Poor Posture Is Affecting Your Yoga

Poor Posture Is Affecting Your Ability To Fully Express Your Yoga.

If you are sitting at a desk right now, how is your posture? Are you snapping yourself upright as you read my words? If you are sitting in an office, how is the posture of your colleagues? You’ve probably heard whisperings of late – maybe even a few shouts – about the hazards of sitting. Not only is “Deskasana” bad for spine health, but other serious health consequences are also coming to light about being chair-bound for extended periods of time including – cancer, heart disease, even premature death.

Today, most people suffer from Deskasana or that all too familiar rounding mainly of the thoracic spine and associated misalignment of the neck. Because even if you work out, your training session only adds up to a few hours a week. And most people spend virtually ALL their other time sitting down…

• Eating meals? SITTING DOWN.

• Driving (or taking an Uber)? SITTING DOWN.

• Riding a train or plane? SITTING DOWN.

• At the office or in school? SITTING DOWN.

• Watching TV or reading a book? SITTING DOWN.

You get the idea.

The thing is, as humans we’re meant to move. We’re built for it. For instance, we have over 360 joints and about 700 skeletal muscles that allow to us move fluidly, our blood and nerve cells depend on us to move around, and our skin is elastic, stretching and bending with our movement.

When every inch of your body is waiting for you to move, what happens when you don’t?

  • While sitting the hips become overly stiff, putting the pelvis off balance which leads to poor spinal function and even pain.
  • Encourages a rounded, forward-flexed position by tightening the front body and the over-stretching/weakening of muscles in the back body. And it leads to poor shoulder function, the inability to take a full breath, and limited neck range of motion
  • Every 1 degree your head leans forward adds 10 pounds that your back muscles have to try and counterbalance in their weakened state.
  • Lower-leg musculature becomes inactive. This causes less-than-ideal circulation, which leads to congested tissues and reduced performance.

To Add to That.

Your brain is a supercomputer constantly being bombarded with environmental feedback and raw data. This data can come from emotional and mental stress as well as physical. Your brain decides how to respond and interpret that data, setting parameters for what it deems to be "safe". Over time your body has made adjustments in an attempt to maintain balance, conserve energy, and protect itself from the prospect of harm. From a physical standpoint adaptations to your muscles may not be the most functional, often resulting in a forced shortening of the overstretched weak muscles like the mid/upper back. 
  • Lack of elbow support while sitting leaves the elbows floating which causes your shoulder elevators to shorten and splint to conserver energy and reduce fatigue.
Energy use, nutrient flow, and waste removal are reduced in these muscles from prolonged contraction leading to local toxicity, inflammation, and pain.

Besides making your muscles and joints all cranky and stiff other risks of sitting for long periods of time can include contributing to heart disease, diabetes, liver and kidney issues. Studies have shown that sitting for long periods of time, over long periods of time, is linked to 9% of premature deaths worldwide – yikes!

This adapted posture doesn't just go away when you stand up. When you go to do your other non-sitting activities with your misaligned programming, those activities will also be originating from a place of unconscious imbalance, reduced joint mobility, and misleading pain alarms.

This is why you may have not had the success you were hoping to achieve in previous attempts to reduce pain and increase mobility or even saw the opposite.

How poor posture is affecting your ability to fully express your Yoga.

But I thought that's why I was doing yoga?

Has this ever happened to you?

