Did your mom ever nag you to stand up straight? Mine did, and as it turns out, she was right (as moms usually are)- I should've stopped slouching long ago. My grandmother used to tell me to "Stand up straight!" and even my wedding coordinator told me, on our first meeting, to put my shoulders down. I guess I had noticeably poor posture, and truth be told, a lot of us have posture problems.
If you think about it, our environment isn't conducive to good posture. A lot of us sit at desks all day. Or we stand all day. Or our couches or beds are too soft (a bad thing, believe it or not!), or...the list goes on and on. Here's the thing. If you're sitting most of the day looking at a computer chances are your upper back hunches forward, your head is slightly forward and your chin is tilted down. This strains the back muscles, causing them to overstretch and weaken. The weight of your head being unnaturally forward also will cause tension in the neck muscles.
Another type of poor posture caused from sitting for a long period of time is a sway back. Prolonged sitting causes your hip flexors (the muscles in front of your hips) to shorten and bring about a forward tip of the pelvis. This causes a sway back, which contributes to a crunching in the lower spine and muscle tightness. Over time, the weight in the lower spine can cause back pain and arthritis. Fortunately, there are a few yoga poses that can help.
The first thing to do is recognize the natural curve of the spine. You'll see it in the middle picture of the set above. Your pelvis should be even, your shoulders slightly back, your head slightly back. Your fingers should be slightly forward. This is also known as Tadasana, mountain pose. Have someone look at your normal standing posture compared to the pictures above. Once you determine whether you slouch or have a sway back, you can do the poses below to help.
People who slouch need to increase the flexibility of the ribs and thoracic spine (click here to see where that is). Slouchers will also want to shorten and strengthen the muscles in the upper back. One pose that will help is cobra pose (above). Start laying on your stomach, hands under your shoulders. Inhale and draw the legs together, pressed into the mat, and exhale. On your next inhale, press evenly into the fingers, and peel the chest up using your back strength. You may not get very high. That's ok. Just be wherever you are. Breathe here for at least 30 seconds, with a goal of eventually holding it for 1-2 minutes.
Another pose to help slouchers is a supported backbend. (These feel so good!) Use a few firm cushions or two yoga blocks. Place one under the thoracic spine and one under the head. This opens up the chest, which is usually tight and collapsed in a sloucher. Stay here for at least 2 minutes.
Note that it will take a while to strengthen the muscles and train your body to hold itself up differently, and likely it may feel uncomfortable at first. This is because your muscles simply aren't used to the correct alignment. Pay attention to how you sit and stand and make a conscious effort to work on your posture. Stay persistent- Good posture can save you from arthritis, back pain, and of course, and moms everywhere will likely be pleased. :)