Having good posture is about more than looking good. It helps you to develop strength, flexibility, and balance in your body. These can all lead to less muscle pain and more energy throughout the day. Proper posture also reduces stress on your muscles and ligaments, which can reduce your risk of injury.
Correcting your posture also helps you become more aware of your muscles, making it easier to correct your posture on your own. As you work on your posture and become more aware of your body, you might even notice some imbalances or areas of tightness you weren’t previously aware of.
Continue reading to find ten ways on how to correct your posture.
1. The Child’s Pose
Child’s Pose helps to stretch the hips, thighs, and ankles while reducing stress and fatigue. It gently relaxes the muscles on the front of the body while softly and passively stretching the muscles of the back torso.
This resting pose centers, calms, and soothes the brain, making it a therapeutic posture for relieving stress. When performed with the head and torso supported, it can also help relieve back and neck pain. Sometimes used as a counter-pose to backbends, Child’s Pose restores balance and equanimity to the body.
The regular practice of Child’s Pose also teaches conscious exploration of the breath. As the front of the body releases onto the thighs, the frontal ribs and abdominal muscles become slightly compressed. This restriction allows for a deeper opening of the back of the torso as the lungs expand behind the body. As this happens, keeping the breath slow, long, and steady allows for a new awareness of the breath’s path through the front and back of the body.
How to do the Child’s Pose:
Step One: Sit on your shinbones with your knees together, your big toes touching, and your heels splayed out to the side.
Step Two: Fold forward at your hips and walk your hands out in front of you.
Step Three: Sink your hips back down toward your feet. If your thighs won’t go all the way down, place a pillow or folded blanket under them for support.
Step Four: Gently place your forehead on the floor or turn your head to one side.
Step Five: Keep your arms extended or rest them along your body.
Step Six: Breathe in deeply into the back of your rib cage and waist.
Step Seven: Relax in this pose for up to five minutes while continuing to breathe deeply.
This resting pose stretches and lengthens your spine, glutes, and hamstrings. The child’s pose helps to release tension in your lower back and neck, making it an excellent start on your way to correct your posture.
2. Standing Forward Fold
Standing Forward Fold, also called, “Uttanasana” (ooh-tuhn-AHS-uh-nuh) — calms the mind while stretching and rejuvenating the whole body. This pose is an essential element of Sun Salutations and helps to prepare the body for deeper forward bends.
When practiced correctly, this pose is an intense stretch, particularly for the hamstrings and back. However, it should also be relaxing and comfortable — be careful not to push too hard, seeking an “intense” experience! The more you relax in this pose, the deeper your stretch will be.
Uttanasana combines the benefits of the forward folds and inversions. Dropping your head below your heart calms your brain. This helps to relieve stress, headaches, anxiety, fatigue, mild depression, and insomnia. Uttanasana also deeply stretches and lengthens your hamstrings and calves. It opens the hips and can relieve tension in the neck and shoulders.
Practicing this pose stimulates the liver and kidneys while improving digestion. It is also known to be therapeutic for stress, asthma, sinusitis, high blood pressure, infertility, and osteoporosis.
The standing forward fold requires patience and practice to be performed at its fullest expression. It can take years or even decades to reach the deepest variation of the pose, and it is very easy to injure yourself if you push your body to attain it too soon. If you do not have the flexibility to do the pose in proper alignment, practice with a block or with your knees bent until you can straighten your legs without over-rounding your back.
How to do the Standing Forward Fold:
Step One: Stand with your big toes touching and your heels slightly apart.
Step Two: Bring your hands to your hips and fold forward at your hips.
Step Three: Release your hands toward the floor or place them on a block. Don’t worry if your hands don’t touch the ground — just go as far as you can.
Step Four: Bend your knees slightly, soften your hips joints, and allow your spine to lengthen.
Step Five: Tuck your chin into your chest and allow your head to fall heavily to the floor.
Step Six: Remain in this pose for up to 1 minute.
3. The Cat-Cow
Cat-Cow is a gentle flow between two poses that warms the body and brings flexibility to the spine. It stretches the back torso and neck, and softly stimulates and strengthens the abdominal organs. It also opens the chest, encouraging the breath to become slow and deep. The spinal movement of the two poses stimulates the kidneys and adrenal glands. Coordinating this movement with your breathing relieves stress and calms the mind.
This sequence also helps to develop postural awareness and balance throughout the body. It brings the spine into correct alignment and can help prevent back pain when practiced regularly.