Lowering into chaturanga you feel a twinge a pain between your shoulder blades and freeze. This is probably your mid-back muscles "contracting on the short". In order to lower down smoothly, the muscles that stabilize your shoulder need to work in a dance of controlled contract and controlled release. 
  • Back - In response to trying to maintain posture by holding the shoulder blade in place while sitting in a hunched position daily and fighting against the stronger chest muscles. The muscles of your back often forcefully shorten and become easily irritable.
  • A short muscle is also a weak muscle since it is already contracted it cannot go any further and is not really exerting strength it's just trying to splint/guard. These muscles should be moving passively allowing for smooth controlled positioning of the shoulder. The shortened adaptation instead results in jerky spastic movement or a pain response in an attempt to stop any further movement to protect from the prospect of harm.
  • Side - The muscles of the mid back also receive a lot of referred pain from other shoulder stabilizing muscles which are needed and more active in this pose. These muscles are also commonly affected by posture. If the muscles of your side ribs (Serratus Anterior) are tight which can also mean weak it is harder for them to do their job stabilizing the shoulder blade keeping it from winging out and pulling the shoulder blade forward, further contributing to the rounded posture.
  • Shoulder blade position is key for shoulder mobility. When these muscles are misaligned the shoulder often gets pulled forward and wings out. This reduces ROM and can lead to pain as joint spaces are compressed and muscles that pass through the space are also compressed or can become frayed with prolonged friction. This is what often gets mistaken for Rotator Cuff damage and Frozen Shoulder.
  • Trigger points can develop in the Serratus Anterior muscle which refers pain to the area between your shoulders causing you to stop movement, for fear of pain and injury from a false signal being sent by a different muscle.
  • Front - In order to do poses like Bow, Camel, Cobra, Cow, Fish, Locust, Lord of the Dance the muscles of the back need to be able to contract gracefully and without pain to allow the shoulder to move and the chest to open and stretch. Thus releasing the tight chest muscles that have been winning the tug of war and contributing to the forward slumped posture.
  • Opening the chest is important for reducing the constant signals being sent to the back muscles that they need to splint and fight back. But you can't open the chest if the back is firing off the wrong signals. We've come full Circle.
So what can we do to fight it? The biggest problem with lengthy sitters seems to be poor posture, so sitting up tall can help a lot (you know, like you do in yoga class but often don’t do anywhere else?). Also, get up! It’s recommended that chronic sitters get up every half hour, or as often as possible for a stretch, a walk, some yoga poses, etc. Sometimes we forget, or we get lazy. That’s why there are all these apps, gadgets, and doodads these days reminding us to get up every so often and maybe even giving us a zap to sit up and stop hunching.

By the way, this does not excuse us from sitting to meditate (sorry!), it just encourages us to work harder to sit WELL when we do sit.

So I just need to sit up straight, stretch my chest, and strengthen my back because it's weak got it. 

Yes and no,
  • Short muscle fibers locked in contraction aren't firing as they should or using energy. When you exercise the muscle, these fibers aren't really doing their job. So you aren't actually strengthening them. You will see an improvement of strength overall as other fibers in the muscle that aren't in contraction are working but you are still skipping over the issue.
  • It's also hard to strengthen your back when you try to contract the muscles and get a pain response. You might think you've pulled something, need to take a day off, or just stop using that area entirely and start favoring other muscles to assist with movement.
  • Forcing the area into use and firing off the pain signals is also reinforcing to the brain that something is wrong and it needs to keep guarding. Which is what most people do when they consciously try to "sit up straight" and "squeeze their shoulders together". It's also exhausting and hard to maintain once you stop thinking about it.
  • It's harder to stretch your chest if your back muscles are causing pain limiting your mobility where it's not reaching the stretch zone. You can also fire off reinforcing signals that there is something wrong with your back as it contracts on the short.
That means, to fix the pain and stiffness that come from too much sitting, we need to restore your tissues and joints.

The Chicken and the Egg

It is clear that a balanced approach to treating would be to massage and stretch the pectoralis muscles to loosen them and then strengthen the Protractor musculature with resistance training to increase the strength of its baseline tone. We might call this a yin-and-yang approach, or perhaps the chicken and the egg.

Is upper-crossed syndrome caused by tight protractors, or is it caused by weak retractors? The answer is, of course, both. And if one is present, the other will develop, which will then reinforce the first, and so on, causing a vicious cycle. For true healing, we need to address the chicken and the egg

Manual or Movement Therapy: Which Comes First?

There is not an exact recipe for what is best for every client, but when a client presents with musculoskeletal pathology. I believe manual therapy should generally be done first to remove the painful pathology and restore tissue integrity. This is because all manual and movement therapy by definition places a
stress into the tissues. If tissue does not have proper integrity then it is best to minimize this physical stress force in the initial stages of treatment. Generally, movement therapy-and strength training in particular-tends to place greater stress into the tissues. For this reason, I generally recommend that manual therapy should be done first to lessen pain and restore tissue integrity, then the movement therapy strength training can be commenced for
long-term stability and health.

But you'll get the most long term results from improving your posture in your daily life and including movement breaks.

And I created this Free PDF to help you do exactly that. 

Join Our Community for Support on Your Journey

Vibing With My Omies | Blazed Spiritual Entrepreneurs Ganja Yoga Tribe

Also, check out YouTube for some quick stretching routines: 

5 office stretches 

5-minute yoga 


Popular posts from this blog

Daily Quick Stretching!