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Mandy

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Who here spends their days looking down at their laptops, phones, and work? Anyone guilty of having poor posture constantly and only correcting it if they notice how they look in the mirror or in pictures? I know that as a student I am forever in a seated position looking down at my textbooks, laptop, and notebooks (with probably the worst posture ever seen). This perpetuation of poor posture can develop into an upper thoracic hump (also known as kyphosis or Dowager’s Hump) if not addressed and corrected!

We all know by now that yoga has the ability to strengthen, lengthen, and correct various imbalances that may occur within our bodies over the years. This being said, it’s no surprise that yoga can help us correct poor posture and upper thoracic humps! Over the years, I have had a number of yogi friends and students discuss their bad posture habits and how they can become more cognizant to making these corrections throughout their busy days. Throughout this article I have outlined what poses to try out to reverse this kyphosis (and poor posture), poses to strengthen weakened muscles, and products that may help you as you utilize the power of yoga to correct poor posture and your (perhaps developing) upper thoracic hump.

What is Dowager’s Hump/Upper Thoracic Hump/Kyphosis?

Dowager’s Hump/Upper Thoracic Hump/Kyphosis are all pertaining to the same medical condition – essentially a hump on the upper part of the spine (right where the top of the shoulder blades lie on top of the vertebrae). In past years, this over-curvature of the thoracic spine has impacted older individuals, but recently it has been affecting younger individuals as well. With poor posture and weak spinal support muscles, the vertebrae slowly create an unnatural curvature. Postural kyphosis can be prevented and reduced with a strengthening regime of weakened muscles to support better posture.

How can yoga help?

Not only does yoga help to facilitate flexibility, but it also aims to strengthen the soft tissue our bodies are made of. Like I stated above, postural kyphosis can be prevented and reduced by targeting those weakened muscles that encourage poor posture. As poor posture is displayed, the front of the body (specifically the chest) have muscles that lose length and therefore need to be stretched out. Yoga is a two-for-one, helping yogis to both strengthen weakened muscles that will help to support the spine, and lengthen those shortened muscles that may be pulling the shoulders forward, and all you need is your yoga mat (check out the MB Zen Sports yoga mat which was specifically designed to improve your posture, among other goodies).

Yoga Poses to Bust your Hump

1) Locust Pose

Timing: Stay in this pose for at least 4-6 breaths with comfortable breathing. If you feel ease stay in this pose as long as you are relaxed.

Benefits of doing this pose include:

Strengthening the entire backside of your body (addressing weaknesses that may facilitate poor posture)

Lengthens front body muscles (shoulders, abdomen, chest cavity, quadriceps)

– Stimulates digestion

2) Cat-Cow Pose

Timing: Stay in cat pose for about 3-5 seconds (aka one exhale) before flowing into cow for about 3-5 seconds (aka one inhale). Flow through this at your leisure.

Benefits of doing this pose include:

Increase flexibility of spinae erector muscles, shoulder, and musculature in neck

Lengthens muscles within abdomen, heart center, and hips

Improves the flexibility of the spine as the curvature is fluidly moving between postures

3) Bridge Pose

Timing: As long as you are staying true to your breath, feel free to hold this pose for about 5 to 15 complete breaths.

Benefits of doing this pose include:

Stretches the supporting musculature of the spine, chest cavity, neck, and pelvis

– Helps to improve blood circulation throughout the body

Strengthens the back, the tush, and hamstrings

4) Fish Pose

Timing: If you are holding unsupported fish aim to stay within this pose between 15 to 30 seconds, honoring your breath. For supported fish (utilizing blocks) allow your body to melt into the blocks and hold for as long as you would like.

Benefits of doing this pose include:

– Helps to “push back” forward rounded shoulders

Opens up your heart and throat centers

Strengthens the length of your neck and upper back (top thoracic and cervical vertebrae)

5) Cow Face Pose

Timing: If possible, aim to stay in this posture for about 1 minute (per side). Remember if you are ever feeling pain, gently release outside of the pose.

Benefits of doing this pose include:

Helps to strengthen spinal support muscles and abdominal cavity

Increases flexibility within pelvic girdle (hips and thighs) AND upper extremity (deltoids and triceps)

– Improve ankle and knee mobility

Other (Non-Yoga) Products to Try Out

 If you’re looking to carry over these posture principles and implement them into other aspects of your life (such as your workplace) then look no further! There are multiple products on the market today that can help to impact your posture off of your yoga mat and in your cubicle!

1) Balance Ball Chair

Stability balls in a chair form have been popular in the past 5 to 10 years. These chairs boast claims such as improving core strength, increase productivity rates, and facilitate better posture!

2) Posture-Correcting Back Brace

Back braces can be very discrete ways of correcting your posture, especially when you’re out and about (i.e. living your life off the mat). There are numerous braces to choose from, but an effective posture-correcting brace will help to relieve strain on your upper extremity joints that cause us to slouch!

3) Yoga Strap

This is one of my absolute favorite yoga hacks, and can be a great way to adjust your posture if you have a yoga strap laying around your home. Check out this step by step guide to keep your heart shining forward, shoulders in check/where they should be, and posture perfect.

Posture this, posture that – I remember a few years ago before I started my yoga and graduate career I didn’t understand why posture was so emphasized wherever I turned. But the truth of the matter is, if you neglect your posture you are setting yourself up for a long line of future health complications, including upper thoracic hump. By using the above postures, tools, and yoga as a whole you are taking a proactive step towards lifelong health. Practice yoga, change your posture and lifestyle, stand up tall! Remember to check out our yoga mat to hack your posture while doing yoga effortlessly.

How many of you out there are guilty of having bad posture? Have you noticed a forward head posture or Dowager’s Neck? What yoga poses have helped you with your posture? Do you have any other helpful recommendations for those out there struggling with sitting up straight?

Thanks as always for writing about all of your personal experiences! I love having the opportunity to read about your lives and how yoga has helped.

Mandy

Occupational Therapy student Mandy Fabry always had a passion for yoga. Trading in her traditional role as a student to begin her journey as an instructor and blogger. She projects an air on lightness and celebrates each body, breath, and movement. Her background not only nourishes the physical body, but restores the soul as well. Appreciating the body as a whole is Mandy’s main focus, and will bring awareness and balance to all aspects of your life. She is excited to take this next step with you, and hopes that the benefits and lifestyle of yoga can be accessed by all.