How Can Yoga Help Your Posture?

How can yoga help your posture?

Season 1 Episode 15

We talk to Libby Stevenson, a yoga pro an wellbeing specialist for all stages of womanhood, about how yoga can help your posture and help you feel better too!

James Crow
So hi, everybody. Its James from Posture Stars. Thanks for joining us again today. And today I’m talking to Libby Stevenson, who is a yoga teacher. Hi there, Libby.

Libby Stevenson
Hi, James, thank you for having me.

James Crow
Thanks so much for coming on. I’ve been really looking forward to speaking to you. I’ve seen a lot of your good stuff on social media, which is very popular with the public. And I wanted to get to grips with what exactly it is that you do, and particularly, from my perspective, how you can help my clients and the people who are listening to this podcast, so you’re working, you’re working down in London, is that right? Libby?

Libby Stevenson
Yes, so I live and work in London, but I do a lot of my work now online, especially since after COVID. A lot of the yoga classes have gone online. And actually, that’s been a really good thing for yoga, because a lot of people have this image that you need to be a particular age a particular size, and you need to be very bendy and it’s off putting if you don’t think that you fit into those categories, to go into a yoga studio. So doing it online, you can keep your video off. And actually there’s been a boom in yoga online, because people can keep their videos off and feel a lot more comfortable doing yoga. So yeah, thanks, COVID. Just for that.

James Crow
Yeah, I mean, it’s been really positive a lot of, apart from it being really negative. Of course, quite a few of my clients have switched from their local yoga classes to online classes and those like they, they’re using their local yoga teachers, because they’re familiar with them and happy with them. But it’s really opened up in the space of yoga. So I’m really pleased for you.

Libby Stevenson
So I teach yoga now, predominantly online, and I’m, I’m a yoga teacher, and I specialise in yoga for women at different stages of life. So I teach to pregnant women, postnatal women, women who just had a baby and women going through the perimenopause, menopause. I’m also head of yoga for Harley Street at home, which is an online wellness platform for women over 40. And this is all within the past four or five years that I became a yoga teacher. And all of this has happened before that I have a degree in Biomedical Engineering, which actually sits really nicely alongside the yoga because it gives me a very strong foundation in anatomy, physiology, and alignment. So it all kind of meshes quite well together.

James Crow
Okay, well, in that case, I’ve got this one question for you to start off with which you will be no doubt admirably prepared to answer as a result of your your vast qualifications, which is Libby Stevenson. What is posture?

Libby Stevenson
Right! Well, okay, I thought about this question. And for me, posture is the way we carry ourselves. So we carry ourselves based on the way we see ourselves, the way we think about ourselves, the way we feel about ourselves. And we embody those feelings and mindset into our posture, and our posture can change from day to day. So for having a good day, we’ll probably be standing a little bit taller, lifting our chest. And if we’re having a bad day, then of course, the opposite, we might be crawling the body forward, rounding off shoulders, dropping the head a bit. And then there’s a definition of posture, which includes the alignment of the spine. So purely physical definition of the posture. But I think these two definitions work well together, the way we think and feel about ourselves is reflected in the physical posture. So for example, if we have a lack of confidence, or low self esteem, or a negative view of life, we embody these attitudes, and the body naturally curls forward. And of course, you know, the opposite is also true. And studies show that if you are having a particularly bad day or negative mindset, just by changing your posture, you can change, you know, the way you see and feel about things. So it’s an interesting mind body connection for me. Yeah.

James Crow
Yeah. So it’s a nice holistic way of looking at it. And more and more people are seeing the body as not just this functional anatomical robotic thing that moves through space that there is a connection between our mind and bodies, folks, which is currently Oh, my gosh, has had nobody considered this before.

Libby Stevenson
Absolutely, like I said, you know, we do embody those feelings, and we, we carry them in our posture. You know, it’s, it’s obvious when, when you see someone who’s crawled over, tend to you know, the tendency is to think, Oh, are they sad? What is wrong with them, you know, and then when someone is feeling good about themselves, it’s obvious and they radiate an energy, don’t they?

James Crow
Yeah. And I think that’s why some actors are paid so highly is because they just radiate that energy they they have good comportment, they can they hold themselves well, if I can use that phrase? Yeah, they stack themselves well, yeah,

Libby Stevenson
I definitely think the whole mind body connection, but then, you know, I’m a yoga teacher, so I would see it that way. I wouldn’t just see it as a physical, you know, upright spine type of thing. Because the way we think and feel is going to affect that. On a day to day, it can change.

