Due to sedentary lifestyles and poor habits in daily activities, many Americans tend to have poor posture, exhibiting the traits of kyphosis, an excessively rounded upper spine, and lordosis, an excessively arched lower back. Because of its emphasis on proper posture, yoga can help reverse abnormal curves in the spine, correcting both the “hunchback” curve that occurs in postural kyphosis and the “swayback” curve that occurs in postural lordosis. And since posture has been found to affect every system in the body, yoga’s efficacy in creating optimal spinal alignment will also improve one’s overall health and well-being.

The effects of bad posture

Bad posture can lead to tension and pain in your neck, back, and shoulders. Poor posture can inhibit the circulation of blood and body fluids, reduce lung function and capacity, and reduce metabolism and digestion. Bad posture can also lead to states of depression, increased negative thoughts, lowered self-esteem, and decreased energy and vitality.

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Can you fix poor posture?

Most people have poor posture due to bad habits that can easily be fixed. If posture issues are related to issues like scoliosis and osteoarthritis then posture changes will be limited and take longer. Cultivating body awareness is the key to correcting your posture and creating good habits and a regular yoga practice is excellent for both. Getting into the habit of sitting and standing correctly may not feel comfortable initially. Once your muscles become conditioned to support you in sitting and standing up tall will be easeful and comfortable.

What are the signs of bad posture?

  • Rounded or slumped shoulders
  • Forward head position
  • Neck and shoulder pain and tension
  • Tilted shoulders or pelvis
  • Bent knees when standing or walking
  • Back pain and body aches
  • Flat feet
  • Muscle fatigue and low energy
  • Headache

Reversing a hunchback curve

Kyphosis is often a byproduct of computer and desk type work, and it is often seen in conjunction with a jutting forward of the chin and head. Upper back bending poses will help reverse this “hunchback” curve as well as stretch the muscles on the front of the torso which often have become chronically tight in this condition. Practicing weight-bearing backbends, such as Reverse Table pose, Bridge pose, and Bow pose will strengthen the back muscles to assist the holding of a corrected posture.

Reversing a swayback curve

Lordosis is often the result of weak abdominal muscles, or due to overcompensation for other muscle-skeletal imbalances. To correct this “swayback” curve, you must learn to “tuck your tailbone under” to help flatten the low back through the engagement of the abdominal and core muscles of the body. You can explore this tilting action of the tailbone in Cat Tilt pose’s rounding of the low back. Other poses that round the low back engage the “tailbone tuck” to reverse the “swayback” curve and to stretch the muscles of the low back are child, rabbit, and standing angle. Building strength through poses that engage the core muscles of the abdominals and low back, such as Boat, Low Plank, and Balancing Table, will be most helpful.

Yoga poses to promote good posture

Spine lengthening poses promote good posture and proper alignment of the vertebrae in both kyphosis and lordosis. When the spine lengthens it naturally moves towards a correct alignment of natural 3 slight curves in the cervical, thoracic and lumbar vertebrae. The most important yoga posture to master for creating optimal posture is Tadasana, the mountain pose. Many of the seated poses are similarly helpful to bring awareness to the alignment of the spine.

A general yoga practice will help to promote good posture, but there are ten yoga poses that will be especially helpful in cultivating alignment awareness, increasing flexibility, and building strength. For the best results in improving your posture with yoga, practice as many of the following asanas as possible:

A complete list of yoga postures for kyphosis and lordosis is available in our premium yoga therapy section.

Check your alignment

To check your alignment in Tadasana use this technique: stand with your back to the wall with your heels touching. Then adjust your hips, shoulders, and back of your head so that they are only very lightly touching the wall. Without pressing any part of your body into the wall, slightly reach the low back to the wall, feeling the tailbone tuck under. You can alternatively use a mirror or have a friend check to see if your ankles, hips, shoulders, and head all line up in a straight line.

How long does it take to correct posture?

Research tells us that it takes three to eight weeks to establish a new routine, so expect at least 30 days to see and feel an improvement in your posture. It may be a lifelong practice to continue to improve and maintain your posture.

Cautions and Contraindications

Kyphosis and/or lordosis that is caused by osteoporosis, severe scoliosis, spondylolisthesis, and ankylosing spondylitis may benefit from the therapeutic use of these poses, but it will be necessary to consult with a medical professional before starting a yoga practice. If the spine has developed Osteoporosis or Osteopenia, deep backbends like Camel, Bow, and Wheel pose can be painful and even cause injury and should be avoided or approached with great caution.