Sunday, November 10, 2013

Yoga Poses for Better Posture

I look forward to answering your questions in this blog.  Please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail your questions to

A yoga student asks:  “What are the best yoga poses to counter rounded shoulders and slouching?"

This posture issue is all too common in our world with computers, gardening, driving, knitting, and all of those activities that keep us in a forward folded position.   Every person’s structure is different, so I’d need to see your specific body to answer you most fully, but there are a few guidelines I can give.

Most people in America (about 75% according to my teacher, Gary Kraftsow) have excessive kyphosis (or rounding of the upper back.)   Additionally, most of us spend the majority of our time with our arms in front of us typing, holding babies, cooking, etc.  As a result, many people are tight in the front of the torso and weak and overstretched in the upper back.   

Therefore postures that strengthen the low and upper back muscles  are very important.   Those that stretch the front of the torso, specifically the shoulders, ribs and hips can also be very helpful.  It’s best to do this, at least in the beginning, with focused, targeted poses and movements versus stronger, more complex ones.

Since in Viniyoga there’s no one “right” way to do a posture, giving you the posture name is less helpful than talking about specific variations that address this.  But let me try to do both.  The photos show Whole Life Yoga students doing the poses and variations I’m talking about.

To strengthen the low back try the following:


Specific variations of the above can also nicely strengthen the muscles between the shoulder blades
(the arms are the relevant adaptation in this case, not the legs):


Variations in which you lift one leg and arm at a time are nice for bringing balance to an asymmetrical body and posture:

Warrior 1 is another great posture.  It stretches the front of the body while building some strength in the back.

Warrior with “Goal post arms” opens the front of the shoulders and strengthens the muscles between the shoulder blades:


Warrior done one arm at a time stretches the front of the ribs as well as a bit of the psoas and quadriceps:

A kneeling variation of warrior targets the psoas and quad in a nice way that counteracts the effects of sitting, but can be hard on the knees:


These are the places I would start.  And remember, work with a qualified yoga teacher who can assess your specific body and give you much more targeted advice than this!


Tracy Weber

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out my author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available for preorder now from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Whole Life Yoga, and other retailers!


Susan Kroupa said...

Good post and I'm printing it out!

It's cool that Gary Kraftsow was your teacher. His DVD Viniyoga for the Lower Back and Hips was my introduction to yoga--I've used it for several years. Now, I'm taking my first yoga class and loving it.

Susan Kroupa

Linda O. Johnston said...

I'd better aim for better posture, Tracy--especially after spending several days carrying babies!

Tracy Weber said...

Susan--glad you like Gary's video. I carry it at my yoga studio. The style he and I teach is very healing, and I hope you continue to love your yoga class.

Linda, between baby carrying and writing, good posture is a must!

Betty Hechtman said...

Better posture is always good.