Those with neck injuries should keep the head in line with the torso, not dropping it forward or back. Pregnant women and those with back injuries should only perform Cow Pose, bringing the spine back to neutral between poses — do not let the belly drop between repetitions, as this can strain the lower back. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities.
Cat-Cow is a great exercise for beginners — there should be no pain and very little discomfort (if any) when performed, making it so you can easily correct your posture on your own. Practicing cat-cow stretches and massages your spine. It also helps to relieve tension in your torso, shoulders, and neck while promoting blood circulation.
Bringing movement and flexibility to your spine helps your body to become more coordinated. Try a few slow rounds of Cat-Cow when you wake in the morning, or after sitting for a long period. You may notice yourself walking taller throughout the day!
How to do the Cat-Cow:
Step One: Come onto your hands and knees with your weight balanced evenly between all four points.
Step Two: Inhale to look up, dropping your abdomen down toward the ground as you extend your spine.
Step Three: Exhale and arch your spine toward the ceiling and tuck your chin into your chest.
Step Four: Continue this movement for at least 1 minute.
4. Isometric Neck Exercise
For those who don’t know what the heck this means, isometric exercise is a static strength training exercise. It activates or contracts the muscles without visible movement of the body. These exercises use self-resistance instead of weights/resistance bands to contract the muscle fibers.
Isometric exercises are popularly practiced by physiotherapists for rehabilitation. They also reduce muscle fatigue, neck pain, and blood pressure and improve flexibility, core strength, and walking speed in elderly people.
Isometric exercises are great for toning and strengthening the body. These exercises also help reduce the risk of injuries and can be used to rehabilitate a recent injury/surgery. Talk to your fitness trainer and include these exercises in your workout routine to get a fit and fab body.
Golden Rule: Squeeze your muscle fiber, take a deep breath, perfect your posture, hold it, and release.
How to do the Isometric Neck Exercise:
Step One: Sit on a chair. Keep your back straight, shoulders rolled back, and chest up.
Step Two: Place both your palms on your forehead. Push your head forward and push your palms towards your head to resist movement. Hold it for 10 seconds.
Step Three: Place your hands behind your back. Push your head back and resist the movement with your hand pushing forward. Look up as you do so. Hold for 5-8 seconds before releasing it.
Step Four: Place your right palm on the right side of your head. Push your head towards your palm and your palm towards your head. Your head might tilt a little towards the right. Hold it for 5-8 seconds before releasing it.
Step Five: Place your right palm on the side of your right cheek. Rotate your head and look towards the right. But resist this movement with your palm. Hold for 5-8 seconds before releasing.
Step Six: Repeat all the exercises 3 times on each side.
5. The Cobra Pose
Cobra Pose — Bhujangasana (boo-jahn-GAHS-uh-nuh) — is a beginning backbend in yoga that helps to prepare the body for deeper backbends. Its name comes from the Sanskrit words, “bhujanga” and “asana” (meaning “serpent” and “pose,” respectively).
Cobra Pose is best known for its ability to increase the flexibility of the spine. It stretches the chest while strengthening the spine and shoulders. It also helps to open the lungs, which is therapeutic for asthma. This pose also stimulates the abdominal organs, improving digestion.
An energizing backbend, Cobra reduces stress and fatigue. It also firms and tones the shoulders, abdomen, and buttocks, and helps to ease the pain of sciatica.
The Low Cobra variation of the pose is suitable for beginners and those with less spinal flexibility, while the High Cobra option is appropriate for more advanced exercisers (That’s a real word, right?). Those who are very stiff can benefit from practicing Cobra while standing, with their hands placed against a wall.
Please do not practice Cobra if you have carpal tunnel syndrome, or a recent back or wrist injury. Women who are pregnant should avoid practicing this pose while on the floor, although they may practice it standing with their palms against a wall. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities.
How to do the Cobra Pose:
Step One: Begin by lying face-down on the floor with your legs extended behind you, spread a few inches apart. The tops of your feet should rest on the mat — do not tuck your toes, as this can crunch your spine.
Step Two: Place your hands under your shoulders with your fingers pointing toward the top of the mat. Hug your elbows into the sides of your body.
Step Three: Press down through the tops of your feet and your pubic bone. Spread your toes.
Step Four: Inhale as you gently lift your head and chest off the floor. Keep your lower ribs on the floor.
Step Five: Draw your shoulders back and your heart forward, but do not crunch your neck. Keep your shoulders dropped away from your ears.
Step Six: Begin to straighten your arms, lifting your chest off the floor. Press the tops of your thighs down firmly into the floor. This is Low Cobra.