James Crow
Yeah, of course, it can now, and you need to listen to that as well. Sometimes if you, I like to run and some days, I’ll get ready to and I’ll get out the door. And I think well hang on a minute, my body’s saying don’t run, my fitness watch is saying, now you’ve got to go and run five kilometres and my body say Not today. And now I’m at an age where I listen to that as well, thankfully, and I’ll go off and do some stretch, stretching and look after myself a bit better. I have a second question that I’m going to I’m going to sneak into question one, which is what is posture? This question I’ve never actually asked before, is, what is yoga?

Libby Stevenson
Right? Okay, what it is, is a number of things, actually, we tend to think of yoga in the West as movement, exercise. But it’s it’s so much more than that. It’s breathing. It is movement, but it can also be stillness, either stillness and oppose, or stillness and meditation. And then it’s a whole way of life. So there’s these things called the Yamas, and the new Yamas, which are ways of living, so you could adopt them as a lifestyle. And then there’s also the philosophical aspect to yoga, which is all about letting go. Non attachment. So there’s a whole philosophical aspect to it, and it’s not a religion. It’s, it’s, it’s more a way of life, if you choose it to be. It’s, it’s all of that combined. And for me, yoga, yes, has now become a way of life. Because I find the more you do yoga, and this was something that I was taught my teacher training, and I didn’t believe it. But the more you do yoga, the more the things you don’t need start to fall away. And it’s interesting. And it’s not just things like limiting alcohol, and less sugar, that kind of a thing. But it’s also people and things that are happening in your life that you do you know what it does yoga is awareness, whether it’s breathing, meditation, movement, philosophy, philosophy, on life, it’s about awareness, and you start becoming aware of the good and the not so good in your life. And it starts shaping the way you live. And I know we’re getting out there a bit. But over time, this is what happens. And it’s it certainly has made me more aware. And it’s an interesting, it’s an interesting dynamic that happens to your mind and body. It really is. And it’s, it’s something that happens, that doesn’t happen in other forms of exercise. Because other forms of exercise are all go, go go. Whereas in yoga, whether you’re breathing or meditating, or just in a pose, there’s that moment of stillness. And there’s an awareness of not just the thoughts popping up in your head, but also what’s happening in the body. And then that translate to outside of your body and noticing things around you, the people that you’re surrounding yourself with how you eat how you live. It’s a really interesting dynamic. So I recommend it to everyone to do yoga, and to learn more about themselves, and also about the world around them. Yeah. Meeting view.

James Crow
Sounds quite useful in business quite a lot of the, when I work with people, I work in postural awareness, we, we urge a form of detachment, really of self awareness in relation to the environment. And some of my clients or CEO types tell me that that’s had a positive effect on their business. And it sounds like yoga has some similar consequences for business people.

Libby Stevenson
For everyone, it taught me to recognise signals in my body when I was becoming stressed, which is really important. So if you’re in a situation that is stressful, or you know, life throws things at you, the fact that you are aware of the signals from your body telling you I’m getting stressed, you can you can jump in with the breathing technique, calm yourself down, and then approach the situation in a more appropriate way. That doesn’t mean you don’t yell or whatever if it’s not appropriate, but it’s the ability to get that bit of space. So that instead of action reaction, and then you know, thinking, oh my goodness, why did I say that? Why did I do that and regretting that. You have that moment of stepping in assessing the situation, and then responding more appropriately, or perhaps not responding at all in that moment. So it’s, it’s fascinating. And it’s also made me more resilient. Because with awareness, you because it’s a little bit hard to explain, but with awareness also comes resilience. And I’ve noticed this from other people saying the same thing. And now yes, there are things that bother me. But I don’t let them linger as long as I used to, I guess, because it’s the whole philosophy and yoga that the way things are right now will change, Nothing stays the same. So whatever is happening today, doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be like that forever. And so you learn to move on. Yeah, you learn resilience, you learn to move on. And I know, it sounds all very positive and uplifting, but it’s it really, you know, they have the studies on yoga and how it helps with stress and anxiety and all that. And that’s the reason why, because there’s all of these factors that come into it. And I think what it is, is that yoga plays upon the nervous system in a way that other forms of exercise, don’t. And it really gets to your nervous system, and therefore changes not only the way you think, but you know, the way your nervous system is reacting to things in your environment, because you’re becoming more aware of them. So it’s a fascinating, you know, area of movement. And I don’t call it exercise, I call it movement, because yoga is so much more than just movements.

James Crow
Yeah and not a religion.

Libby Stevenson
No, it’s not a religion. No, no, but it’s interesting how a lot of people think that because it’s coming from India, and but it’s not a religion, and you can just use it as a form of movement should you want to. But it’s certainly not a religion, like I said, it’s most of philosophy on life, and you don’t have to adopt, you know, adopt that if you don’t want to.

