classes, will significantly improve your posture. But for that, it is necessary to practise, and more precisely, know how to do it right.
First, lie on your stomach with your elbows back, forearms at chest level. They will serve as your support. Before you lift your body, raise your feet so that your toes are on the floor. After the lift, your body should form a perfect line, from the top of your head to your heels.
Note: you may plank on your forearms or raise up into the push-up top position. Contract the abs and hold the pose according to your motivation and your physique, calmly breathing as you do.
Whichever Plank pose you hold, it will help to strengthen your whole core, which will significantly improve your posture and balance.
Bonus yoga fun fact: the Plank is often overlooked as a way to tone and strengthen the legs...
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Downward-Facing Dog: The Best Pose for Posture and Alignment
Among the most iconic of yoga poses but also the most versatile, the Downward-facing Dog - or simply Down Dog stands out.
Its orginal name "Adho Mukha Svanasana" - literally 'down face dog', is drawn from the way a dog looks when it stretches its back. It is considered a 'complete' pose because it works to better posture and balance as you stretch.
To start, get on all fours on your yoga mat. The knees should be parallel, and the torso forms a straight line, parallel to the floor. Then, push your glutes upward, supporting yourself on your hands and feet, to form a triangle with your body.
Done properly, you will form an upside-down V. Not only will you feel your shoulders, arms and legs work but your back muscles will stretch as well, releasing any stress on your spine. This pose promotes flexibility while working virtually every major muscle group.
More power, more stability, more balance: that's what the Down-dog allows for. That's all we want, right?
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Work Your Back with the Cat Pose
Some might think that the Cat pose is just about curving your back while you're on all fours. In reality, this posture is much more complex than that. This hybrid of breathing exercise and flexibility builder, the "Marjarasana" helps to relax the spine and strengthen the back.
Not-so-fun fact: most people suffer lower lumbar pain due to constant flexing of the lumbar muscles, which puts pressure on the spine. Thus, learning how to relax those muscles will not only reduce lower back pain but also correct your posture.
Like any cat, you would start this pose on all fours, keeping your legs parallel and knees slightly spread. Your wrists are below your shoulders and your head is even with your back. To start, you should be looking at your mat.
Breath plays an important role in the Cat pose. As you exhale, arch your back as though you were a hissing cat. Your head should now curl under with your gaze directed to your legs. On the inhale, release the pose and return your head to its starting position.
To double this pose's benefits, you may try the Cat-Cow pose. Rather than returning to your initial position - back straight and head aligned with your spine, push your abdomen downward while raising your head. Cycle through Cat and Cow a few times, breathing deeply and evenly all the while.
The challenge of the cat posture and yoga in general is knowing how to listen to your body. Through these few simple exercises, you are ready to feel better and improve your well-being.