5 Yoga Moves for a Stronger Back and Better Posture

Por Elizabeth Millard, instructora certificada A.C.E., profesora de yoga titulada RYT-200 |

Good posture improves your health and well-being in many surprising ways. Strategic exercises like these can help you sit and stand up straighter.

senior woman doing yoga outdoors for a story on yoga poses for better posture

Your mother knew what she was talking about when she told you to sit up straight at the dinner table. Good posture gives you an air of confidence, and when your body is in proper alignment, it provides some key health advantages too.

Yoga poses can be an easy and effective way to improve your posture. They teach your back to use different muscles in a wide range of motion to build comprehensive back strength.

Find out more about why good posture can help you prevent a variety of health woes, and the best yoga poses to help strengthen your back and shoulders.

Add SilverSneakers to your wellness routine. Classes and events are happening right now at participating gyms, online through SilverSneakers LIVE, and at community centers near you. Activate your free online account to get started.

The Health Pitfalls of Poor Posture

Hunching over can increase your risk of heartburn, chronic pain in your neck and lower back, balance difficulties, headaches - and even being able to take a full breath, according to a report from Harvard Medical School. That's because slouching can lead to muscle strain and compromise how fully your lungs can inhale.

And those aren't the only ways that poor posture can impact your well-being. Surprisingly, it also can contribute to stress urinary incontinence. That's when you leak a little urine when you laugh, cough or sneeze.

In one small study, women with this condition who performed a series of basic yoga poses over the course of three months reported that their incontinence frequency dropped by 76%. Why? The researchers say yoga poses help strengthen pelvic floor muscles and reduce chronic tension and stress that can contribute to leaks and drips.

Plus, when your body is better aligned, it can also be a game-changer for joint and muscle health. Research in the journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders found that after study participants with chronic pain completed a program to improve their posture, they reported less spinal and shoulder discomfort and better body awareness overall.

Recommended reading: Fix Your Posture: A 4-Step Plan
The Stress-Busting Power of Good Posture

How to Use the Better-Posture Yoga Sequence

Beyond developing your back muscles, building shoulder and core strength can help improve your posture too. It helps reduce the slump that can sabotage your alignment.

As always, safety is essential. Get your doctor's approval before beginning any new exercise program, especially if you have chronic conditions like osteoporosis or joint issues.

With these moves, focus on doing each one with good form. Move slowly so you can better feel any tight spots or areas of tension. If you feel those, deepen your breathing to help your muscles relax. That can improve your efficiency and strength.

Add these moves to your current strength-training routine. Or if you're newer to strength training, add them to your workout routine three times a week. Do them on a yoga mat on a hard surface or on a soft carpet.

What you need:

  • Yoga mat or carpeted area
  • Sturdy chair
  • Space to move
  • Comfortable clothing
  • Water to sip, as needed

Recommended reading: Why Yoga Belongs in Your Healthy Aging Plan

1. Mountain Pose with Cactus Arms (Open & Closed)

Stacking your ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders into alignment helps counter the effects of sitting and looking at a phone or computer. Adding in the cactus arms strengthens your upper back and shoulders.

How to do Mountain Pose:

  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Roll your shoulders up, back, and down.
  • Root your feet into the ground and breathe deeply for three to five breaths.

How to do Cactus Arms Open:

  • From Mountain Pose, inhale and reach your arms out and overhead.
  • Exhale, and keeping your chest lifted, bring your arms out to your sides with palms facing forward and elbows bent 90 degrees like a cactus. Esa es una repetición.
  • Do five reps.

How to do Cactus Arms Closed:

  • Stand tall with your arms out to your sides, palms facing forward, and elbows bent 90 degrees like a cactus.
  • Inhale, and bring your arms together, tucking your chin to your chest and rounding your back.
  • Exhale, and open your arms and chest. That's one rep. Do five reps.

Variation: After doing the Cactus Arms Open and Closed, try a standing variation of the Locust Pose. From the Mountain Pose (arms at your sides), turn your palms to the back. Inhale, lengthen your arms and open your chest by gently pressing your arms back. It’s a subtle movement, but you should feel the muscles in your upper back working.