James Crow
So at it’s most pure it’s functional. With regards to posture, people use yoga to improve their posture. And just just coming back to that question, two, is how do how do you help people with their posture? If I came to you and said, Hey, Libby, I’ve got terrible posture, you go, what can you do?

Well, there is a pose called Mountain pose that can help with that. But yoga in general, all the poses, regardless of what pose you’re in, they involve the whole body, they’re holistic, so the whole body gets involved. So even though you’re not mountain posing, you’re in another pose in stillness. In order to be in that pose, you need to engage every part of the body, from the arms, to the core, to the, to the back to the legs, they all have to work together. And by doing so, you are strengthening those parts of the body that help with posture without really thinking about, I have to get my, my posture, you know, aligned. So it does it automatically, just by being in the pose, even if you’re going from one pose to the other in yoga, you know, the, the movements are slow in with the breath. So you always have time to align and assess where you are in space in terms of that, in terms of that pose. So yes, there is a pose in particular, that can help with posture called Mountain Pose, and it’s a standing pose. And I actually recommend that to people to just do that throughout their day, as often as they want to just to realign that spine, because you’re bringing the shoulders back and down, you’re lifting the chest or realigning the spine, you know, the hips, et cetera, et cetera. And it does help with posture. But should, you know, should you not be standing and want to realign your posture throughout your day, let’s say you do a lot of sitting. Then I just recommend to bring in your hands behind your back, of course, your back is away from the back of the chair, have your arms behind your back, interlace the fingers, and pull the hands down towards the seat of the chair and that automatically brings the shoulders back, lifts the chest and automatically realigns the spine, and to take it even further than with the hands behind the back fingers until they can lift the arms a bit to get more of an opening in the chest. And you know, both of these, what they do is they don’t just realign the spine and help with posture, but they uncurl the body from being crawled over a computer or from scrolling, or in my case from ageing, you know, they counteract all the effects including ageing, and it’s something we need to be aware of. We’re all going to age, we all age. So we need to be aware of the fact that one of the natural tendencies of the body with ageing is to crawl forward. So we need to constantly be fighting against that, because we don’t want to be that old person hunched over, do we, so you know, throughout the day to do Mountain Pose or arms behind the back and just crawling the shoulders is what we need to do so that we can counteract all the effects from sitting scrolling, and a chain.

So these are, these are simple moves, it kind of bypasses the whole of what we were talking about earlier about the self awareness that, that act of detachment from immediate response to stimulus, whether that’s external, or internal. And these are things that you can do in about five seconds time aren’t they

Libby Stevenson
Yes, and throughout your day. And like I said, you don’t even have to get up from your chair, if you don’t want to put the arms behind your back. But it is good to stand up occasionally, because that will help. But also, you know, noticing our posture throughout our day, whether we’re standing or sitting, but that’s hard to do. Sometimes, especially if you have a bad posture, you know, so bringing the arms behind your back, even in a standing position, automatically lifts the chest brings the shoulders back, and you feel the difference to you feel the difference. So those are my suggestions, either mountain pose, if you know what that is. And if you don’t, then whether you’re standing or sitting, the arms behind your back can help to just uncurl the shoulders, which then will realign the spine.

James Crow
Let’s let’s talk a bit about awareness. Because in my other role, I’m an Alexander Technique teacher. And what I do is I teach people to be aware of themselves in activity, as opposed to doing an activity and then forgetting about themselves and getting on with the next activity. So how useful is yoga for increasing that awareness of oneself in day to day activity?

Libby Stevenson
Well, as we, as I said earlier, that’s what yoga is all about. It’s all about awareness. Because whether you’re meditating, or breathing, or in a pose, or moving from one pose to the other, there’s this constant, where is my body and space are they properly aligned? You know, what thoughts are going through my head? The there’s, it’s, it’s all about awareness. Absolutely. And I notice it now, so when I’m sitting, I do notice, how am I sitting, you know, I mean, hunched over and all that, but that, you know, yoga takes time, that awareness to build up and become automatic takes time. And it’s over time that you start noticing, oh, I’m sitting hunched over, or I haven’t stood up for a while, or whatever it is. It does take time. But it also brings about awareness in other areas, like hunger, you know, then you start noticing, oh, you know, I’m not going to eat now. Because I’m not hungry. You know, I’m not hungry, so I’m not going to eat. So it translates out into all aspects of your life, this concept of awareness. It’s not just about posture awareness, it’s about where are you in the space at this moment? You know, are you sitting standing, you know, talking to people, whatever it may be.

