Good posture isn't just key to avoiding back pain -- it's also essential to looking your best and making a good impression in your professional and personal life. Exaggerated rounding of the upper back, clinically referred to as kyphosis, can have a variety of causes from osteoporosis and childhood diseases to habitual slouching, called postural kyphosis.
In most cases, therapy involves exercises that lengthen and strengthen the spine and open tight chest muscles. Yoga is an excellent, gentle method to lengthen and strengthen the weak and tight muscles that contribute to kyphosis, so you can feel and look better than ever.
Seated Spinal Twist
The emphasis in this posture is on lengthening the spine, pulling the shoulders back and down and strengthening the back and abdominals. All of these actions result in improved posture.
Sit on your mat with your legs extended in front of you. Bend your left knee and place your left foot outside your right thigh, just above your knee.
Grasp your left shin with both hands and pull in gently, extending the crown of your head up toward the ceiling to lengthen your spine. Roll your shoulders back, squeeze your shoulder blades together and then slide them down your back.
Maintaining this posture, release your hands. Position your left hand on the floor behind your left hip and place your right arm outside your left knee.
Press your right upper arm and left knee together, extend the crown of the head up even farther and rotate the torso to the left. Turn your head as far as your torso.
Take five to 10 deep belly breaths, then release. Switch to the other side.
This prone pose strengthens all the muscles of the back and opens the chest. The clasped-hand progression targets the upper back and shoulders and provides a deeper stretch for the chest.
Lie on your stomach with your legs extended and together and your arms extended alongside your body.
Exhale and lift your head, arms, chest and legs off the floor. Reach through your toes and fingers to lengthen the arms and legs. Keep the back of the neck long. Hold for five breaths, then return to your starting position.
Clasp your hands behind your hips. Zip your legs together and exhale as you lift your head, chest, shoulders and legs off the mat. Extend your arms as straight as you can, pull your shoulders back and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for five breaths and release.
Repeat the sequence two more times.
Weight-bearing, back-bending postures strengthen the back muscles needed to help hold the shoulders back for good posture. Bridge pose also helps stretch the chest muscles.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Position your arms alongside your body with your palms face down.
Press your feet into the mat and on an exhale lift your hips and back off the floor, so you're weight is on your feet and upper back. Lift your hips high enough that your thighs are just about parallel to the floor.
Stay here if this is enough for you, or clasp your hands together beneath your hips and extend through your arms. Roll the shoulder blades in and under.
Hold here for five to 10 deep breaths and release. Repeat one or two more times.
Crescent Moon Pose
This standing pose lengthens the spine and strengthens the entire core structure that supports the spine.
Stand up tall with your arms at your sides. Inhale as you raise your arms up overhead, with your biceps next to your ears. Press your palms together and contract your core muscles.
Reach up through your fingertips to lengthen your spine, then exhale as your bend over to the right pushing your left hip out to the left and arching your right side body as if you were bending it over a beach ball.
Keep your arms straight and pull your top shoulder back to open your chest to the side. Hold here for five breaths, then return to your starting position. Repeat on the other side, then return to starting position.
Inhale as you extend up toward the ceiling, then exhale as you bend backward slightly, keeping your knees straight and your lower back contracted. Allow your head to drop back and look at the wall behind you. Keep your biceps next to your ears.
Hold for two to five breaths and return to your starting position. Repeat the sequence one or two more times.