Step Seven: Do not push yourself away from the floor, forcing the backbend. Instead, allow the lift to come as a natural extension of your spine. There should be almost no weight on your hands — you should be able to lift your palms off the mat for a moment while in the pose.
Step Eight: Only straighten your arms as much as your body allows. Deepen the stretch as your practice advances, but avoid straining to achieve a deeper backbend. If your flexibility permits, you can straighten your arms all the way while maintaining the connection of the front of your pelvis and legs with the floor.
Step Nine: Actively press your shoulder blades into your upper back. Keep your elbows hugged into your sides. Broaden across your collar bones and lift your heart. Glide the tops of your shoulders away from your ears. Distribute the length of the backbend evenly through your entire spine.
Step Ten: Hold the pose for up to 30 seconds. To release, exhale as you slowly lower your chest and forehead to the mat. Turn your head to the right, resting your left ear on the mat. Relax your arms alongside your body. Repeat the pose up to five times.
Cobra Pose is a great exercise to correct your posture for beginners. When done correctly, it can gradually bring flexibility and strength to the entire spine. Remember to take it slowly and don’t push your body to achieve a deeper backbend. If you are experiencing discomfort in your back or neck, only lift your chest as far as you can without causing pain.
Cobra Pose can be a great way to stretch out your spine and chest throughout the day. It counteracts the slouch that comes from sitting in front of a computer or driving. Bringing more flexibility to your spine will help you to feel more balanced while opening your chest and heart will energize and rejuvenate you throughout the day!
6. High Plank
Plank Pose- also known as the ‘Kumbhakasana’ (koom-bahk-AHS-uh-nuh) — is an arm balancing yoga pose that tones the abdominal muscles while strengthening the arms and spine. Its name comes from the Sanskrit words “kumbhak,” which means “breath retention,” and “asana,” which means “pose.” In the traditional practice of this pose, you would hold your breath for a brief moment before lowering your body into the low push-up position. It can also be practiced on its own to build strength and stamina.
The Plank Pose tones all of the core muscles of the body, including the abdomen, chest, and low back. It strengthens the arms, wrists, and shoulders, and is often used to prepare the body for more challenging arm balances. Plank also strengthens the muscles surrounding the spine, which corrects your posture.
Practicing Plank Pose for several minutes builds endurance and stamina while toning the nervous system.
Plank Pose can be an excellent core and arm strengthener when practiced correctly. It can take some time to build up enough strength to hold the pose for more than a breath or two. Take it slowly and be careful not to over-stress your arms and shoulders.
Practicing Plank Pose will strengthen your core and arms in no time. Holding it for extended periods will build endurance and determination. Find a variation or modification that works best for you, and then watch as your posture improves.
How to do the Plank:
Step One: Begin on your hands and knees, with your wrists directly under your shoulders. Breathe smoothly and evenly through your nose. Bring your thoughts to focus on the present moment.
Step Two: Spread your fingers and press down through your forearms and hands. Do not let your chest collapse.
Step Three: Gaze down between your hands, lengthening the back of your neck, and drawing your abdominal muscles toward your spine.
Step Four: Tuck your toes and step back with your feet, bringing your body and head into one straight line.
Step Five: Keep your thighs lifted and take care not to let your hips sink too low. If your butt sticks up in the air, realign your body so your shoulders are directly above your wrists.
Step Six: Draw your pelvic floor muscles toward your spine as you contract your abdominal muscles. Keep your head in line with your spine. Broaden across your shoulder blades and across your collarbones.
Step Seven: Draw down through the bases of your index fingers — do not let your hands roll open toward the pinkie fingers.
Step Eight: Press the front of your thighs (quadriceps) up toward the ceiling while lengthening your tailbone toward your heels.
Step Nine: Hold the pose while breathing smoothly for five breaths. If you are using the pose to build strength and stamina, hold for up to five minutes.
Do not practice the full version of the pose if you have carpal tunnel syndrome — either practice the pose on your knees in Half Plank Pose or on your forearms. Those with osteoporosis should also avoid Plank Pose due to the risk of fractures.
7. Low Plank
Chaturanga Dandasana (chah-tuur-ANGH-uh dahn-DAHS-uh-nuh) is a major component of Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and Power Yoga. Rarely referred to by its English name, Four-Limbed Staff Pose, this pose is most commonly called the “Low Plank”.
The “staff” of the pose refers to the spine — the main support system of the body. When performed correctly, the body resembles a rod or staff, with the spine in one straight line. It’s very similar to the way it has to correct your posture.
