Restorative Backbend to Improve Posture

Our posture can inform a lot about a person physically and mentally. It’s no secret that we are a society that sits a lot. We sit in our cars, our desks, and on the couch and now coupled with the constant use of handheld devices we sit even more hunched over.  Our tailbones are tucking under, shoulders are round and our chests are collapsed. The thing is our bodies are meant to move and all this sitting has had an adverse effect on our bodies and health.   It’s what we’ve become used to, but it’s a strain and doesn’t serve us. As a result, we experience tension in the upper back, shoulders and neck and our breath is shallow. This physical tightness adds to the stress response in our bodies.

Now just because we get up and walk around it doesn’t mean it goes away. We remain in the collapsed posture therefore constantly looking down! Our breathing remains shallow and when we don’t breathe deeply our energy is diminished.  Unconsciously, we do this all the time.  But pay attention how you are sitting at this moment.  How does it make you feel?  Sluggish?  Depressed?  Closed off?  Now make a change in how you hold yourself.  Right now as you are reading this, sit tall, head lifted, chest open, shoulders back, gaze out in front.  Doesn’t that feel so much better?  Energized?

The studio’s challenge for February is to #BeKind, to others and to yourself. So imagine with better posture, you’d be greeting people with your gaze and your warm smile, wouldn’t that be nice?  I think NY/NJ gets a bad rap for being grumps, but that’s not the case.  We just need to stand tall and look at all the wonderful people around us.

So now that you know the difference in these two vastly different postures what can you do about it?  Attending regular yoga classes can definitely help.  During asana you will work on building strength and flexibility in your body with proper alignment.  But a nice addition to your practice is one of my favorite is a restorative backbend.  It’s very simple and can easily be done at home.  It helps to counteract all the hunching forward by opening up the front of the body and allowing the breath to move deeper within the body.

To start out you will need 3 blankets (at home you could easily use bath towels).  You will want to fold this blanket long ways so the width is about 12 inches across.  Place two blankets about quarter of the way down your mat width wise.  The third blanket you can roll it up to place underneath your knees.  When you lie down you want the folded blanket to come right behind your heart under the shoulder blades.  The top of your shoulders should rest on the floor and your arms will come out by your side in a t-shape.  Your legs are extended long with your knees over the rolled up blanket.  As you lie there, close the eyes and allow the breath to be smooth and slow.  On your inhale the front of your body opens and expands.  As you exhale allow the body and release letting go of tension. Feel the shoulders moving closer to the ground.    You can stay in this pose for 5-20 minutes as long as you are comfortable.  To come out of the pose, bend your knees and roll to your side for a few breaths before coming up to seated.

Now how do you feel? Do feel taller? Does your heart center feel more open? Are you smiling? Do you feel the positive energy flowing through your whole body now? Now go out in the world, and share that feeling with someone you love!

If you take a photo of your good gesture, post if on facebook or Instagram and tag Yoga in the Heights with the hashtag #BeKind and we’ll share your good deed with our community!

-Bridget Fujioka

Bridget Fujioka is co-owner of Yoga in the Heights. She teaches Yoga Basics on Monday & Wednesdays at 6:00pm, Core Flow on Tuesdays & Thursdays at 9:00am and Restorative Yoga on Sunday at 5:30pm.