Your body needs to be strong yet supple and flexible to maintain proper body alignment. A strong core will provide a good base for proper alignment, so doing a number of exercises on a regular basis that strengthen and build your core is a good idea, and can go a long way toward helping you maintain or regain proper body alignment.
Certain yoga poses will help you increase your flexibility and range of motion, as well as improve your body alignment. You can also gain many additional benefits from yoga, such as better circulation, reduced stress, improved mood, less chronic pain, better sleep, and increased protection from injury. All in all, incorporating exercises that help you strengthen your core, while also increasing flexibility, is a great start when it comes to improving your body alignment.
1. Side neck stretch. Sit on the ground with your legs crossed, your back straight, and your head facing forward. Bend your right arm over your head with your palm over your left ear. Very gently, pull your head laterally to the right side until you feel a nice stretch through the left side of your neck. Hold this stretch for five breaths and then repeat on the opposite side.
2. Forward and back neck stretch. From your seated position, continue your gentle neck stretches by letting your head drop slowly forward toward your chest. Feel a stretch through the back of your head and neck. Hold for five breaths and then bring your head back to the upright position. Next, let your head drop gently backwards until you’re looking up at the ceiling. Feel a stretch through the front of your neck and chest. Hold for five breaths and then return to your normal head position.
3. Spine Mobility. Begin on your hands and knees. Your palms should be flat on the floor, directly underneath your shoulders, with your fingers spread out. Next, sit back onto your heels and allow your left forearm to rest on the ground while placing your right hand behind your head. Rotate your back while twisting your head to the right and rotating your elbow upwards. Once you feel a good stretch through your spine, hold the movement for five deep breaths and then return to the start. Repeat on the opposite side.
4. Corner Stretch. This stretch for tight chest muscles can help reduce the tendency to round your shoulders and hunch your back. Simply loosening these muscles is a great way to begin improving your alignment. Start by standing in a doorway or a corner. Leaning slightly forward, place your forearms on opposing walls or corners and allow your body to lean forward, feeling a nice stretch through your chest and front shoulder muscles. Hold this position for three deep breaths and return to your normal standing position. Release and relax your shoulders. Repeat five times.
5. Hip Flexor Stretch. This stretch can really help with alignment as many people experience tightness through the hips, which can contribute to lower back pain and poor posture. Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart. Take a giant step forward with your right leg. With your hands on your hips, slowly bend your right knee. Your left leg will automatically begin to straighten and you should feel a stretch through the front of your left hip. Hold this position for five deep breaths and then push through your right heel to return to the standing position. Repeat on the opposite side.
6. Child’s Pose. This yoga stretch is helpful for releasing tension from your glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and neck while helping lengthen your spine. Sit back on your heels on the floor. Place your palms in front of you on the ground, face down, and slide them forward as you simultaneously move your hips backwards as far as you can. Once your torso is fully elongated and your forehead is resting on the ground, hold this position for five to ten deep breaths and then return to a seated position. If this is too much for your shoulders, place your forehead on a block or a pillow as you allow your back to fully relax. Depending on what feels more comfortable to you, you can keep your knees together or open them to rest your torso between your legs.
7. High Plank. As previously mentioned, good posture depends on having a strong and stable core. Begin this exercise on your hands and knees. Straighten your legs behind you so you are on your toes. Next, straighten your arms completely so they are about shoulder-width apart with your elbows lined up under your shoulders, palms down. Your body should be in a straight line. Hold this position for 20 seconds and then return to your hands and knees.
8. Downward Dog. Start by standing with your feet a little more than hip-width apart. Bend down and place your hands on the ground in front of you and walk them forward as you straighten your legs. Once your legs are completely straight, straighten your arms as well so your body forms an inverted “V.” Keep your ears aligned with your arms and enjoy the stretch you feel through your hamstrings, back, chest, shoulders, and arms. Hold this position for five deep breaths and then return to a standing or kneeling position.