I am writing this blog to talk about the 6 most important ways that a fitness-centric yoga program helps you improve posture. Before you start reading, I would like to emphasize that the information below does not apply to any type of yoga or any yoga instructor – in order to get the benefits below, the yoga class in question must facilitate the necessary level of stress to provoke growth in the areas responsible for proper posture (i.e. the workout has to be hard enough to build muscle, not just stretch your body), and it should be taught by a knowledgeable instructor who teaches proper technique and constantly reinforces proper body positioning throughout the workout.
This blog has a participatory element. I want you to try something – right now. Don’t move a muscle, don’t change the way you’re reading this. Now ask yourself: What is my posture like at this very moment?
Are you looking down at a phone? Slouched over your keyboard reading a screen? Standing with limited muscle engagement at your stand-up desk? Is your back in a neutral position, or are you rounding forward?
In July 2017, I got on Facebook Live to ask people which of their fitness challenges they hoped yoga could help with, and one of the most common responses was “improve posture” – which happens to be the #1 result of Man Flow Yoga Programs.*
*This stat is based on survey responses from participants of past 4-week Man Flow Yoga challenges. Almost everyone agreed or somewhat agreed that Man Flow Yoga had helped to improve aspects of strength such as flexibility, balance, and core strength, but people were most likely to “strongly agree” with the statement that they had improved postural awareness as a result of the challenge.
This may come as no surprise to you if you’ve already done some of my workouts. (If you haven’t yet, try out the one at the bottom of this page!!!) So much of what we do in the workouts is focused on maintaining proper posture:
- constantly reminding you to lift up a little bit higher
- keeping your spine is in a neutral position
- making sure your shoulders are pulled down and back
- engaging your core and lifting your ribs away from your hips
But I want to go deeper into the reasons why these workouts are one of the most effective methods out there for improving posture. In the brief list below, I give you 6 specific reasons why Man Flow Yoga workouts are so powerful for improving your posture. Here they are:
1. Increased body awareness
The first and foremost reason why yoga (and I believe, Man Flow Yoga in particular) is so effective at improving posture is because you are being reminded throughout the entire workout that every part of your body, from head to toe, is doing what it’s supposed to be doing in that particular exercise. You are being given constant reminders to correct your posture, to avoid slumping or getting lazy, and to continually strive for greater depth. This extreme attention to detail develops body awareness, and this doesn’t just end with the workout. When you practice body awareness that intently for a more than just a few minutes, it carries over into everything else that you do, including other workouts, sitting at a desk, driving, and any other activity you can imagine.
2. Improved shoulder and upper-back strength
One of the biggest challenges that people have when it comes to proper posture is the simple reality that their back doesn’t have the strength or endurance to hold their body upright for an extended period of time. You may have the strength to do 10 quick shoulder presses and then set your arms back down at your sides, but can you hold your arms overhead for 2 minutes without struggling? Chances are that it might be difficult unless you practice that regularly. There are certain postures in yoga that are awesome for building the upper-back and shoulder strength and endurance necessary to hold proper posture for an extended period of time. These exercises in particular include longer-held cobra poses, full locust, dolphin, and backbends in general, not to mention many others.
3. Improved chest and shoulder mobility
The sedentary world we live in kills your shoulder mobility. Whether it’s from sitting at your desk, driving in your car, or watching TV, most of us have shoulders that like to hang out in a rounded position. We also rarely lift our arms overhead or bring our arms behind us, which contributes to decreasing upper-body mobility. In yoga, you do postures that involve simple movements you don’t do on a regular basis that are necessary to maintain this mobility, such as lifting your arms overhead, extending your arms laterally, interlacing your fingers behind your back, and reaching your arms as far as you can behind you. These movements might not seem difficult, especially if we’re used to lifting weights or other more intense forms of exercise, but they are absolutely essential for keeping your shoulders and chest mobile. Improving chest flexibility, particular in your pectoral muscles, is also a big part of this. Rounding our shoulders causes our chest to get tight, and it makes our chest appear smaller than it really is – which of course sucks for posture and giving off confidence! Having good posture actually makes your chest look way bigger, without putting on any more chest muscle, by simply framing your shoulders on either side of your torso – instead of your shoulders rounded forward in front of the chest. Just like the development of body awareness, the more body awareness you develop in your shoulders while doing yoga, the more you’ll hold your shoulders in a proper position outside of yoga, giving you better posture, improving your mobility, and making your chest look bigger – without even needing bigger muscles to do so.
4. Core Strength
This is a big one. As it relates to posture, core strength gives us the ability to hold ourselves upright. Without it, you’d be in a constantly hunched position. (Maybe you already are.) Yoga is awesome for developing core strength because your core is active in every posture that you do in yoga. (This is something I constantly reinforce in my instruction so you never forget it!) Full body exercises, balance postures, twists, and backbends are amazing exercises for your core that you won’t encounter as often in other workouts. There are also certain postures in yoga that involve movements you won’t find in traditional workouts. One example in particular is “boat pose”, which is extremely effective for strengthening your transverse abdominals in particular (the deep layer of abdominal muscle behind your six-pack muscles). I have been an athlete my entire life, have been involved in weight training since I was 15, dabbled in gymnastics, and most forms of fitness you can think of, but I had not experienced anything in my abs like boat pose until I first did it in a yoga class. (Check out a picture and video walkthrough of boat pose below, and try it out for yourself! Make sure to keep your back totally flat.) Yoga also helps to strengthen your abs through backbending exercises, which happens to be my next point.
