Bad Posture? Tension Patterns? Let Them Go!

A large amount of us suffer from kyphosis. A postural problem which is easy to spot; a rounding in the upper (thoracic) spine, a 'hunching' if you will. This is present in pretty much everyone (unless you're a trained ballerina or have been practising yoga for a loooong time). It's a life long subconscious muscle pattern which is difficult (not impossible) to break. So in the post I'm going to go over some factors which may influence it and some conscious awareness and yoga poses which can help to overcome it-once practised regularly of course.

First thing is, try to establish where the problem is originating from. This could be any number of factors-weak back muscles, weak core, holding tension, big bust size, overcompensation for weight held on the torso, over-built pectoral muscles, as well as a whole host of psychological issues which have affected you during your life-all of these instances can play a part in how you hold yourself. So really think about it, what does your history say about your current posture. More often than not I find that people hold a lot of tension in the upper back. Especially when driving, sitting at a desk, carrying bags around etc. It's a coping mechanism to perform whatever tasks we are carrying out and a lot of the time we don't even realise we're doing it. Another MAJOR factor these days is people bending almost 90degrees at the cervical spine to look at their phones. This is a small movement which is carried out repeatedly and is adding to the postural kyphosis problem, as well as adding tension to the thoracic region.

So scan yourself, repeatedly. I mean two, three, even four hundred times per day. Scan your spine. When you begin to do this you will very quickly ascertain whether or not you're holding tension and when you're holding it. The idea is to become aware of this subconscious muscle pattern and consciously let it go, releasing the tension each time you check in with your spine. This alone will begin to improve your posture, however, strengthening the area and making it properly equipped to support the weight around it is just as crucial.

In a yoga practice, we move the spine in every direction consistently. We use the muscles surrounding the spine to perform these movements, therefore we are encouraging awareness throughout the area responsible for our posture. Particularly beneficial yoga asanas (postures) for correcting rounding I the spine are:
Boujangasana (baby cobra)
Salabasana (locust)
Dhanurasana (bow)
Urdhva Dhanurasana (upward bow)
Ustrasana (camel)
All of these poses are encouraging the spine to move in the opposite direction to which we are used to slouching in. They also focus on opening the shoulders and moving the scapulae back and down. If tight shoulders are a factor in your posture, poses like extended puppy pose can really help to create more space.

When strengthening the back body in this way it's also important to balance it by spending time on the front body. You wouldn't work one leg and not the other, this is no different. Stabilising the core and conditioning it will improve posture ten fold. Holding poses like plank, downward dog and boat pose will gradually build up the strength needed to support the spine properly.

If you notice you are suffering from a postural issue, it's not too late to fix it. However, if it is ignored it will progress slowly and worst case scenario a hunchback is the outcome. If you take the time to regularly move the spine, like in a yoga practice, you will learn to sit up straight without even thinking about it-this does take time and commitment, but is so invaluable to your spinal health. If you would like to learn more about how to correct your postural problems, I'm holding a Heart Reset workshop on September 17th which will focus on correcting postural kyphosis. All info can be found on the bookings section of my website.

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