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Stand up straight: Stretches that improve posture

Elaina is a Phoenix-based freelance writer, blogger and co-founder of the Kidlee baby book app. Check out her blog, Fun Finds For Mom, for product reviews, recipes and fun activities for moms and kids.

The power of posture

Of course standing up straight makes you look better, but did you also know it can make you feel better? It's time to step away from your keyboard and strengthen your back and core. Here are three stretches that will help you harness the power of good posture.
Woman with perfect posture sitting with book on head

Benefits of good posture

A 2011 study conducted by Scott Wiltermuth, assistant professor of management organization at the USC Marshall School of Business, and Vanessa K. Bohns, postdoctoral fellow at the J.L. Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, showed that good posture helped people feel stronger. Specifically, a dominant posture (sitting or standing up straight, pushing your chest out and expanding your body) resulted in a feeling of power and the ability to withstand more pain. On the flip side, the submissive posture (slumping or curling up in a ball) could make emotional or physical pain worse.

Ready to stretch, straighten and supercharge your strength? Grab a yoga mat and try these three posture-improving stretches, demonstrated here by Rina Jakubowicz, owner of Miami-based Rina Yoga and author of Choose Peace.

Stretch #1: Salabasana (Locust)

Locust1

Variation 1: Lie on your stomach and extend your legs behind you. Bring your arms out in front and cup your hands. Bring your forehead onto the floor to lengthen the cervical spine. Inhale and lift your legs, arms and head slightly while tucking your chin under slightly. Hold for five breaths. Exhale and come down slowly.

Locust2

Variation 2: Now place your arms out to the side like you are making a “T” with your body. As you inhale, lift your legs, arms and head again. Hold for five breaths, then exhale and come down slowly.

Locust3

Variation 3: Place your arms by your side with your palms facing up. On your inhale, lift your legs and head, chin slightly tucked under. Keep your hands pressing into the floor so that you have leverage to push off. Squeeze the shoulder blades together. Take five deep breaths, then exhale and come down.

Stretch #2: Navasana (Boat Pose)

Navasana

Come to a seated position. Make sure you are sitting on your sit bones and not your tailbone. Lift up your legs and chest. Extend your arms and legs. You are trying to create a “V” with your body. Hold for five deep breaths. As you exhale, cross your ankles, hug your knees into your chest and hold. Repeat this exercise three times. You can do this with your legs bent at the beginning, and work toward straightening your legs more each time you practice this pose.

Stretch #3: Samastitihi (Mountain Pose)

Samastitihi

“The most important pose and the fundamental pose for your entire practice is Samastitihi, or Mountain Pose,” says Jakubowicz. “If you do this pose incorrectly, you will do all the other poses incorrectly. So practice Mountain Pose as much as possible throughout your daily activities and you will find a lot of benefit in the rest of your body and general sense of well-being.”

Stand with toes and heels touching or with your feet hip-width apart. Press into the four corners of your feet by lifting the toes to activate the feet. Lift your knee caps up. Spiral your thighs into each other. Tuck your tailbone slightly under to make the lumbar long. If you already tend to tuck under, then you will need to tilt the tailbone out instead. Engage your core.

Draw your ribs into your spine. Draw your shoulders back and down away from your ears, but make sure your ribs don’t stick out when you do this. Keep them in line. Extend your fingertips toward the floor and activate your arms. Tuck your chin just slightly in toward the chest so that your neck is long. Don’t look down or up — just straight. Lift the crown of the head (the spot where you would balance a book) toward the ceiling. Breathe deeply.

Want more?

This video guides you through six yoga poses that will help improve your posture.

More exercise and nutrition tips

Pre-workout foods that burn more fat
Post-workout snacks that fuel afterburn
The anti-inflammatory diet: Eating foods to heal your body

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