James Crow
This is more than kinesthetic awareness and proprioceptive awareness, isn’t it? It’s awareness of cognitive awareness of you and your responses. So you’re observing yourself at a meta level?

Libby Stevenson
Yes, exactly. I certainly do. But you know, like I said, this does take time. It’s not like you do a yoga class. And then oh, this is wonderful. I’m aware now. No, it takes

James Crow
What you mean I can’t do one hour yoga class and suddenly become self aware.

Libby Stevenson
No, no, about strengthening those parts of the brain. You know, it’s about strengthening the decision making part of the brain and quieting the reptilian part of the brain being instnictual, instinctual part of the brain that is all about fight flight action reaction. And so when you do yoga, the part of the brain that stronger is the decision making part of the brain but like any form of exercise, you need to do it regularly and consistently in order to build up that muscle up the brain.

James Crow
I got ya. Okay, so question three, which is, which is again, back to that simple topic of posture, rather than our grander metaphysical discussions? Is is if you could recommend Now, one thing for our listeners to do right now that would help them what what would it be?

Libby Stevenson
Well, like I said, they’re probably, I assume they’re sitting down listening to this, but even if they’re standing, they can do this. And it’s all about just wherever you are. If you are sitting, bring your back away from the back of the chair. And if you’re standing, that’s great. Just bring your arms behind your back and interlace the fingers behind your back. Pull them down if you’re standing towards the floor. or if you’re sitting towards the seat of the chair, and just notice how the chest is open, starting with that. And that might be enough for you, depending on how crawled forward your body is. But if you want more of a stretch, then you can start lifting the arms behind you just ever so slightly, a couple of centimetres to open up those collarbones even further. And so we’re stretching the muscles in the chest, and uncrawling the body. So that is my tip. It’s not even yoga. It’s just a movement that I do throughout my day, whether standing or sitting, and it just feels great. And when we do that, because we’re opening up the chest and the collarbones, we breathe better. And when we breathe better, because now the lungs have more space, we can think more clearly. So there you go, you’re boosting your brain power too

James Crow
win win. So wherever you are listeners, unless you’re driving a vehicle or operating heavy machinery, or performing brain surgery, don’t do it then, but you might want to give it a little go, it’s the sort of thing you could do on public transport, probably without anyone else noticing.

Libby Stevenson
Yeah, and you know what, sometimes if you’re in a, if you’re in public transport, just bringing the shoulders back and down, automatically lifts the chest.

James Crow
Seriously Libby, all the time and when I’m on public transport, I’m working on myself. It’s such a golden opportunity to work on yourself. And you know, how am I sitting? What am I thinking? How am I breathing? It’s Golden, all those times, folks, when you’re in the supermarket, and you’re in the back of the queue, and you’re gonna have to stand there for 11 minutes. Yes. Work on yourself

Libby Stevenson
Do mountain pose. Yes. Or at a bus stop. Absolutely, yes. Yeah. So yoga mountain pose, and no one will really know you’re doing it.

James Crow
This is great, isn’t it? No one knows. you’re bettering yourself. I love it. So Libby, that’s been fascinating, not only in terms of the postural aspects, but also in terms of, of the cognitive benefits of yoga as well. And I’m sure some of my clients will be delighted to hear more from you. Where would they find you?

Libby Stevenson
Well, I’m mainly on Instagram. I really like that platform, so i’m on there a lot. And my handle is libbystevenson.wellbeing I do have a website. But I have contact details on both my Instagram and on my website. And my website is www.libbystevensonwellbeing.com Yeah, so they can, they can connect with me there. And if they don’t have Instagram, my Instagram is on my website. And on the website, I have lots of articles that I’ve been featured in or that I’ve written, you know, so that they can see a little bit more about me and you know, how I think of yoga in terms of everyday life and how it can help people.

James Crow
There you have it folks, that’s how to get hold of Libby Stevenson with a V not a PH. She’ll be able to help you on your journey for self discovery, exploration and, and expanded breathing. That’s a whole other area, isn’t it as a whole I know we’re gonna do a series on breathing actually. So I really look forward to that. Maybe we can pick up on that and talk about breathing as well. There’s there’s more to posture than just standing up right folks?

Libby Stevenson
Breathing better is another positive. Yeah.

James Crow
Thank you so much, everybody for coming on and listening to us. This is James from Posture Stars with Libby Stevenson. I wish you a good day and go off and do some of those exercises. And all of you sat down, get out of that chair now. Goodbye.

Libby Stevenson
Thank you all, bye bye.

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