None of us are born perfect, and none of us are the perfect shape. But we can all work towards finding the perfect posture to suit each of us.

The spine does an amazing job in enabling us to walk upright rather than using all-fours, and we often pay the price in terms of posture, not helped by our western lifestyles centred around chairs, driving and gazing at electronic devices.

At its heart yoga is essentially about good posture. It developed in India, not as a means of keeping fit, but as a way of maintaining a strong and upright sitting position for hours of seated meditation and contemplation.

Poor posture often leads to pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulders, stemming from a lack of good alignment elsewhere in the body.

Yoga aims to bring about flexibility, but on its own may not always been enough to remedy a problem. But it can give you a strong insight into how your body is functioning and where things might be going wrong. If you continue to suffer persistent back ache, or neck or shoulder discomfort, I would always recommend going to a professional for a diagnosis. By this I mean an osteopath, chiropractor, sports physio, or someone with recognised training from a nationally accredited body.

But what I feel we can do together in our yoga classes is to become more aware of our posture and learn from listening to the body what makes us feel better. In our class this week, we explored the head position in relation to the rest of the spine, and then turned our attention to the feet.

Active and strong yoga has its benefit, but we tend to play to our strengths. For example, if you are good at backbends, then you are likely to enjoy pushing further into cobra and updog, but fail to notice your pelvis is developing a strong forward tilt as a default setting when you are standing still. By slowing down and observing, we can become more aware of where we really need to do the hard work.

Good posture – and good health – depends on being self aware. Beware of quick fixes. Yoga should be kind and gentle on the body. I am naturally round shouldered, and after a lifetime of yoga, and regular trips to the chiropractor improving my neck position is still work in progress!

Some tips for a healthy neck

Work slowly, focussing on different neck areas separately (rather rotating the head in circles as we would an ankle for example). It far heavier than a foot. To lengthen the back of your neck, for example, exhale and slowly lower your chin toward your chest. Hold the position for up to 30 seconds and then slowly raise your chin. Then try rotating the head slightly to each side before dropping the chin to the chest.

Next, start with your chin level and tilt your head directly to the left, drawing your left ear toward your left shoulder. Hold the position for up to 30 seconds and repeat the stretch on the other side. 

Warm up lightly before stretching, especially if you’ve been sitting for a while. 

The standing warm up we did this week - rotations, stepping back and forth lifting the arms, standing squats and moving in and out of warrior 1 – are idea.

Before you move into the stretch position, stand or sit straight, align the top of your head directly over your spine and press your shoulders down and slightly back. Think of lengthening your neck, creating as much space as possible between your shoulders and ears. Throughout every stretch, stay focused and maintain total control of your movements, breathing evenly and working at a slow, relaxed pace.