Your grandma wasn’t lying – you’ll look taller, leaner, and well, feel better if you stand up straight.
Slouching can affect how you feel about yourself, and a proper posture offers an immediate confidence boost. Not to mention that bad posture leaves you at risk of chronic back and neck pain.
Many factors lead to bad posture, and it’s mainly a result of staying in a single pose very long – as is the case with desk jobs. You build a habit of slouching, and resultingly your muscles weaken and your hip flexors and spine become less flexible.
But though all this sounds bad – don’t be discouraged. Posture can be corrected.
One of the most effective things you can do is incorporate yoga in your everyday life – especially the poses we’re going to list in this article.
Each of these asanas targets a specific issue common in those with bad posture, so consistent practice should help you regardless of your individual diagnostic (read: both those with posterior and anterior pelvic tilt can benefit).
Without further ado, let’s dive into the 10 best yoga poses for better posture.
1. Mountain Pose
Mountain looks simple, but this pose alone could fix your posture with daily practice. By standing still, you become aware of your current posture and learn what changes you need to do to maintain proper alignment off the mat.
To enter the pose, stand with feet hip-width distance apart, firmly grounded on the mat. Leave a slight bend in the knees and tuck your tailbone. Complete the pose by pulling your shoulders back and imagine reaching your head upwards to prevent slouching in your neck.
2. Cow Face Arms
This weirdly named pose is unskippable for those spending a lot of time at the desk. It’s a fantastic way to stretch chest and shoulders while also straightening your neck. The perk of this pose is that you can do it throughout the day, while in the office or on the couch.
To practice, sit on the floor, or in your chair. Keep your back straight and lift one arm toward the sky. Bend your elbow to reach the fingers between the shoulder blades. Then lower your other arm and bend it to try clasp the upper fingers. Draw the elbows back and hold for a few breaths.
If you can’t touch your hands yet, use a yoga strap, belt, towel, or grab onto your shirt. Always repeat on the other side to avoid imbalances.
Cobra is a part of nearly every yoga class. This heart-opening pose stretches your upper back while also strengthening your arms – two things you can benefit from if you tend to slouch a lot.
To practice, lie on your belly and place your hands next to your upper ribs. Spread the fingers and press your hands down, while lifting your head and chest. Make sure your elbows are squeezed in and your chin slightly tucked. Hold for a couple of breaths and follow with a front bend like a down dog or child’s pose.
Plank pose, whether done on hands or on elbows, is a good addition to your posture routine as it strengthens your core. Strong ab muscles are an important factor in proper posture, especially for those with anterior tilt.
Start in the same position as you would if you were preparing for pushups – with hands near shoulders and feet hip-width distance apart. As an alternative, you can lower down on your elbows and clasp your fingers making a triangle with your hands and elbows.
Stay in the pose for a minimum of 30 seconds and activate your abs to remove the tension from the lower back.
5. Wide Leg Forward Fold
A Wide Leg Forward Fold is a great counteractive pose for all the backbends on this list. It helps you to completely release your lower back and lengthen your spine. And it just feels amazing after a long day of sitting or standing.
To practice, stand with your feet wider than your hips, and interlace your fingers behind your back. Fold forward while allowing your hands to reach overhead. With this variation, you’re simultaneously opening your chest and releasing your upper back – but you can also take a gentler variation with hands on the floor in front of you if that feels better. Hold the posture for about 5 deep breaths.
Camel is a deep backbend that will undo all the slouching you do when sitting at a computer for a long time. It opens your heart, neck, and shoulders. It’s an advanced pose you should always do warm, but there are variations that can help modify it to your needs.
All variations start in a kneeling pose, with toes tucked and spine upright.
In the first variation, press palms into your lower back to protect the spine. Your elbows should be bent and pulling towards each other, and fingers should point to the sky. Push your hips forward, lift your chest, and look up while making sure your shoulders are away from the ears.
The second option starts the same way, but this time you’re reaching your hands back trying to grab your heels for a deeper backbend.
7. Downward Dog
If you’ve ever done a yoga class, you’ve entered the Downward Dog. This is the core asana of yoga, as it works almost the entire body – it strengthens the core, shoulders, and arms while also stretching the back and hamstrings. It basically targets all issues of bad posture and is a powerful addition to everyone’s routine.
The easiest way to enter the Downward Dog is from Plank Pose. Just press the hips up and push your chest towards the floor. Heels should be about hip-width distance apart, and actively try to reach them to the floor. Gaze towards your toes and move shoulders away from the ears.
The bridge is a powerful chest opener that also strengthens your lower back and glutes. The weak lower body is a common cause of a bad posture. This type of pose can help you combat that issue with consistent practice.
The pose begins by lying on your back with palms down on the floor and soles of the feet close to your glutes, with knees straight up. Lift your back, one vertebra at the time, while making sure your knees don’t open. Stay in the pose for a couple of breaths. If you want to stretch more deeply you can clasp your hands beneath your back and push your chest up using your shoulder strength. Prevent injury in your neck by tucking your chin.
Aptly named for its resemblance to archers’ weapon, the Bow pose stretches the chest while also strengthening your back muscles so they can support you off the mat. It’s an intense heart opener so make sure you do it at the end of your practice when you’re fully warmed up.
To enter Bow, start lying on your stomach and bring your hands down by the sides of your body. Bend your knees and grab your ankles. Inhale and push your ankles into your palms to elevate the tighs and chest. Hold for a couple of breaths while making sure your knees are as parallel as possible. Do a couple of rounds and follow with an inversion or child’s pose to release your spine.
10. Hero Pose
Hero Pose or Virasana is an awesome addition to your yoga class, but can also be done on its own. By sitting in this pose a couple of times per day, you’ll learn how to stand upright and stretch your back just enough to achieve proper alignment.
Hero pose is done kneeling, with your glutes on the floor and feet against your body. If you feel any pain in your knees, you can sit on a block or a cushion. Place your palms on the tights and become aware of each part of your spine, from the glutes, all the way to the neck, and try to achieve a straight spine. Once you do, sit in the pose for a couple of minutes, and repeat a few times per day.
So now you have it – ten poses you can do to significantly improve your posture. Try to incorporate a couple of these asanas every day to build better habits, and you should see your posture improving with a consistent month or two of practicing.