Last week I gave you one of the most powerful yoga postures for learning how to create, and maintain proper posture, the Mountain Pose. The key thing to understand about why Mountain is so powerful for learning good posture is to understand both what it is, and what it is not.
What is Mountain Pose NOT?
Some exercises make your muscles stronger, while some build your muscles’ endurance. Other exercises stretch and loosen tight muscles to so they don’t actively fight against good posture. Mountain Pose is not one of these exercises, rather it is one of the most relaxed “exercises” you can do.
So, What IS Mountain Posture?
Instead, Mountain Pose is a posture that synthesizes the lessons learned in all the exercises (yoga based or not) that train your muscles in their specific ways. Mountain takes the lessons learned and integrates them into your posture.
Where other exercises teach this muscle, or that, Mountain teaches your mind to
- feel what posture your body is taking
- create proper posture
- learn what proper posture feels like
- take control of your posture
It uses all of the lessons learned through all the other posture exercises to align your body properly, and to learn to do this naturally. Over time, it learns to do this both naturally, and continually.
Unfortunately, Mountain is a standing posture, and we don’t stand all of the time. So, while Mountain is a powerful tool in your toolbox for learning to Stand Up Right, standing is not the only posture we take.
Fortunately, while standing is not the only posture we take, and although Mountain is only good for standing, there is a simple modification to Mountain to teach you proper sitting posture.
It’s as simple as this; do Mountain Pose while sitting.
I began exploring Mountain during Bikram Yoga classes, when the other students are doing Hands to Feet pose, I do a set of Mountain instead. It was a simple substitution, made because Hands to Feet was ruining my lumbar spine and wearing out my hip joints.
Doing it consistently, twice a class, two to three times a week led to the revelation that it was doing wonders for training my posture, so I began exploring modifications to it. The most useful modification I discovered was to do it on a barstool before class.
Yes, barstool. My studio has a Kambucha/Smoothie bar.
Anyway, to modify Mountain Pose to teach you proper sitting posture:
- sit on the chair, backwards (yes, backwards, your chest should face the back support)
- prop your feet comfortably on the leg support bars
- rest your weight directly on your Sitz bones (that’s the Ischial Tuberosity for you fancy talking anatomy types)
- take your natural (neutral) spine curve
- lean slightly back until your lumbar muscles relax
- raise your chin until the muscles in the front of your neck shut off
- put your hands on your knees and pull your shoulders back and down
- Slow your breathing and feel
Yes, feel. Feel your breath, feel your balance, feel your spine, feel your muscles. In other words, as with proper (standing) Mountain Pose, what you are feeling is the shape of proper posture. Only this time, it’s the shape of proper sitting posture.
Now, I told you I do this while sitting reversed on a bar chair. You don’t need a bar stool or chair, you can do it on a regular kitchen chair, and you don’t even need to do it sitting reversed on the chair. The keys to this exercise are:
- No back support, you want nothing touching your back, at all. Do it from the middle, or even front edge, of the chair.
- Proper hip and knee alignment, which depends on your own anatomy. If the chair is too high, or too low, the placement of your thigh bones will push or pull your lumbar spine out of proper alignment.
- If your kitchen chairs are too high, you need support for your feet.
- If your kitchen chairs are too low, you need to raise yourself by sitting on a pillow
The most important takeaway here is this; train your posture functionally. If you want proper standing posture, train your posture while standing. If you want proper sitting posture, train your posture while sitting.