The low plank strengthens and tones the wrists, arms, abdominal muscles, and lower back. It prepares the body for more challenging arm balances. Similar to a traditional push-up, it also strengthens the muscles surrounding the spine, which helps to improve posture.
The low plank requires a great deal of strength to be performed correctly and it is very easy to injure yourself if you move into it too soon, which is the exact opposite of what you want if you want to correct your posture. If you do not yet have the strength to do the pose in proper alignment, practice Half Chaturanga or Plank Pose until you can support your full body weight correctly.
The low plank is an excellent core and arm strengthener when practiced correctly. However, it takes time to gain enough strength to hold the pose for more than a breath or two. Take it slowly and be careful not to strain your arms, wrists, elbows, or shoulders. Since it’s such a challenging pose, even experienced exercisers will be unlikely to require a more advanced version.
At first glance, it looks similar to a fitness-based push-up. But there are important differences between the two. It’s crucial to ensure you are performing the pose with correct alignment; otherwise, it’s very easy to injure your shoulders, elbows, and wrists.
How to the Low Plank:
Step One: Begin in the high plank, mentioned above. Keeping your elbows directly over your wrists, slowly lower your body to hover a few inches above the floor. Keep your back flat.
Step Two: Lift through your chest, keeping your shoulders in line with your elbows. Do not let your chest drop or sag toward the floor.
Step Three: Fully engage your abdominal and leg muscles.
Optional Step: If the full pose is too challenging right now, come to your knees first. Then, lower your torso to hover an inch above the floor. This is the Half Plank.
Step Four: Do not let your elbows splay to the sides. Keep them hugged along your ribcage, pointed toward your heels.
Step Five: Press the base of your knuckles into the floor. Your upper and lower arms should be perpendicular, bent 90 degrees at the elbows. Do not let your shoulders drop lower than the height of your elbows.
Step Six: Hold for 10-30 seconds, and then lower your body all the way to the mat and rest.
8. Downward-Facing Dog
One of the most recognized yoga poses in the West, Downward-Facing Dog. It is a standing pose and mild inversion that builds strength while stretching the whole body. It’s named after the way dogs naturally stretch their entire bodies!
Downward-Facing Dog energizes and rejuvenates the entire body. It deeply stretches your hamstrings, shoulders, calves, arches, hands, and spine while building strength in your arms, shoulders, and legs.
Because your heart is higher than your head in this pose, it is considered a mild inversion (less strenuous than other inversions, such as Headstand) and holds all the benefits of inversions: Relief from headaches, insomnia, fatigue, and mild depression. The flow of blood to the brain also calms the nervous system, improves memory and concentration, and relieves stress.
Regular practice of this pose can improve digestion, relieve back pain, and help prevent osteoporosis. It is also known to be therapeutic for sinusitis, asthma, flat feet, the symptoms of menopause, and helps correct your posture.
How to do the Downward-Facing Dog:
Step One: Begin on your hands and knees. Align your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. The fold of your wrists should be parallel with the top edge of your mat. Point your middle fingers directly to the top edge of your mat.
Step Two: Stretch your elbows and relax your upper back.
Step Three: Spread your fingers wide and press firmly through your palms and knuckles. Distribute your weight evenly across your hands.
Step Four: Exhale as you tuck your toes and lift your knees off the floor. Reach your pelvis up toward the ceiling, then draw your sit bones toward the wall behind you. Gently begin to straighten your legs, but do not lock your knees. Bring your body into the shape of an “A.” Imagine your hips and thighs being pulled back from the top of your thighs. Do not walk your feet closer to your hands — keep the extension of your whole body.
Step Five: Press the floor away from you as you lift through your pelvis. As you lengthen your spine, lift your sit bones up toward the ceiling. Now press down equally through your heels and the palms of your hands.
Step Six: Firm the outer muscles of your arms and press your index fingers into the floor. Lift from the inner muscles of your arms to the top of both shoulders. Draw your shoulder blades into your upper back ribs and toward your tailbone. Broaden across your collarbones.
Step Seven: Rotate your arms externally so your elbow creases face your thumbs.
Step Eight: Draw your chest toward your thighs as you continue to press the mat away from you, lengthening and decompressing your spine.
Step Nine: Engage your quadriceps. Rotate your thighs inward as you continue to lift your sit bones high. Sink your heels toward the floor.
Step Ten: Align your ears with your upper arms. Relax your head, but do not let it dangle. Gaze between your legs or toward your navel.
Step Eleven: Hold for 5-100 breaths.
