Yoga Wellness educator. Hatha yoga, meditation, pilates, Reiki. Oracle card reader. Gateway Dream Guide. Yoga Therapy foundations program.
Align With Yoga Poses
In his Structural Yoga Therapy book, Mukunda Stiles cited Tinbergen, who won the Nobel Prize in 1973 for studying how posture affects all the physiological systems in our body. The neuromuscular system, endocrine system, immune system, and respiratory system all reflect changes in posture. Tinbergen gave the example of how “an imbalance in leg length of even a quarter of an inch … can change the actions of the jaw muscles” which “can create an overbite”.
Body alignment lets you move all your body parts together. Stretching or moving the more flexible parts of your body and neglecting the more rigid ones will lead to an incorrect posture. When done correctly, yoga helps with proper alignment.
Posture is the way you hold your body when standing, sitting, or lying down. To have a good posture means that you need to always hold yourself in a way that puts the least strain on your back.
We all know that sitting too much is bad for health. But standing or sitting improperly is worse as it can impact the health of the spine, joints, and organs. The diaphragm and abdominal muscles protect the internal organs of the body. In the chest, these organs are the heart and lungs. In the abdomen, they are the liver, pancreas, and intestines. With misalignment, they weaken and become less able to support the spine.
When we align our spine in a correct way, our body is in one line from the head to the shoulders and back, and the hips, knees, and feet. Having proper alignment can help us avoid long-term pain.
Body Alignment – Instructions
- Sit on a firm cushion or a folded blanket about 6-inches high.
- Cross your legs so that your knees are as close to the floor as possible and the hips slightly elevated.
- Make sure that your weight is equally distributed on the two sides of your buttocks.
- Lift the area between your hips and your waist, then the area between your waist and your shoulders. Lengthen the nape of the neck and have your chin slightly tucked in.
- Imagine a red balloon hovering above your head pulling the crown of your head toward the ceiling.
- Stay in this aligned posture for 30 seconds at a minimum.
Yoga for the Ribs
Ribs 8 to 10 connect to each other by loose fibrous tissue. They are not directly connected to the sternum like the other ribs. This makes them vulnerable to strain, injury, or hyper-mobility.
Yoga chest openers, side stretches, and gentle back-bends help strengthen our connective tissue and increase flexibility in the intercostal muscles that wrap between the ribs.
Five-Pointed Star – Instructions
This pose lengthens, opens the whole body; realigns the spinal column, and opens the chest which helps to improve blood circulation and breathing.
Caution: Do not do this pose or be careful when you do it if you have had a recent or chronic injury or inflammation of the knees or shoulders.
- Stand with your feet a comfortable distance apart and gently squeeze the muscles of the hips and thighs to make a solid pelvic base.
- The feet should be under the wrists, facing forward and parallel. Feel the legs strong and solid, rooted into the floor.
- Raise the arms to shoulder height with the arms out to the side.
- Press your weight into the feet, pull up the kneecaps and squeeze the thighs, tuck in the pelvis slightly.
- Reach out through the fingertips, as if you are trying to touch the sidewalls. Relax the shoulders down and back away from the ears, gently opening the chest towards the front of the room.
- Observe the sensations in your body.
- Press the crown of the head up towards the ceiling. Look straight ahead with the chin parallel to the floor.
- Inhale deeply into the abdomen and chest.
- Exhale and gently press into your feet, fingers, and crown, feeling your body expanding out in five directions.
- Keep breathing and hold for a minimum of 3 breaths.
- To release, bring your toes in then the heels in, toes in, and heels in until you come back into a standing position.
Yoga for the Hips
Poses to correct hip misalignment are the butterfly, cat/cow and a modified pigeon poses.
Butterfly Pose for Hip Opening – Instructions
- Sit on the floor with your spine erect
- Lift your stomach
- Bring heels together as close to your buttocks as possible.
- Hold your feet.
- Flutter your knees in a gentle manner.
- Now press your left inner thigh with your left elbow and lower the knee down.
- Straighten up and press your right inner thigh with your right elbow and lower your knee down.
- Repeat this a few times.
Yoga for the Hips
Cat/Cow Movement – Instructions
This pose is good for the back and hips. It lengthens the spine and stimulates the kidneys and the adrenal glands.
Do not attempt this pose if you have recent or chronic back pain or injury.
- Come to the floor on your hands and knees.
- Place the knees hip width apart, with the feet directly behind the knees.
- Place the palms of your hands directly under the shoulders with the fingers facing forward.
- Look down between the palms and allow the back to be flat.
- Press into the palms of the hand to move the shoulders slightly away from the ears.
- Press the pelvis towards the back wall and the crown of the head towards the front wall.
- From the table pose, exhale and tuck the pelvis under, round the spine and let the head drop down.
- Contract the abdominal muscles pushing the navel up.
- Press into the palms of your hands to drop the shoulders away from the ears and to reach the middle and upper back up towards the ceiling.
- Breathe and for 3 breaths, move between cat and cow poses, inhaling into cow and exhaling into cat.
- To release, inhale and flatten the back moving into table.
- From table pose, inhale and reach the pelvis up towards the ceiling, arching the spine and letting the belly drop down. Do not overextend the lumbar spine.
- Spread the fingers wide apart and press the palms into the floor.
- Drop the shoulders down from the ears and reach the crown of the head up towards the ceiling.
- Look straight ahead.
- Breathe and hold for 3 breaths, inhaling into the cow pose and exhaling into the dog pose.
Benefits of a Correct Posture
The best sitting position depends on the natural height of a person, the chair, and the activity done while sitting.
Many people spend the majority of their day sitting. They tend to sit when commuting, working in an office, studying, or relaxing at home. Prolonged sitting can cause a range of adverse health effects, including bad posture and back pain.
Correct posture can help by:
- Reducing strain on the body during movement and exercise
- Reducing wear and tear on the joints, muscles, and ligaments
- Maintaining balance while moving and exercising
- Reducing the risk of muscle strain and overuse conditions, and
- Improving the health of the spine.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Liliane Najm