Yoga For Posture Alignment: 9 Poses to Save Your Spine
Table of Contents
- What Causes Bad Posture?
- How Does Yoga Help With Bad Posture?
- Yoga for Better Posture: 9 Poses to Add to Your Practice
- Tips for Good Posture
- Wrapping Up
If you are looking to heal your back pain, create more stability, and move more efficiently, consider adding some yoga poses for enhanced posture to your practice.
Many of us spend more and more time sitting down especially hunched over laptops and smartphones, and our spinal health is suffering for it. Among the many benefits of yoga is posture improvement, which can help combat the impact of a sedentary lifestyle.
Below, we reveal what causes bad posture, how yoga for better posture can help, and nine yoga poses to try right now.
What Causes Bad Posture?
According to Barrington Orthopedic Specialists, good posture is defined as “proper alignment of your body when standing or sitting” and “training yourself to hold your body against gravity with the least strain and tension on supportive structures.”
Proper posture keeps your bones and joints optimally aligned, which helps to reduce pain. Harvard Health details a checklist for maintaining good posture, with practical tips to use throughout your day.  When we slump and slouch, our whole body suffers. To avoid poor posture, be on the lookout for:
Insufficient and non-ergonomic office set-ups can create havoc for spinal health, setting the stage for hunching and slouching over computers, smartphones, and workstations.
Slouching causes the pectoral muscles to tighten and the shoulders to internally rotate, which weakens the back muscles. This creates strain and muscular imbalances, reaffirming poor posture.
When the rhomboids and trapezius muscles, which are responsible for retracting the shoulders, are strong, they create better spinal alignment, allowing for improved posture.
Heavy lifting, medical conditions, sports, exercise, or a sedentary lifestyle can cause injuries to the muscles responsible for good posture (including the trapezius). When these muscles weaken, it may cause other areas (like the lower back) to overwork and tighten.
Stress can be physically held in the body as muscular tension, which may cause the shoulders to round and the spine to hunch, resulting in mild to severe back pain. 
How Does Yoga Help With Bad Posture?
Posture-improving yoga helps reduce back pain, strengthens muscles responsible for good posture, and improves spinal alignment. It can also be helpful for abnormal curvatures in the spine.
“Yoga” covers a wide variety of styles. The best yoga styles for good posture include:
- Yin-style classes — longer deep holds release tension and help lengthen muscles while improving range of motion.
- Dynamic Vinyasa practices — strong, fluid movements help to strengthen the core and other muscles responsible for protecting the spine, improving functional mobility, and enhancing spinal alignment.
Any type of yoga can help increase body awareness, improve breathing efficiency, and relieve stress.
Consider the following categories of yoga poses to enhance good posture:
- Backbends and heart-openers to stretch the chest and strengthen the spine.
- Twists to create length in the spine, as well as intervertebral space.
- Core-strengthening yoga poses to support the lower back, provide overall stability, and improve spinal alignment.
Yoga for Better Posture: 9 Poses to Add to Your Practice
These are nine of the best yoga for posture asanas to strengthen back muscles and open your chest.
To strengthen back muscles and open the chest, practice these posture-correcting yoga asanas. Breathe steadily and listen to your body as you enter each pose to avoid discomfort. Ease out as slowly as you’ve entered, especially if there is any pain. Regular practice of these poses can help improve your posture over time.
Learn how long to hold each yoga pose and seek additional guidance from a qualified, registered yoga instructor.
#1 Cat and Cow Poses (Marjaryasana and Bitilasana)
- Start in Tabletop Pose (Bharmanasana) with wrists under shoulders and knees under hips.
- Inhale as you extend your spine, draw the shoulders on your back, and soften the belly. Press your ribs forward, lengthen your tailbone, and lift your head (Cow Pose).
- Exhale as you round your spine, lower your head, curl your tailbone down towards the mat, and lift your abdominals up and in (Cat Pose).
- Flow between Cat and Cow on the wave of your breath, moving slowly and smoothly.
#2 Cow Face Pose (Gomukhasana)
- Begin in a seated position with your legs extended.
- Cross your right leg over your left, stacking your knees as best as you can.
- Lean to the left and bend your left leg, sliding your left foot close to your right hip.
- Center yourself, keeping both sit bones grounded. If necessary, sit on a block, blanket, or firm cushion.
- Raise your left arm overhead, bend your elbow, and reach your hand down your upper back. Hold onto your left elbow with your right hand. Keep your spine long and your head up.
- If you have the flexibility, extend your right arm to the side, bend your elbow, and reach your right hand up your back to catch the left hand.
- If possible, clasp your hands or hold a strap with both hands.
- Sit up well, keep your spine long, stomach muscles engaged, and your head lifted. Gently stretch and breathe, then switch sides.
