I need good posture? Really? My mother used to tell me this all the time and of course like all teenagers I ignored her advice. It wasn’t until several years after I started doing yoga that I learned how bad posture can lead to all kinds of injuries as well as tension, aches and pain and disease. Many of the injuries that I come across as a yoga teacher are related to bending, lifting and twisting the spine—without first establishing a solid foundation, in other words, without establishing correct posture. I have clients who come to me because they’ve injured themselves doing simple, everyday tasks and activities, like carrying groceries, lifting the laundry basket and washing the car. One client hurt her back lifting her toddler from the car. But there is help! We can improve our health, reduce injuries and enjoy an active life by improving our posture. And yoga is one of the best ways to do that. In fact, 14 million Americans (6.1% of the population) are being referred to yoga by their doctor or therapist.1
Posture as the Foundation in Yoga
As a yoga insctructor I start every class talking to my students about posture as the foundation. We start with a sitting meditation. After a period of deep breathing, with our eyes closed, we allow our sitting bones to root down into the cushion, the mat, and, ultimately, the floor. By establishing a solid, even connection with the floor, each student practices sitting comfortably and correctly for his/her unique body-type. In this way, students refine their habitual way of sitting, so that it is more natural and aligned with the force of gravity. Students also learn how to stand and sit in ways that feel good and reduce injury, ways that encourage a more healthy and spontaneous lifestyle.
Here’s a simple exercise you can do at home:
Tadasana or “Mountain Pose” is a foundational pose in yoga practice. It’s deceptively simple. If you can master this pose, it will create a ripple effect in how you move in all aspects of your life. This practice is especially helpful for occupations that require the lifting of heavy equipment, such as fire fighters, police officers, and nurses.
- Stand comfortably with your feet separated about the width of your hips.
- Press down gently and evenly through both feet.
- Take a few deep breaths and experience how your feet create a solid foundation to support your legs, pelvis, spine, arms and head.
- Refine this pose by gently pressing into your feet as you reach the top of your head towards the sky.
There is more to this pose than meets the eye. One of my students, who works in a very challenging physical environment, had a history of chronic lower back pain. After trying many things, he found that practicing yoga reduced his back pain. Just as important, his understanding of the mind-body connection stayed with him. Not only did he stop reinjuring his back, he also learned how to maintain correct posture no matter the specific work assignment.
I encourage you to find a yoga class and become one of the 20.4 million Americans now practicing yoga (as of 2012)2.
1. McCall, M.C. (2013). How might yoga work? An overview of potential underlying mechanisms, Journal of Yoga & Physical Therapy, 3: 130, doi: 10.4172/2157-7595.1000130.
2. Yoga Journal (2012). Yoga in America 2012. Yoga Journal. Retrieved from http://www.yogajournal.com/press/yoga_in_america.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is intended for informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a health care professional. Please seek the advice of your doctor before attempting any physical activity.