As the saying goes – “Healthy spine, healthy body.” Backbending is something that you rarely do in any other form of exercise. You may spend a minute or two doing backbends in an ab workout, but rarely is it something you focus on for an extended period of time. Backbending is an integral part of any comprehensive yoga workout. Backbending done properly is always accompanied by constant core engagement to protect your spine, as well as the continuous push and pull of lengthening your spine while inhaling, and deepening the arch of the backbend while exhaling. The reason why this is so important in today’s world is because of the position in which we usually find ourselves – a rounded, flexed spine. Most of us spend a minimum of 6 hours per day in this position thanks to sitting in an office or driving, and this has a hugely negative effect on our posture. In order to counter this position, you need to do A LOT of backbending. It’s also important to mention that intensity does not make up for time, meaning that if you spend 6 hours per day in a rounded position, you can’t expect that 2 minutes of intense backbending will successfully counter that 6 hours of bad posture. The only long-term solution (assuming you don’t want to spend 6 hours a day in a backbend) is by making better posture a regular part of your life. Fortunately, the more you practice yoga, the more your body becomes accustomed to backbending, and over time you start to notice your spine naturally gravitating toward a more neutral spine. And this, of course, brings me to my next point.
6. The emphasis on proper spinal positioning
A neutral spine is the position we should strive to be in for the majority of our day, and the only way to do this is through deliberate practice. (Deliberate practice means active improvement. It’s not just going through the motions – it’s pushing yourself to do your best every day, every minute, and every second of each pose.) Many of the postures found in yoga do exactly this, and just like proper shoulder positioning and increased body awareness, the more accustomed you become to practicing neutral spinal alignment in your yoga workouts, the more mindful you become of maintaining that neutral spinal alignment in your day to day life. That means that if you can make yoga a consistent part of your weekly (I usually recommend at least 100 minutes per week), maintaining a neutral spine becomes something you don’t need to think about – it’s just something your body automatically does.
Most yoga programs have a general full-body approach. They also tend to do a LOT of forward folds, and not enough backbending, which is the exact opposite of what most of us need. Typical yoga workouts also tend to take 60 minutes, which, if you have an hour to do yoga every day is great, but not so great if you have other workouts you want to do, or only 30 minutes to work out. Not to mention, you’re not sure what you’ll get at a studio. You might have an awesome instructor who walks you through every aspect of the pose, tells you what you should be feeling, and constantly reinforces what your body should be doing – but you might also get an instructor who doesn’t spend as much time talking about the physical aspects, and leaves you guessing most of the time.
I want to invite you to test out my newest program – a 12-week program specifically designed to address all of the points mentioned above, to make perfect posture a habit, strengthen your core, upper-back, shoulders, and spine, and help you project confidence.
I’ve been working on this posture program for about a year now, ever since I first hosted my “Beat the Desk” Workshop in Seattle, and it’s available exclusively through the Man Flow Yoga Members’ Area now.
Introducing: THE POSTURE FIX
Make perfect posture a habit – not just something you practice once a day, but a habit that seeps into your daily life. Workouts start off easy and build in difficulty as the weeks go on. You’ll get a chance to improve and retest yourself on a weekly basis, with enough familiar workouts to measure your progress, and enough new workouts to continually challenge you to improve.
Concerned about time? Don’t worry, I thought about that, too. Fix your posture, build strength and mobility, and boost your confidence in just around 30 minutes per day, with one short and one medium-length workout (one for the morning and one for later in the day).
Combining it with another workout program? Each and every one of these workouts can also be used as a warm-up for your other workouts. Whether it’s for weight training, running, pick-up sports, or triathlon training, you can use these workouts to prepare your body for efficient, injury-free exercise, and a better overall workout.
I’ve also added a few longer supplementary workouts, so if you want to do workouts on off-days, you can!
Here’s what the program will do for you:
- Help you make good posture a daily, hourly habit
- Build core strength, improve balance, increase mobility, and make your entire body stronger.
- Get rid of computer neck or other spine-related back pain
- Boost your confidence with better posture – other people notice, too!
Here’s what it requires from you:
- Between 30 – 40 minutes per day, 5 days per week
- 2 daily workouts – a shorter 10-15 minute workout, and a medium 20 – 30 minute workout
- 12 weeks
- Internet access (or not – you can also get download access to the workouts for an additional cost – you then get these workouts for life)
This program is for you if:
- You work at an office or have a sedentary job, have poor posture, or experience shoulder, neck, or lower-back pain.
- You’re relatively new to yoga, and want technique-focused instruction
- You want to strengthen your neck, spine, and shoulders.
- You want to better posture to feel more confident.
- You would like to increase your body awareness, build core strength, and improve your balance.
- You can manage two short daily workouts (one 10-15 minute workout, and one 20-25 minute workout)
- You’d like to keep up your other workouts, but want to do yoga, too.
The Posture Fix is also available in the
Man Flow Yoga Members’ Area.
Get instant, unlimited access to The Posture Fix, all other workouts, programs, tutorials, and more for just $1 with the 7-Day Trial.
Check out a FULL sample workout from The Posture Fix below!!
Interested in more but not quite ready to sign up? Check out the Man Flow Yoga YouTube channel by clicking on the video above to see other great videos and learn how fitness-centric yoga can help improve your posture, make you stronger, and get you in better shape.