2. Modified Plank with Chair

This pose strengthens the obliques, an often-overlooked stabilizer of the back, as well as the quadratus lumborum, a major component of back body strength.

How to do it:

  • Stand facing the back of a sturdy chair, keeping both hands on the chair.
  • Step both feet as far back as you’re comfortable with.
  • Hinge forward at the hips, keeping your back straight.
  • Lift one arm and rotate your torso to the side. Let your gaze follow your fingertips.
  • Return your hand to the chair and repeat on the opposite side. That's 1 rep.
  • Do 10 to 15 reps total.

3. Downward Dog Against the Wall

This pose lengthens your spine by stretching your back and hamstrings. It also strengthens your shoulders and wrists.


How to do it:

Suscríbase a nuestro boletín informativo
Es rápido y fácil: Usted podría estar entre las 13 millones de personas elegibles.
¿Ya es miembro? Haga clic para descubrir nuestros más de 15,000 centros participantes.

  • Stand an arm’s length away from the wall with your feet hip- to shoulder-width apart.
  • Hinging from your hips, take a few steps back so that your spine becomes parallel with the floor, or as far as you comfortably can.
  • Hold for five to 10 deep breaths, or as long as you can.
  • Bend your knees, and take baby steps toward the wall rounding your back slightly as you return to standing.

Recommended FREE SilverSneakers On-Demand Class: Posture Fix: Simple Posture Exercises for Seniors

4. Chair Pose Arms Forward

You may feel this pose primarily in your thighs, but it is a stabilizing pose that shores up your core muscles and strengthens your back, shoulders, and arms.

How to do it:

  • Stand in Mountain Pose with your feet hip-width apart, making sure your knees and hips are facing forward. Contraiga el abdomen.
  • Baje las caderas, flexionando las rodillas, como si fuera a sentarse en una silla.
  • Mantenga el peso en los talones, extienda los brazos hacia adelante para hacer contrapeso.
  • Manténgase en esta posición durante tres a cinco respiraciones lentas y profundas, y luego presione los pies firmemente en el piso para volver a pararse.

Consejo sobre la postura: Trate de mantener recta la espalda durante toda esta postura. Si la región lumbar comienza a arquearse, incline el coxis hacia el suelo. ¡Así sentirá mucha más comodidad!

5. Cat-Cow

Cat-cow pose stretches and strengthens the spine, all the way from the tailbone to your neck. It also helps relieve tightness in your shoulders and chest. You can do this pose on all fours, as shown, or from a standing or seated position.


How to do it:

  • Start on all fours with your hands below shoulders and knees below hips.
  • Lentamente arquee la espalda hacia el techo (como un gato) mientras contrae el abdomen y baja el mentón hacia el pecho.
  • Luego, invierta el movimiento, curve la espalda (como una vaca) mientras levanta las caderas y la cabeza. Focus on raising your head and tailbone to get into the cow position rather than dumping into your lower back.
  • Alternate between cat and cow for one minute (or for a slow 10 reps — five with back rounded, five with back arched).

Make it easier: If you have trouble with floor-based exercises, try the Standing Cat-Cow.

You may also like: 7 Easy Exercises to Improve Posture — and Prevent Back Pain

See our sources:
Health risks from poor posture: Harvard Medical School
Chronic pain and posture: BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Yoga and urinary incontinence: American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Activate Your FREE SilverSneakers Online Account

Get hundreds of free SilverSneakers On-Demand videos and stay in touch with us by creating your free online account. You don’t have to be a SilverSneakers member to get on-demand workout videos, health and fitness tips from SilverSneakers, and more.

SilverSneakers members can go to thousands of nationwide gyms and fitness locations, plus take SilverSneakers LIVE online classes led by specially trained instructors and designed for all fitness levels and abilities – at no additional cost. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, it may include SilverSneakers. Check your eligibility here.

Already a member? Get your SilverSneakers member ID, search for locations near you, and all the health and wellness resources you need by logging in to your online member account here.

Descubra si es elegible para SilverSneakers, el beneficio de fitness que se incluye con muchos planes de Medicare Advantage. VERIFIQUE SU ELEGIBILIDAD