Long days spent at the office are far from health-friendly. Not only is all that sitting killing us softly, clocking in so many hours on our behinds probably means we're bound to end up hunched over for most, if not all, of that time. Poor posture itself can bring on a slew of issues such as upper and lower back pain, lower confidence, and maybe even deeper depression.
To nix health woes and perk up a slouching back, we chatted with Terri Bahr, an instructor at Lyons Den Power Yoga in New York City, who revealed seven yoga moves to lengthen and strengthen the spine. Slip these poses into your daily routine, and you'll be standing taller (and gushing killer confidence) in no time.
Stand with feet together, arms at sides, and ground down all four corners of your feet. Draw the belly up and in as you move shoulders up and back. Inhale and exhale slowly for five to eight breaths and continue to elongate the spine, standing a little taller and straighter with each breath. "This may not feel like a yoga pose, but it is actually a very active posture. It is your best alignment and the way you should try and hold yourself all day," Bahr explains.
With feet wider than shoulder-width apart, place the left foot toward the front of the mat pointing forward and the right foot behind you at a 90-degree angle. Extend the torso down toward your left leg, placing your left hand on your shin or a block, right hand straight up toward the ceiling. Make sure the left shoulder is over the left foot and look up as you open up the chest. Hold for eight breaths, then switch sides. "Triangle pose has double the power because it's a forward bend and a twist, a shape that helps strengthen your whole back and fosters proper alignment," she says.
Begin on your stomach with palms on the mat, wrists directly beneath the elbows. Hug your elbows toward your midline and squeeze the shoulder blades together. Lift your chest off the mat, breathing in and out for eight counts.
Begin on your stomach with hands clasped behind your back. Lift your head, upper torso, arms and legs away from the mat and hold for eight breaths. Be sure to engage glutes and extend the legs strongly through your heels. "This is another great pose for strengthening the back. By extending the legs and the arms, you're strengthening the entire back body," she says. Breathe and hold for eight counts.
Begin on your back with feet on the ground and knees bent. Keeping thighs and feet parallel, with knees over your ankles, lift your backside off the mat. Clasp the hands underneath you and find length through the top of the shoulders, holding the pose for 10 to 12 breaths. In addition to working the core, "Bridge pose stretches the chest, neck, spine, and hips and helps improve circulation," she says.
Cow Face Pose
Sit evenly on the sit bones, with your left leg crossed over your right. On an inhale sweep the arms back, so that the right and left hands meet and clasp at your back, keeping the right elbow towards the ceiling and the left elbow down towards the mat. Hold for eight counts, then switch legs and alternate arms. You'll stretch almost every major muscle in the body, which in turn will open and lengthen both sides, correcting posture, Bahr explains.
Start in high plank position. Shift onto the left foot, stacking the right foot on top of the left. Keeping the left hand on the mat, extend the right straight up towards the ceiling. You'll also want to keep the left shoulder over the left hand and maintain your body in one straight line from heels to crown, no slumping. Breathe slowly for eight counts, then switch sides. "This pose works the entire body and allows you to elongate and stretch the spine from head to toe," she says.
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