Does slouching behind the desk and hours spent sitting behind the wheel sound familiar to you? If the answer is yes, you’ll love these easy yoga moves, which will help you improve your posture and keep your spine healthy for years to come.
Simple Side Stretch
To keep your spine happy and healthy, you need to pay attention to the muscles surrounding it. Stretching them on the regular promotes better blood flow, which allows fresh oxygen to enter every cell and nourish it from inside out.
Starting in a standing position, feet together and hands by your sides, take a moment to feel your feet digging into the ground. Activate your leg muscles, lift your knee caps, and try to stay still, finding a focal point in front of you or even challenging yourself by closing your eyes. Take a few deep breaths here and use your heels to push the ground away from you; start elongating your spine all the way through the crown of your head.
On your next inhale, lift your arms over your head and clasp your palms, stretching your whole body. Bring your shoulders down and create space for your neck; on your next exhale, slowly start bending to one side, compressing into your lower back and abs. In turn, this will stretch out the other side of your body. Keep breathing. Use your inhales to grow tall by pushing both feet firmly into the ground, and use exhales to go a little bit deeper into the stretch. Try to control your hips and keep them squared, only slightly pushing them to the side, to intensify the stretch. Stay here for 3-5 long breath cycles, and on your next inhale, bring your body back to center before repeating on the other side.
Cat and Cow Pose
The cat and cow sequence is a crowd favorite because it’s just as great for waking up the body as it is for bringing some movement after a full day spent in the same position. What’s great about it is how individual it can be for every person as they move their body in all planes and directions.
Starting on all fours, bring your palms right under your shoulders and your knees right under your hips. Keep them nice and stacked and first just push your palms into the floor, feeling the resistance; try to bring your spine to a neutral position by lifting your belly button up towards your spine and creating space in between your shoulder blades. You can look straight down and feel the elongation of your neck, or you can gaze forward and start to open your chest.
From here, inhale and gaze up toward the sky, letting your belly fall down and creating a big curve in the posterior part of your body. Exhale, and do the complete opposite—gaze toward your belly button and round your spine as much as you can. Inhale and gaze up again, accentuating the curve; exhale and gaze down, rounding your spine the other way. Keep on flowing through inhales and exhales and feel your movements getting bigger as your muscles loosen up. You can stay here and continue following your breath, or you can increase your range of motion by adding some side stretches or even full-body circles. This is where the individuality of the pose comes to light—enjoy moving and flowing. Make it feel good.
Twist Your Body
Yoga twists have incredible energizing and detoxing characteristics. By wringing out the spine, twists massage the inner organs and bring a surge of fresh blood to every cell in the body. Additionally, they’re great for improving your posture because you’re constantly working to elongate and stretch your spine, creating space in between your vertebrae.
Start in a comfortable seat, legs extended in front of you, sitting bones digging into the floor. Inhale your arms over your head to stretch out all four sides of your torso and to feel the lift all the way from your pelvis to your head. Bring your hands back down, bend your right knee, and grab it with your left hand, crossing it over your left leg. Place your right hand behind your seat, palm facing down. You can keep your left leg extended or bend it, placing your left foot as close to your seat as possible. Inhale, and use your right hand as leverage to push the floor away from you and elongate your spine, feeling both of your sitting bones firmly pressing into the floor. Exhale by getting deeper in the twist and bringing your right knee as far to the left as possible without lifting your right hip. Turn your head towards the back, and work on opening your chest and shoulders. Inhales elongate your spine—exhales get you deeper in the twist. Inhale; exhale. That’s all there is to it.
Slowly come back to center by bringing your right leg to meet your left, and switch it up: Your left leg bends and crosses over the right to start twisting again. You can stay in the twist for as long as you want, feeling the constant elongate/twist action. Let your breath guide you through it.
This pose is a great alternative to cobra or upward facing dog because it doesn’t require a lot of back muscle flexibility and avoids putting too much pressure on your wrists. Start by lying on your mat, belly facing down, hands by your sides. Bring your chin to your mat and place your palms right under your shoulders. Replace your palms with your elbows, and leave them there; or try bringing them an inch or two towards your rib cage, stretching out your chest along the way. Keep your lower body on your mat and firmly press the tops of your feet into the floor, creating a full-body lift. Press your palms into the mat and inhale by trying to bring your torso through your arms, without actually moving your body forward. The idea is to stretch out the shoulders and chest as naturally as possible.
When your posture is off, your shoulders tend to curve inwards and round your upper back, which has been linked to tension headaches and neck pain. Sphinx pose works on counteracting the symptoms and helping you release the overly tight muscles.
Implement these easy yoga moves in the morning when you wake up, or whenever you feel like you didn’t move much throughout the day. Keeping the spine mobile and improving the blood flow of the muscles surrounding it is crucial for maintaining overall health and longevity goals.