Researchers in New Zealand find that a slumped posture may impact your mood, self-esteem and even your response to stress. Yoga may help.
A study, published in Health Psychology, included 74 adults (55% women) between the ages of 18-67 years who were randomly assigned to either an upright seated posture group (n=39) or a slumped posture (n=35) group.
First they completed a number of measures of mood and self-esteem. They were then fitted with a finger cuff to continuously monitor their blood pressure and heart rate.
The slumped posture group were asked to round their shoulders, stoop their backs and bow their heads. Those in the upright position were requested to sit upright with shoulders back and shoulder blades drawn toward each other. Therapy tape was then applied onto their backs, as were LED markers that assessed postural change.
Once taped, participants were asked to read instructions on “how to wash clothes” for 3 minutes to get baseline readings of heart rate and blood pressure and their reading speed. They were then asked to “imagine being interviewed for their dream job and had 5 minutes to tell the panel why they were the best candidate.” After a moment to mentally prepare, their speeches to the imaginary panel were video-recorded. They then completed a post-test assessment of mood, perceived threat and self-esteem.
Results showed that slumped posture group members noted being more fearful, dull, sleepy, passive, nervous and quiet than upright participants. The upright group said they were stronger, more excited and enthusiastic and had greater self-esteem than those who were slumped.
Upright participants also spoke more total words during their mock interview, and used more positive emotion words and fewer negative emotion words and first person personal pronouns than those who were slumped. They also had higher pulse pressure.
Based on the results, the study authors speculated that posture is likely to affect emotion through the activation of the autonomic nervous system, as well as the skeletal and neuroendocrine systems. They also suggested that self-perception may be contributing to differences between the upright and slumped groups. They were not able to determine whether or not posture directly impacted mood, however this remains a possibility.
How Can Yoga Help Improve Posture?
If you're looking to improve your posture, there’s good news. Emerging evidence shows that consistent yoga practice can help to counteract a slumped posture by strengthening the muscles that support the spine.
A recent study of novice and advanced yoga students and teachers published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine revealed that the erector spinae muscles, which are key to postural health, are activated considerably during Chair Pose, Upward Dog and Warrior Pose as are the upper trapezius muscles in the upper back. Muscle activation was greater and more efficient among more experienced practitioners.
Results also suggested that yoga poses that target the shoulders, spinal erectors, abdominal muscles and neck may also help to reduce hyperkyphosis, or dowager’s hump. This is encouraging news for those with existing postural issues or who hope to maintain good postural alignment with age.
Yoga may provide a simple, but effective means to improve spinal muscle health, and to retain or improve overall mobility.
No matter your age or stage in life, a strong, upright posture is important for overall health and wellness. Now we know that it may also help you to have a sunnier and more resilient disposition.
Published first at YogaU Online