Get — and Keep — Amazing Posture by Doing These 10 Stretches Today
Did you know your posture has the power to make you look up to 10 pounds thinner? It's true! And that's just one of the many benefits associated with standing up straighter. Anything from projecting confidence to protecting your bones and ligaments from uneven wear and tear can be the result of better overall alignment.
The best part? You can start working on better posture today with these 10 simple stretches. (See also: Stop Slouching! 5 Ways to Improve Your Posture)
1. Cat / Cow
If you've ever been to a yoga class, this asana is one of the first in the sequence — so it's a perfect starter. Just get on your hands and knees with a neutral spine, then slowly alternate between Cat and Cow. Not only will these poses help with posture, but they will also give your core a good stretch and even improve your breathing. And if you've never been to yoga class, "asana" means posture or pose.
2. Downward Dog
Another yoga classic, Downward Facing Dog is a wonderful pose for stretching the spine. If you're in an actual yoga class, you might ask your instructor to evaluate your technique to find any postural imbalances and to help correct them. As I've heard many instructors say: It's not important if your heels touch the ground. Focus instead on your back and hip alignment.
3. Chin to Chest
Your neck also plays a large role in your overall posture. Stretching is super easy. While standing straight with a neutral spine, slowly lower your chin to your chest and hold for 30 seconds while inhaling/exhaling. Then return and repeat a few more times. It feels good because it's helping release those tense muscles! You can perform this stretch side to side as well with the same method. I've just been advised by yoga instructors not to roll my head into position to avoid compression of nerves and arteries.
4. Shoulders Back
One of the worst posture offenders is sitting, especially at a desk all day (sound familiar?). This upper back, neck, and shoulder stretch is quick and can be discretely performed in your chair at work. The presenter encourages people to perform this stretch every 20 minutes — so it's a great reminder to sit up straight and mind your posture. (See also: 10 No-Sweat Workouts Perfect for the Workplace)
5. Glute Bridge
The hips and overall pelvis are also a huge part of posture and definitely negatively impacted by sitting for long stretches. This comprehensive guide to fixing anterior pelvic tilt is beyond helpful and provides several stretches and exercises that promise to "make your butt and gut [appear] smaller." My favorite? The glute bridge.
6. Spine Stretch
This Pilates-based spine stretch is for beginners. The instructor has modified the stretch to be performed against a wall for "accountability" — in other words, to make sure your spine is straight. I also like her addition of leg variations to work on hamstring flexibility. After all, everything in the body is connected and can contribute to better posture.
7. Forward Fold
Lengthen your spine and stretch the back of your entire body by simply standing and bending into Uttanasana or Forward Fold. It can feel frustrating when trying to get your fingertips to touch the floor — so forget that part and just "cross your forearms and hold your elbows." The more times you perform this stretch over time, the better it feels (and the deeper you stretch).
Another Hatha yoga pose that enhances posture is the Cobra. The benefits of this position are twofold. First, it stretches shoulder, chest, and abdominal muscles. Second, it strengthens the spine, shoulders, and arms. Hissing and sticking out your tongue while in your cobra is optional.
9. Pectoral Stretch
Don't forget to stretch your pecs. The massage therapist leading this exercises challenges viewers to think of how we open our bodies into this soothing position. "Not often" is usually the answer. All you need is a doorway and a few minutes to get going.
10. Kneeling Hip Flexor
There's more love for the lower body with this essential stretch. The hip flexors are those muscles on the front of the pelvis, and they often get tight with sitting or too much exercise (as a runner, I can confirm!). Kneel down onto your knees, one foot in front, and then sink your pelvis toward the floor. That's all you have to do!
Do you have any favorite, posture enhancing stretches? Please share in comments!