Yoga does so much more than increase your flexibility — it can also improve your posture, which makes you appear slimmer, and relieves back and neck pain.
“Not only is good postural alignment aesthetically pleasing, making your frame look beautiful, it prevents a number of negative health consequences,” says Avril James-Hurt, an exercise physiologist and yoga instructor at Piedmont Atlanta Fitness Center.
Yoga can relieve back pain, improve breathing capacity, and prevent neck problems and arthritis in the back.
Why good posture is so important
Most of us are born with great posture, says James-Hurt. “Babies do the best ‘exercises’ in the world, like lying on their belly and lifting their head,” she explains.
This move elongates lumbar curvature and strengthens the neck.
What causes bad posture?
Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle can wreak havoc on once-stellar posture.
“Even if you’re exercising every day, if you’re sitting poorly and incorrectly for extended periods of time, it can really affect your posture,” says James-Hurt.
Improve postural alignment
There are three things you can do to improve and maintain good postural alignment.
Learn how to sit correctly. To sit correctly, you first must establish a neutral spine. “People either stand or sit with too much of their body falling forward, which we call kyphosis or a hunched back,” she says. “Conversely, some people tilt their pelvis back, which sways their lower back. These two abnormalities can create a lot of problems with the back as time goes on.” Learning how to balance these extremes in a seated position is the key to sitting correctly.
Avoid prolonged sitting. “It sounds so simple, but it is imperative to get up,” she says. “It promotes circulation and decompresses the spine.”
Strengthen core muscles. “People think, ‘I’ve got to go to the gym and work on my abs,’” says James-Hurt. However, if you tighten your abs too much, it can cause your body to slouch forward, she says. To combat slouching, you need to strengthen your internal and external obliques, which run along the sides of your waist, as well as your lower back muscles. The neck and upper back also play an important role in good postural alignment.
“Posture is extremely important to our health,” she explains. “It is something we don’t think about until there is a problem. It’s a pinnacle of prevention: Good postural alignment may help prevent respiratory problems, incontinence and back pain. And it’s aesthetically pleasing.”
Learn more about yoga's health benefits.