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  • Baxter Bell, MD

The Power of Great Posture

The benefits of Yoga and Good Posture on health and aging

After leading a workshop this past weekend on Yoga for Great Posture and the Upper Back, I couldn’t help but reflect on the true power and benefits of maintaining good posture as we age. It seems such a simple thing we tend to take for granted, yet when we don’t actively work on maintaining and improving posture, there is almost an inevitable trend towards poor posture and unhealthy rounding of the upper back. And the flip side of the coin of the benefits of healthy posture is detrimental effects of poor posture. I did write about this back in 2022, and we will get that a little later.


Let’s start with a brief review of what the negative possibilities are of developing poor posture over time. Keep in mind that these things are not inevitable, and that being proactive in reversing poor posture can dramatically lower your chances of these undesirables. So, what are they? Well, they include: limited physical function over time; the development of not only dramatic rounding of the upper chest called hyperkyphosis, but actual wedge fractures of the bones of the spine; back pain and stiffness of the spine; fatigue; digestive issues; respiratory problems- just to mention a few.


If we set a goal for improving posture, how might this impact our overall health? (I’m always looking for positive motivation!) As I shared with my workshop attendees the other day, there are many:

• Good posture is essential for upright balance, centering your body over your feet.

• It then provides benefits when exercising: it promotes good form, reduces risk of injury and increases benefits of your chosen exercise.

• Supporting all our Activities of Daily Living or ADLs!

• Research shows it may reduce low back pain, tension headaches, tension in shoulders and neck, and Temporo-Mandibular Joint (TMJ) symptoms.

• Can increase energy, improve lung capacity, and reduce risk of abnormal joint wear and tear.

• May improve abdominal blood flow and digestion, core strength, and even self-confidence! 


Good Posture generally means that your head is centered over your shoulders (versus in front or behind), shoulders and chest over the pelvis, and the pelvis over the heels. Now, there can be many subtle healthy variations on this theme, but is can be helpful to consider when you evaluate your own posture. If you are not certain whether you have a healthy postural alignment, consider asking your yoga teacher or a yoga therapist to evaluate it and possibly provide some individualized guidance on improving it.


The good news is that research is confirming what many a yoga student has suspected for a long time- that yoga supports healthy posture. In fact, A 2020 study “What Has Neuroimaging Taught Us on the Neurobiology of Yoga? A Review”, showed that MRI documented changes due to yoga supported better posture, along with many other benefits. (See the link below to learn more about this study.) A well-balanced yoga practice can support all the recommendations that Western medicine suggests for keeping your posture healthy:

• Setting a goal to have a healthy upright posture when sitting and standing (Sankalpa)

• Increase your awareness of your posture throughout the day (first step in changing your habits)

• If you have a sedentary job or lifestyle presently, get up and take a short movement break every 30-60 minutes (*work environments are considered a significant risk factor for developing poor posture)

• Establish a regular movement practice that stresses healthy posture, improving strength of the core (including the pelvic floor) and spine, and improving flexibility (Yoga!!!)

• Make ergonomic changes to your workspace that encourage better sitting posture

So, my hope is that this provides you with more motivation to improve or maintain great posture in the coming year. Feel free to reach to me if you want to work one-on-one to reach your posture goals in 2024.

And take a look at my 2022 Posture post for more information on this important aspect of your ongoing health as you age.


MRI study on Yoga and its effects on brain and posture:


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