The Importance of Posture

Your Mother was Right! Sit up Straight!

Bridging the Gap: Physical Therapy and Yoga Therapy

By Meryle Richman: PT, DPT, MS, CST, RYT-500 Hours, Advanced Teacher of Therapeutic Yoga

How often do you pay attention to your posture while exercising, performing activities, or practicing yoga? Why is good posture so important? For example, posture refers to how you align your body when sitting or standing and is influenced by your habits. Your postural habits add up over time either to support or impair your physical health.

Many conditions such as sciatica, low back and neck pain, whiplash, pinched nerves, arthritis, and rounded shoulders have one thing in common: each condition can feel better or worse by the way you align and balance  your  head,  neck  and  back  as  you  go about your daily activities.

Poor Posture and Postural Habits:

Poor posture can cause muscles to shorten and lengthen muscles incorrectly, which can result in increased stress and strain on your spine and joints.

Common postural habits often lead to discomfort, stiffness, pain and even injury:

  • Slouching while sitting
  • Sitting for long, uninterrupted periods of time
  • Rounding your shoulders
  • Hunching over your desk or phone
  • Leaning on one leg while standing
  • Sleeping in a cramped position

A Healthier Back and Neck:

It is time to take a new look at the prevention of neck and back injuries. To maintain a healthy back and neck, strong flexible muscles are a must to support the spine's natural curves.

Neck and Back Basics:

The single most important structure in the human body is the spine”1. There are twenty-four articulating vertebrae providing for a healthy back to have three natural curves: a slight forward cervical curve in the neck, a slight backward curve in the thoracic spine, and a slight forward curve in the lumbar spine. For your back to be healthy, the spine's curves must be always in balanced or neutral alignment with stationary activities, exercising and yoga movements. It is also important that your back, muscles, and joints be in good shape. According to the American Physical Therapy Association, “Having strong and flexible hips, abdominal and leg muscles are essential to good posture.1  Also, ”Hip, knee, and ankle joints balance your back’s natural curves and makes it possible to maintain good posture in any position”2

By adding one simple yoga pose, known as Mountain Pose or Tadasana to your daily routine, it will help to improve your posture and body alignment. It is also considered the foundation for teaching yoga poses. Tadasana or Mountain Pose, is a neutral standing pose that puts your body into proper postural alignment with minimal stress on your joints, requires minimal muscle energy and allows you to maintain stability with ease. 2


Correct Posture or Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Steps to Improve Posture and Practice Mountain Pose (Tadasana):

  1. Stand with your feet together or slightly apart (if that is more comfortable).
  2. Ground the “4 corners” of your feet into the floor – big toe, pinky (5th) toe, inner edge of heel and outer edge of heel; lift the inner arches.
  3. Draw your navel up and in towards your spine.
  4. Imagine your tailbone lengthening towards the floor and engage a slight tuck of the pelvis.
  5. Allow your shoulders to drop down and away from your ears.
  6. Pull your shoulders back and down and widen your collarbones.
  7. Arms are held slightly away from the side of the body with palms turned up.
  8. Reach the crown of your head toward the ceiling and lengthen your neck. Slightly tuck your chin and relax your jaw.
  9. Focus with a soft gaze (driste) straight ahead and hold the pose for 30 seconds. Breathe deeply and slowly for a count of 4 - 5 breaths in and 4 – 5 breaths out.
  10. Repeat 1 – 3 times and check your posture three times per day by practicing Mountain Pose

 

Additional Tips for Improving Posture:

  • Support your arms and keep your shoulders level while sitting.
  • Change position when doing an activity for a prolonged period.
  • Keep your car seat upright so that your hips are at a 90% angle.
  • Think "tall" when standing.
  • Sit in a chair with a straight back with your back supported and feet flat on the floor.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • Keep your weight down and exercise regularly.
  • Sleep on a firm mattress to support the curves of our spine and use one pillow that comfortably supports your cervical neck.

Despite the changes that occur naturally with aging, good posture can be maintained and for many, poor posture can be improved by consciously working at achieving and maintain postural awareness.

Check with the American Physical Therapy Association, The International Association of Yoga Therapists or Yoga Alliance to find a qualified therapist that can perform a postural screening and help you live a healthier lifestyle.

References:

  1. The American Physical Therapy Association, “The Secret of Good Posture...A Physical Therapist’s Perspective”, https://fliphtml5.com/zlwu/twsz/basic
  2. Mountain Pose: https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/mountain-pose/
  3. The International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) www.iayt.org
  4. Yoga Alliance: https://my.yogaalliance.org

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