5 Strength-Training Moves for Your Best-Ever Posture
Yoga isn’t just for relaxation. Yoga practice builds strength, especially in the core, and that makes it perfect for improving posture.
Side Plank (Vasisthasana)
Yoga instructor Molly Rose Hoffman with Lyons Den Power Yoga has outlined five yoga-based strength exercises for good posture. Plan to hold each position for 30 seconds to start; work your way up to a minute. For best results, do the moves daily.
Hoffman loves the side plank when it comes to building good posture because it strengthens all the muscles of your core simultaneously. In fact, planks are often singled out as one of the best core exercises (keep it interesting with these plank variations from fitness expert Jillian Michaels). Support yourself in a plank, then shift your weight on to your right hand, place your right foot on its side and stack your left foot on top of it. Now, open your chest and extend your left arm toward the ceiling. (Beginners: To make this move easier, support yourself on your right forearm.) “Create one long line of energy from your bottom hand up to your top hand by stacking your bottom shoulder over your wrist and reaching your top hand straight up,” says Hoffman. “Keep your head in line with your spine to create a long and tall spine.”
Don’t overlook this move—it’s actually much easier than it looks. Just start slow and don’t expect to master it on your first try. Beginners: do this move against the wall until you develop strength and balance.) This essential yoga pose will strengthen muscles that support your spine—along with abdominal muscles that help enhance strong back posture.
Start on your knees and elbows, says Hoffman. “Interlace your fingers and place your elbows directly under your shoulders. Lower the crown of your head to the mat with the back of your head lightly pressing against your hands. Press your forearms firmly into the floor and draw your shoulders down your back away from your ears. Start to walk your feet forward until your hips stack over your elbows. Engage your lower belly to gently draw your knees to your chest and lift your feet of off the floor. Stay with your knees bent or straighten your legs.” And don’t forget these stretches that can help prevent back injury.
Low Plank (Chaturanga Dandasana)
This good posture exercise strengthens the abdominals, quads, and rhomboids, all of which are key to keeping your shoulders back. “Start in a high plank and shift forward on to your toes and angle your shoulders slightly in front of your wrists. Stay on your toes and press your heels toward the back of your mat to engage your quads and lower abdominals. Reach your chest forward, and keep your gaze set slightly out in front of your mat,” says Hoffman. Lower until your elbows are parallel with your sides (or higher, if that’s easier), keeping your core and glutes engaged to avoid any dip in your lower back. Check out these other energizing yoga moves that will get you ready for the day.
Wheel (Urdhva Dhanurasana)
“Wheel pose helps to open up your chest, and promotes spine flexibility,” says Hoffman. Start in bridge pose, shoulders resting on the ground, your arms flat at your sides, your feet planted firmly on the ground hip-width apart. “Without moving your legs, engage your inner thighs and draw them towards one another as if you were squeezing a block between your legs,” says Hoffman. “Plant your hands back by your ears and point your elbows up. Root down through your feet to lift your hips and straighten your arms. Draw your sternum through the window of your shoulders,” she says. Lift into a backbend. “Try lifting your heels up off the mat to take pressure off of the low back.”
Do these soothing yoga poses before bed and you’ll be sleeping like a baby in child’s pose before you know it.
Warrior I (Virabhadrasana)
“This pose will engage your entire body from your feet to your hands,” says Hoffman. “It will help to lengthen out your side body to encourage a tall spine and strong posture.” Start in downward facing dog—support your body with your hands and feet, hips stretching toward the ceiling. “Step your left foot forward in between your hands and spin your right foot flat between 60-90 degree angle. Reach your hands straight up toward the ceiling. Square off your hips by drawing your left hip back and right hip forward. From the centerline of your body, sink your hips forward and slightly down to stack your left knee right over the ankle.” Reach your arms and gaze upward to the ceiling.