My first yoga instructor taught me the importance of improving my posture. "The heart should be open to the world. The chest should protrude and the shoulders remain relaxed. This portrays a sense of confidence to the world," she said. A college professor informed me about body language, and this powerful tool for communication had a stronger message for the world than words.
Yoga can improve spinal health as well as posture. The secret to improving posture is an awareness of the body and chakras. When the body is under stress, there is a tendency for the shoulders to rise. The chest sinks inward, causing the breath to become shallow. Postures such as Camel Pose, Bow Pose, Bridge Pose, Wheel Pose, and Upward Facing Dog are excellent ways to open the chest. Eagle Pose, Dolphin Pose,and Rabbit Pose alleviate tension in the shoulders.
Chakra meditation is another way to improve posture. Begin at the base of the spine with the root chakra. This chakra contains energy related to survival. It is associated with the spine, legs, feet, and large intestine. People with deficiencies in this chakra often live more in their head and have active imaginations. Circumstances that disrupt this chakra include relocating, changing jobs, and uprooting the home or family life. Seated Forward Bend, Corpse Pose, and Standing Forward Bend open the first chakra.
Then move up the spine to the second chakra, the ruler of emotions and relationships. A gentle, restorative practice is perfect for energy deficiencies or excesses in this chakra. Body parts associated with it include the hips, genitals, bladder, and kidneys. Cow Pose, Pigeon Pose, and Bound Angle Pose are all work to open the hips.
Now move up the spine until the naval or solar plexus chakra is located. This chakra rules digestion and metabolism. Sun Salutations are an excellent way to get this chakra going. Boat Pose is also a helpful pose, as well as pranayama.
The fourth chakra is the heart chakra. It deals with how we connect to the world and people around us. It greatly affects posture. Opening the heart requires trust and surrender. It takes practice to learn to balance loving others with the need to love ourselves.
The fifth chakra is the throat chakra, and it rules communication. Fise Pose, Camel Pose, and Bridge Pose work to open this chakra. Communicating through art, music, or words can make the voice heard.
The sixth chakra is the third eye. It rules intuition as well as art. The head is associated with this chakra. I read a yoga instructor once made her students wear blindfolds during an entire class to work this chakra! The students said they actually enjoyed the experience because they were less distracted by other students and less judging of themselves and others. They also reported profound insights about their bodies and lives because they were more deeply directed inwards.
The final chakra is located at the very top of the head. It is the crown charka that connects us to the world. It represents the balance between spirituality and materialism. Kundalini yoga is a great practice to awaken this chakra.