Today, I am sharing my top 5 muscles to release (regularly) for better posture.
These muscles tend to be over worked and underpaid when we are doing anything which requires us to sit, look down, or work on something in front of us (which basically is very much most of the time). When they get grumpy we start to suffer from aches and pains.
The yoga moves I talk about below, are the ones I use regularly to give these hard-working guys a break. They make me feel good and un-do any aches and pains if I am suffering a bit. Any release work should be balanced with strengthening moves too. If you would like to find out more, make sure you catch up with my last post here.
RELEASE THE THE CHEST MUSCLES FOR BETTER POSTURE
If you are a fan of push ups, then you will know your chest muscles well. They are one of the key muscles to release for better posture. You in fact have a set of two, the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor. Both have attachments on the shoulder blade. The Pectoralis major also attaches on the upper arm bone.
If you take a moment to slump forward, you may notice that the arm bones move inwards and the chest collapses. It is this action, (if you do it enough), which shortens the chest area and makes it feel tight. If you find it difficult to either stretch your arms above your head or reach them behind you, you need to stretch and release this area. The yoga poses listed below will help you do this.
Yoga Poses to Open the Chest
- Shalabhasana (Locust).
- Bhujanganasana (Cobra).
- Dhanurasana (Bow Pose).
- Ustrasana (Camel).
- Utthana Shishosana (Puppy).
- Salamba Bhujanganasana (Sphinx pose).
- Standing poses with heart opening arms (e.g., cactus arms).
- Gomukasana (Head of a cow pose).
- Garudasana Arms (Eagle).
- Thread the needle (kneeling).
RELEASE (FOR BETTER POSTURE) THE SIDE AND BACK OF NECK
You might want to get in front of a mirror for this. Place your hands gently on the back of your neck. Stick your head forward and notice what happens to the muscles. They get hard and rigid right?
Also notice what happens to the muscles on the side of the neck. They are probably sticking out a little bit too.
When the head moves too far forward from its happy place (of sitting directly on top of your spine), the back and side neck muscles must work harder to try and keep the head up. Again, we are talking for long periods of time. Taking your head forward (on in any direction for that matter) isn’t a bad thing. What causes the problem, is if you hold a particular postion for a long consistant period of time.
It has been noted that when you bend your head forward and look down, you could be placing another 50 to 60 pounds of weight force on the neck. Your poor neck muscles (including the upper trapezius) have to hold that weight up, so you can probably start to see why you would get neck and shoulder pain after a while. Taking time to release these muscles will help you better your posture, whilst getting rid of neck soreness at the same time. Try the following yoga poses to help release these hard-working muscles.
Yoga Poses To Help Release The Neck Area
- Simple head and neck rolls (‘yes’, ‘no’, ear to shoulder, half circles).
- Chakrasana (Cat/Cow).
- Paschimottanasana (Seated Foward Fold).
- Uttansana (Rag Doll variation).
- Bhujanganasana (Cobra and other prone backbend variations).
- Ardha Matsyendrasana (Seated Twists).
RELEASE THE BACK MUSCLES FOR BETTER POSTURE
To keep things simple, I am going to talk about the back as a collective area. The scenario here is the same as the neck in many respects. The back of our body is responsible for stabilising the trunk and keeping us upright. The more we lean forward, the harder it has to work. Eventually these muscles get tight, weak, imbalanced and/or overactive. These imbalances can lead to upper and lower back pain. To keep out of pain your back benefits from a combination of release and strengthening work.
Yoga Poses To Relax The Tight Grumpy Muscles of the Back
Overall, the spine benefits from being taken through all its movements (forward, back, side bending, lengthening, and twisting). This is where yoga is top of the game as every pose is an opportunity to MOT the back.
- Forward folds (Uttanasana or Paschimottanasana).
- Back bending (Virabhadrasana I or Crescent Lunge with back bend), Ustrasana (Camel), Shalabhasana (Locust), Bhujangasana (Cobra), Salamba Bhujangasana (Sphinx).
- Twisting – Parivrtta Utkatasana (revolved chair pose) or Ardha Matsyendrasana (seated twist).
- Side Bending – Urdhva Hastasana (standing crescent moon), Trikonasana (Triangle) or Parsvakonasana (Side Angle).
- Lengthening (all poses, just think about lengthening the crown of the head away from the tailbone).
RELEASE HIP FLEXORS FOR BETTER POSTURE
The pelvis is the hub of the body and a huge influencer in the shape of our spine and the health of our posture.
If you know anything about anatomy, you will already be aware that many muscles cross the pelvis and all work together to stabilise the area. The hip flexors help to flex the hip (think knee to chest) – they are essential in enabling us to walk and run.
When we sit down, the hips are also flexion. Now imagine staying in this position for hours at a time. Although the hip flexor muscles are not actually contracting or working (as when we walk), they are being put into a shortened state. This over time makes them – well short!
If you suffer with an anteriorly tilted pelvis (of a duck back posture) you are likely to have tight hip flexors.
Yoga Poses to Help Release the Front of Your Hips:
- Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge).
- Runners or Crescent lunge.
- Utthan Pristhasana (Lizard pose and variations).
- Pigeon pose (any variation).
- Ardha Apanasana (Knees to Chest).
- Ustrasana (Camel or similar backbends).
INNER THIGHS AND HAMSTRINGS
The inner thighs and hamstrings (inner and back thigh muscles), are also muscles which attach to the pelvis, so like the hip flexors, are huge influencers on our posture. When they are tight, they can pull the pelvis out of its happy place. The hamstrings for instance can pull the pelvis under creating a posterior tilt. If you have a sway back you are likely to suffer with shortened, tight hamstrings.
The adductors, when tight can contribute to knee, hip, groin and back pain. These often unthought of muscles, assist in the side-to-side stabilisation of the pelvis. If one side is tighter than the other, then one hip will drop down lower than the other (the effect will be more pronounced when you move). A wonky pelvis can contribute to back pain and other health issues, so it makes sense to take care of the adductors and regularly release them.
Yoga Poses To Try for Happy Hammies and Inner Thighs
- Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold).
- Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold).
- Prasarita Konasana (Wide Legged Seated Forward Fold).
- Padottanasana (Wide Legged Standing Forward Fold).
- Parsvottanasana (Pyramid pose).
- Ananda Balasana (Happy baby).
- Supta Padagusthasana (Supine Leg stretch).
- Mandukasana (Frog pose).
- Ardha Hanumanasana (Half Splits).
I hope that you will find the above releases helpful. Posture problems can be difficult to solve on your own. It is always helpful to have a guide. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to make significant changes to my own, without help from a teacher.
If you are interested in beating tension and pain as well as protecting yourself from future injuries, why not consider working with me on a one to one basis. Contact me here for a FREE consultation.
If you are interested in reading more why not check out my other blog posts on posture:
Also check out my latest video on YouTube – a 30 minute class to help you release the chest, back, neck and hips: