Most of us spend the vast majority of our time hunched over a computer screen or staring down at our Smartphones. Unfortunately, all of that constant slouching is wreaking havoc on our spines, necks and overall health.
According to Jimmy Minardi, a renowned personal trainer and founder of Minardi Training, poor posture is the sole cause of most chronic aches and pains.
“When you intentionally or unintentionally repeat poor posture every day, your alignment slowly adapts to it and changes,” Minardi says. “That forward pull from hunching puts undue stress on your lower neck which can contribute to neck, shoulder and lower back pain.”
Luckily, even if you sit at a desk all day, better posture is completely attainable. Certain exercises can prevent or even correct poor posture by strengthening crucial muscles in the core, back and hips. Minardi’s favorite activity for banishing that hunchback? Yoga. Yoga can build greater agility, flexibility, muscle strength and stabilization—all of which can help in improving posture and ameliorating the effects of long-term poor posture, he says.
Below, Minardi shares six yoga poses that will build strength in your abdomen, upper back, lower back, hips and buttocks. “The stronger your muscles are, the better able you will be to hold your body in a healthful position,” he notes.
Crescent Pose / Flying Monkey
- Start in a runner’s lunge – with one foot forward and flat, and the other back on the ball of your foot, aligning your knee directly over the heel of your front foot.
- Raise both arms to the ceiling in a salute
- Slowly lower your knee and tap it on the floor and back up again.
- Repeat this five times and switch to the other foot.
- Make sure your front shin stays vertical. Widen your stance as needed to make sure that your knee does not move forward past your ankle.
Side Arm Balance
Benefits: Strengthens arms and muscles that support the spine; shoulder stabilization
- From plank, shift your weight onto your right arm as you roll onto the outside of your right foot.
- Keeping both feet flexed, stack left foot on top of the right with the legs very straight.
- Bring the left arm up to the ceiling and the gaze to the left fingertips.
- After several breaths, roll back the center and do the other side.
Benefits: helps strengthen and irrigate the muscles from base of skull to the glutes.
- Lie on your stomach with toes flat on the floor; chin resting on the ground.
- Stretch your arms out to the front as far as you can.
- Take a deep breath in and lift chest, arms, legs and thighs off the floor.
- Make a gentle effort to stretch your arms and legs away from your torso.
- As you exhale, gently lower your chest, arms and legs.
Benefits: Increases stabilization, mobility and strengthens muscles in arms, chest, shoulders and back.
- Lie on stomach with legs spread at hip width and tops of your feet on the floor.
- Rest your forehead on floor and relax your shoulders; bend your elbows and place your forearms on the floor with your palms turned down and positioned near the sides of your head
- As you inhale, engage your back muscles, press your forearms against the floor, and raise your chest and head.
- As you exhale, lower your torso and head slowly back to the floor.
Fierce Pose / Phantom Chair
Benefits: Strengthens glutes, quadriceps and great irrigation for lower back.
Stand with feet together and bend your knees and lower your hips as you raise your arms overhead.
Focus on sitting back into your heels to relieve pressure from your knees and to target the thighs and glutes.
Tuck your tailbone in and engage your abs, keeping your spine straight.
Roll your shoulder blades back and down away from your ears to release any tension in the neck or upper body, and gaze up toward the ceiling.
Benefits: targets lower back and core muscles – especially those in your upper back, which helps to reduce back pain.
- Start on all fours, with your wrists under your shoulders
- Straighten your legs straight and raise your hips to create a straight and rigid line from head to toe
- Your shoulders should be directly above your elbows.
- Focus on keeping your abs contracted during the exercise
- Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds and repeat 8 to 10 times.