9. Pigeon Pose
Many people are familiar with tight hips. Activities and sports that include running and jumping can make the outer hips tight, and sitting for long periods of time can shorten and stiffen the front hip flexors. One-Legged King Pigeon Pose (usually referred to as “Pigeon Pose”) is a powerful hip-opener that can help increase flexibility and the range of motion in the hip joints.
The full variation of the pose, in which you touch your back toes to your head, is an intense backbend suitable for advanced practitioners only. This version, with the back leg extended, is appropriate for intermediate yoga students. But, we’re sticking with what is known as the ‘Half Pigeon Pose’, because I feel it’s simpler to do. Thus making it an easier way to correct your posture.
Pigeon Pose stretches the thighs, groins, and abdomen. It can often be felt deeply in specific upper-leg and hip muscles, including the psoas, piriformis, TFL (tensor fascia latae), and gluteus maximus. It relieves tension in the chest and shoulders (helping correct your posture), and it also stimulates the abdominal organs, which helps to regulate digestion.
Pigeon Pose can feel intense and stimulating. Remember to breathe evenly throughout the pose, particularly when you are feeling discomfort.
How to do the Pigeon Pose:
Step One: Begin in Downward-Facing Dog (mentioned above).
Step Two: Bring your right knee between your hands, placing your right ankle near your left wrist. Extend your left leg behind you so your kneecap and the top of your footrest on the floor.
Step Three: Press through your fingertips as you lift your torso away from your thigh. Lengthen the front of your body. Release your tailbone back toward your heels. Work on squaring your hips and the front side of your torso to the front of your mat.
Step Four: Draw down through your front-leg shin and balance your weight evenly between your right and left hips. Flex your front foot. Press down through the tops of all five toes of the back foot.
Step Five: Gaze downward.
Step Six: Hold for up to one minute. Repeat for the same amount of time on the other side.
10. Standing Backbend
Got back pain? You’re in good company: About 80 percent of Americans experience back problems at some point. Most people attribute back pain to their low backs (lumbar spine) or necks (cervical spine), but oftentimes issues in the thoracic spine—the upper back—are actually to blame.
Although the thoracic spine doesn’t get much attention, it’s literally the backbone for your lungs and heart, surrounded by your rib cage, which protects these vital organs. Of the spine’s 70 joints, 50 percent are in the thoracic spine. If you factor in the additional 20 specialty joints (called the costotransverse joints) that help your ribs articulate and move, you’ll quickly understand that your thoracic spine is a workhorse responsible for two-thirds of the movement in your torso—so the odds of something going awry are high.
Despite the thoracic spine’s potential for movement, the unique design of your upper back and rib cage does not allow for as much movement as you may think. This is to protect your lungs and heart: excess motion here could impact these key organs. What’s more, the vertebrae of the thoracic spine interlock with one another and act as a hard stop during backbends—again, to defend your internal organs.
These movement-inhibiting mechanisms are important. However, if you lack the proper amount of mobility in your thoracic spine, then the most mobile junction of your spine—T12/L1, the lowest point of the thoracic spine and the highest part of the lumbar spine—may become hypermobile to make up for it (particularly in backbends). Lack of thoracic spine mobility can also create an excessively mobile cervical spine.
To help keep your cervical spine and lumbar spine pain-free, you’ll want to move the thoracic spine in smart, safe ways to maintain strength and mobility and prevent it from recruiting extra help.
To correct this issue and correct your posture, you’re going to want to do the standing backbend.
Step One: Stand in Mountain Pose, which very similar to standing straight up, and interlace your hands behind your head. I say it’s similar to standing straight up because I really don’t want to offend any hardcore people into yoga.
Step Two: Activate your abdominals and gluteals to posteriorly tilt (tuck) your pelvis.
Step Three: Inhale, and feel your ribs expand; exhale, and feel your lungs deflate. You may feel like you’re falling backward, but with support.
Step Four: Lengthen your spine up and away from your pelvis, and continue to lean back: Resist the urge to backbend at the thoracolumbar junction by contracting your abs and transferring the burden of the backbend to your thoracic vertebrae.
Step Five: There is no rush to progress more deeply into the pose. Instead, witness the effect each breath has on the relationship between your rib cage and thoracic spine.
Step Six: Stay here for 8–10 breaths.
This pose resembles the beginning of a drop-back into Wheel Pose without actually dropping back. It helps to stabilize the thoracolumbar junction (where T12 and L1 meet), which can be hypermobile if your thoracic spine lacks mobility.