Posing for Posture

How to improve posture for overall health…

We tend not to think of posture when we think of signs of good health, but in fact, posture is a key indicator of overall health. Maintaining good posture reinforces the important alignment of the spine, neck, and resulting nervous system pathways. This healthy alignment is crucial in maintaining joint mobility, flexibility, muscle tone, muscle strength, and balance. Good posture doesn’t just make us look poised and professional – in fact, studies have shown that good posture is linked to more energy, increased confidence, and less stress and anxiety. In the long term, poor posture can even lead to chronic pain, poor digestion, varicose veins, and cardiovascular problems. Read more about the long term effects of bad posture here.

The good news? Posture is a part of your health that is relatively easy to alter! There is growing evidence that yoga is an effective treatment for relieving musculoskeletal problems, such as bad posture.

Align your Spine

Studies show that yoga can help improve bad posture, even reversing the age-related posture disorder hyperkyphosis, also known as dowager’s hump or hunchback. Yoga poses that target the muscles and joints most affected by bad posture – shoulders, spinal erectors, abdominals, and neck – are the most effective in maintaining good posture or reversing bad posture. Studies show that these types of yoga practices can increase shoulder elevation, leading to better, more upright posture. Thus the practice of heart opening, core integration, and back strengthening yoga exercises is key to good posture.

Various studies, including a 2004 study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, show yoga to be a very effective treatment for chronic low back pain, a common debilitating consequence of bad posture. Yoga treatments are implicated in improved balance, improved flexibility and mobility, and decreased disability due to pain. These benefits of yoga treatment are both short term and long-term. In the short term, yoga exercises are associated with decreased pain and back-specific disability. Even in the long term, yoga exercises can help decrease chronic back pain, lasting for at least several months. Studies show that even a 1-week intensive yoga course can reduce chronic back pain, reduce pain-related disability, and increase spinal flexibility.

Chronic neck pain, another debilitating consequence of bad posture, can also be improved through various yoga practices. Two studies from 2012 and 2013 showed that a 9 week yoga course significantly decreased chronic neck pain intensity and increased range of motion, leading to less disability and therefore a better quality of life. Yoga can thus prevent or even reverse chronic pain associated with bad posture.

Yoga is effective in maintaining good posture, reversing bad posture, and ameliorating chronic pain, immobility, and disability that results from bad posture.

Look better, feel better, and even live longer by picking up your own yoga practice to maintain good posture!

Click here for further reading on the benefits of maintaining good posture.

Written by Suraiya Luecke – Bachelor of Neurobiology; Bachelor of Public Health; Minor in Global Poverty & Practice – UC Berkeley

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