#3 Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
- Kneel on the floor, standing on your knees that are hip-width apart.
- Place your hands on your lower back, fingers pointing down.
- Inhale, lift your chest and elongate your spine as you lengthen the side and front body.
- If your flexibility allows, reach down to touch your heels.
- Keep your hips aligned over your knees and visualize your spine like a rainbow, climbing up and over to avoid compressing your lower back.
- Breathe deeply as you hold the pose for a few breaths.
#4 Plank Pose (Phalakasana)
- Come to a high push-up position with wrists under shoulders and body forming a long line from crown to heels.
- Keep your abdominals hugging in strongly, engage your legs, extend through the spine, and allow your gaze to be slightly forward and down.
- Breathe steadily as you hold the pose.
- Modify by lowering your knees to the floor while maintaining a long diagonal line from head to knees.
#5 Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
- Start in Tabletop Pose.
- Lift your hips up and back, extending your legs as best as you can, forming an inverted “V” shape, from hands to sit bones and sit bones to heels.
- Spread your fingers wide, press your palms forward and down into the mat, hug your upper arm bones into the shoulder sockets, and relax your head between your arms.
- Press your heels down towards the floor (they do not have to touch the ground) and your sit bones up towards the sky. If your hamstrings or lower back are tight, keep a slight bend in the knees without losing the lift of your hips.
- Breathe deeply and find the balance between releasing tension and actively engaging your body.
#6 Bird Dog Pose (Bharmanasana, variation)
- Start in Tabletop Pose.
- Extend your left leg back with your toes on the ground. Hug your abdominals up and in.
- Extend your right arm forward and as you keep your core muscles strong, lift your left leg.
- Allow the hips to remain level and your belly to be engaged.
- Stay in balance for a few steady breaths, focusing on lengthening the body while maintaining stability.
- Switch to the other side.
#7 Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
- Lie on your back with knees bent and feet hip-width apart in front of your sit bones.
- Place your arms alongside your body, palms down.
- Lengthen through the fingertips and press your arms firmly into the ground to engage the latissimus dorsi and strengthen the triceps.
- As you press your feet and arms into the floor, lift your hips and spine off the mat.
- Draw your shoulder blades towards each other and if it is available to you, Interlace your fingers beneath you.
- Lift your sternum and keep your thighs parallel.
- Breathe deeply as you hold the pose.
#8 Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
- Lie on your belly with arms alongside your torso, palms facing down to externally rotate the shoulders.
- Bend your knees and reach your hands back to hold your outer ankles, keeping the shoulders externally rotated.
- Inhale and press your feet into your hands to lift your chest off the ground. Engage your thighs as you simultaneously lift them up.
- Keep your gaze slightly forward and down so the neck follows the bow curve of your spine without; straining.
- Lengthen through the whole front of your body and keep the lower back broad. Allow the breath to be smooth, slow, and steady.
#9 Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend (Prasarita Padottanasana)
- Stand with feet about 3-4 feet apart and hands on hips.
- Inhale as you lengthen your spine, and with an exhale, fold forward from the hips.
- Keep your spine extended and your core engaged.
- You can place your hands on the floor, blocks, or your legs, depending on your flexibility.
- Lift your sit bones high and allow your torso to relax down so you may feel the stretch along the backs of your legs and lower back.
- Breathe deeply and hold the pose for a few breaths before lengthening the spine to come back up.
Tips for Good Posture
In addition to practicing yoga poses for enhanced posture, incorporate these actions into your daily routine to up your wellness game:
- Take regular breaks to stand and move.
- Set an “activity” timer to ensure that you stick to breaks – once every hour is a good goal.
- Hit your step count. The research now tells us that walking packs an incredible punch for your good health. And taking a walk in nature has been shown to boost mood and physical well-being.  Explore the benefits of walking only 2 miles daily.
- Explore some desk stretches to help release muscular tension.
- Invest in a standing desk or speak to your workplace about an ergonomic setup.
Practice yoga for good posture several times a week to see benefits — customize your personal routine by learning how often you should practice yoga.
- Bad posture could be a result of weak or tight muscles, slouching, injury, sedentary lifestyles, stress, medical conditions, or inadequate office set-ups.
- Yoga for proper posture helps correct imbalances, improve spinal alignment, and strengthen and lengthen muscles – including core and back muscles – that are responsible for good posture.
- Yoga classes help build strength and release tension. Consider dynamic vinyasa practices to enhance muscle energy and yin classes to stretch and lengthen connective tissue.
- Look for heart-openers and backbends, twists, and core exercises in your yoga for enhanced posture sequences.
- Implement a daily routine, including standing and walking more often, taking breaks from your desk, stretching your chest, shoulders, and back, and adopting a regular exercise program.
- Have fun with your yoga for good posture practice, moving in a way that feels good and nourishing for your body!