I’m a big fan of yoga for many reasons, but especially for its contribution to better posture by increasing the chances of breathing biologically and positively stimulating the brain (positive neuroplasticity) through postural neurology.  Although, I’m not a fan of how yoga has been turned into a more intense exercise like hot yoga or power yoga for reasons I’ll explain below. Let’s dive into yoga for better posture, balance, if yoga can cause injury, how yoga is a collection of better posture exercises, how better posture is attainable through yoga exercises. If you want to learn how to get the most out of your yoga in regards to posture and balance, then keep reading! 

What Does Better Posture Do?

You may be wondering why improving posture or having good posture even matters. Unfortunately, what most people think good posture means is far from the truth; the hourglass curve and six-pack are more damaging than you realize and the attempt to stay upright by sticking the chest out is the dead give away that your brain has a hard time sending that command to the body!  We won’t discuss the the correlation of Bad Posture and Health here but understand that the general benefits are:

  • Proper breathing pattern 
  • Efficient internal organ function by allowing more room and movement within the body as designed at birth
  • Fewer aches and pains
  • Improved range of motion
  • Joint Health

Your posture is a window to your inner health and thankfully correct yoga poses add a tremendous amount of benefit in that direction. The fact that we have yoga centers everywhere is fantastic, however, many instructors are simply more flexible and are able to ‘duplicate’ a yoga pose while the attendees end up injuring themselves following them.

We live in a society that our lifestyle dictates the forward flexion pose. If you think about it, naturally when we are sad, in pain, and not confident, we tend to go to a more flexed, fetal pose. With the forward flexion pose there are:

  • Muscle imbalance (overly tight muscles and overstretched muscles)
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Decrease power output (weakness)
  • Pain
  • Tension
  • Headaches
  • Internal organ compression- explained later
  • insufficient breathing and oxygenation leading to overall homeostasis
  • postural imbalance
  • lack of confidence and trust in physical ability which may lead to other confidence issues over time

Traditional Yoga exercises include different types of breathing but most importantly when done correctly allow us to practice breathing biologically (see video below) and exercise our balancing and breathing centers of the brain which lead to better upright posture. When our joints are centrated as they are designed, when we move as designed, when oxygenated properly the inner functions of our body have a better chance of optimal performance. The healthier the person, the happier and more vibrant energy all major ingredients of charisma and confidence.

Can Yoga Improve Posture?

Although some basics of yoga promote and reinforce good posture, yoga alone will not correct the bad posture you’ve already developed. The good news is that we are all born with the blueprint for correct posture and functional movement although this ‘map’ referred to as Homunculus changes based on our lifestyle, injuries and limitations we may develop later on. Keep in mind that posture is directly proportional to how we move. Metaphorically speaking, evaluating the posture is like evaluating a concert for its soundness and performance. The body parts are musicians, the brain is the conductor and Homunculus is the musical notes that the conductor plays. Correcting your posture is a matter of addressing the homunculus and what parts may be negatively influenced and addressing the soft tissue restrictions or modification of movement as a result of factors like lifestyle, activities, injuries, and other similar factors.

Through Postural Neurology and Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS) not only the homunculus is assessed but the level of functional vs dysfunctional movement is evaluated. While soft tissue rehabs such as Active Release Technique, are used to ‘free up’ the major role players that will have to perform doing the functional movement exercises of DNS, I recommend pertinent yoga exercises as a way to heighten the appropriate weaknesses found during the Postural Neurology exam.

Can Yoga Cause Injury?

Just like with any form of movement, when doing yoga, there is a risk of injury, but also like other movements if you have the right form and stability you can reduce that risk. When we ‘mechanically’ try to duplicate a move, we cause injuries. You see, the brain sends the command for movement, the muscles contract, joints are involved and then body parts move. There is the right time and order of muscle involvement and engagement. The good news is this is automatic without our conscious mind deciding. That is the biological way of movement. In so many yoga sessions, people try to move their body to give advantage to a muscle whose function is absent or incorrect (not by design of course) and we try to hold a pose when we got ‘there’ the wrong way. That is when we have a hard time ‘holding the pose’ and end up injuring ourselves. The most injuries I see are in the neck, lower back, and hip areas. Here is an example:

This is why posture correction is valuable to everyone, but especially for people who work behind a computer all week then like to be active on the weekends. Sitting all day takes its toll, and while yoga is a great tool that may seem simple, it can be done incorrectly or taken too far. Another pose that people tend to injure themselves doing is Chaturanga. Some people do it perfectly, but the majority of people do not have the core stabilization (btw, your core is more than your ab and back) to perform this movement correctly without injuring themselves. This DNS pose, learned from 6-month-old babies is a great alternative:

In this move, the lower ab and lower back muscles work together to maintain a neutral spine and minimize the jamming in the lower back vertebra that lead to lower back pain.

Improve your balance with Yoga for Better Posture

Earlier I mentioned that yoga when done correctly (and not necessarily when you try to mimic what the yoga instructor does) positively activates our brain (positive neuroplasticity) and our breathing (biological breathing). Happens to be that the control center for breathing resides next to the part of the brain with the up-right-against-gravity command center. With the correct performance of yoga poses, you will be able to improve your posture over time and is a great adjunct to what it takes to fix any postural imbalances you may have. Yoga is not a replacement for any corrections that you may need but what it puts to practice what you have attained. Watch the video below to get a better understanding of this. 

Through yoga poses, the right and left side of the brain get to communicate to each other, a requirement that is at the foundational level of posture and balancing.

Remember, the best approach to a better health is avoiding what creates the imbalance, the next level is to make the corrections through postural neurology and functional movement. Finally, with yoga and repetition of the functional movement exercises, you will be able to enjoy a balanced and healthy life. For more videos with great posture tips and posture correction exercises check out my Youtube Channel. Remember, you are the Designer and the Director of your own life so design and direct it the way you want it.

Mamak Shakib