Fitness Magazine

Friday Q&A: Improving Posture

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge

Friday Q&A: Improving Posture

The Proportions of the Human Figure by Leonardo da Vinci

Q: I've practiced yoga sporadically over the past decade, but now at 75 I'm noticing my posture leans forward a bit. Are their certain asanas that would be good for me to practice, given my posture issue. I know more consistent practice would also help. 

A: Often poor posture creeps up on people gradually over the years until a loved one starts reporting to them about their slumped posture or, as with our reader, they discover it on their own. And while it may not be associated with any particular symptoms of stiffness or pain, it could contribute to both if not addressed. The change in posture most often involves increased forward rounding (flexion) of the spine in the chest area (thoracic spine). If the rounding becomes more pronounced, it is referred to as “kyphosis.” In many of these cases, the muscles of the upper back become weak and overworked (from trying to keep you from completely rounding forward) and those in the front of the chest and abdomen become short and tight. 

Information that would be helpful to know from our reader and any older adult who notices these postural changes include: 

1) Has the person been screened for osteoporosis or osteopenia, the presence of which would require a slower, more gradual approach to introducing a yoga practice or designing a yoga practice to specially address this problem? 

2) Are there any wedge fractures already present in the thoracic spine that contribute to the changes in posture and would limit the amount of improvement one could expect from practice? 

I will be assuming the answer to both of those questions are no for the following recommendations and for the sequence I'll be sharing next week. If you don’t know the answer to the two questions for yourself, please get yourself checked out. 


General Considerations and Recommendations 

Before turning to your yoga practice, consider other activities that might contribute to slumped posture that you could also address: 

1) Your posture as you use computers and smart phones, as well as watching TV and even reading printed material. Be more conscious about maintaining good posture while doing these activities and, if possible for you, spend less time in these seated activities or try using a stand up desk. 

2) Your posture as you drive your car. It is often difficult to maintain good posture behind the wheel of your car, but your posture could be improved by adjusting seat so you sit more vertically and by using of a lumbar support behind your lower back. 

3) Are you doing other activities that involve a lot of forward bending with rounding of the spine? Some of these include housework (vacuuming, mopping) and yard work (weeding the garden). If so, make some changes in the way you do these tasks so you maintain a more neutral spine, for example, by standing in Fig Leaf Forward Fold position or by squatting instead of bending over.   

Be patient and work gradually towards your goal of improved posture. It likely took quite a while to get where you are now, and it will take some time to improve. 


Practicing Yoga for Improved Posture 

I recommend you practice regularly if you want a greater chance of success, as our reader rightly suggests. In general sequences to will help your posture should include backbends for strengthening your back muscles and stretching the muscles in the front of your chest and abdomen. I suggest practicing these types of sequences every other day, alternating with different types practices on other days, including more restorative practices or sequences that emphasize a different part of the body. 

I also recommend bring more attention to your breath as you practice. According to TKV Desikachar, your inhalation encourages and supports a bit of spinal extension or back bending action, so make sure as you practice your poses, you are keeping your inhalation and exhalation the same length. 

Finally, Nina recommends that you consider the position of your head as part of your posture, rather than just focusing on your back and chest. This is because slumped posture is often associated with a head-forward position. So in all your standing and seated postures, consciously align your head over your neck and your neck over your shoulders. And in reclined positions, keep your head and neck safe by providing support under your head in the reclined positions with appropriate props.

—Baxter

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