Sit up straight! Shoulders back! There are many reasons we start hunching forward in adolescence. We sit in desks all day slouching and daydreaming. Most of us are too self-conscious at that age to stand tall and proud. There is a tendency to round the shoulders forward as a way of hiding and protecting ourselves emotionally. These habits die hard into our 20’s and 30’s and sometimes stay with us for a lifetime. Yoga is an excellent way to address these bad habits. Backbends especially help to improve posture by opening the chest, lengthening the spine and strengthening the upper back. Practice these to stand and walk tall with confidence and grace.
- Lay on the belly. Place the palms flat next to the ribs and bend the elbows.
- Point the toes and press into the earth with the tops of the feet.
- Lengthen the tailbone back to lengthen the lower spine.
- Keeping the flute muscles soft, press the hips into the earth.
- Drag the palms isometrically back toward the hips.
- Using the strength of the spine and back muscles, peel your chest away from the earth as high as you comfortably can.
- Use the strength of the back to lift the chest.
- Take 5-8 deep breaths and then relax, turning your head to one side.
- Reach the arms down your sides with the palms down,
- Keep the legs straight and hugging toward one another.
- Lift the chest, arms and legs off the earth.
- Lift the arms higher than the ribs. Imagine you are hugging a beach ball with your triceps.
- Lift higher with each inhale.
- Hold for 5-8 deep breaths and then relax, turning your head to the other side.
Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
- Bend the knees and reach for the ankles or feet.
- Hug the thighs gently in to hips width apart.
- Kick the feet into the hands to lift the thighs and chest.
- Lift the feet up and back equally.
- Keep the arms straight and let the chest stretch and lift with each inhale.
- Take 5-8 deep breaths and relax, turning your head to either side.
- Press back to child’s pose, stretching the arms and hips in opposite directions.
Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
- Stand on the knees, bringing them hips width apart.
- Place the hands on the lower back, turning the fingertips up.
- Draw the tailbone down, lift the heart and draw the shoulder blades together.
- If it’s comfortable, reach back for the heels.
- Keep the hips aligned over the knees and press the heart to the sky, letting the head fall back slightly. Keep length in the back of the neck.
- Take 5-8 deep breaths, expanding the chest with each inhale.
- Lift out of the pose, leading with the heart.
- Rest in child’s pose, stretching the arms and hips in opposite directions.
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
- Lie on the back, bending the knees and placing the feet hips width apart.
- Lift the hips and interlace the hands beneath you, drawing the shoulder blades together.
- Engage the quads and relax the glutes.
- Press the feet and the outer arms into the earth to lift the hips gently toward the sky.
- Take 5-8 deep breaths into the chest.
- Lower the hips to the earth and place the hands on the lower belly.
- Take a few deep breaths here, feeling the belly rise and fall beneath the hands.