By Kim Nunley for LIVESTRONG.COM

The term posture is used to describe how your body is positioned when you’re sitting, standing and lying down. Proper posture is important for a number of reasons, including that it places your body in an alignment where the stress on supporting ligaments, tendons and muscles is limited. Poor posture can lead to discomfort and injury.

Why Is Posture Important?

Significance of Good Posture

Good posture places you in an alignment where stress is properly distributed to the intended muscles and ligaments. As a result, the muscles are allowed to work efficiently and as intended, which in turn decreases wear and tear that your joints undergo. This decreases your risk of joint discomfort and degenerative arthritis. Stress placed on the ligaments holding the joints in your spine together is also decreased with good posture. When your muscles, joints and ligaments are working as intended, your vital organs are able to remain in proper position and the nervous system is able to function normally, according to the Kansas Chiropractic Foundation.

Risks and Causes of Poor Posture

Improper posture means you?re in a position where your muscles and ligaments are unable to work as they?re intended; there?s an abnormal amount of stress placed on particular muscles. Poor posture can be due to weak core muscles, which prevent you from holding your torso and hips in proper alignment. It can also be caused by tight muscles, a common issue for those who sit long hours throughout the day. According to the American Chiropractic Association, obesity, pregnancy and wearing high-heeled shoes can also lead to improper posture. Long-term poor posture effects include problems with bodily systems such as digestion and breathing.

Proper Sitting Posture

To sit with proper posture, place your feet firmly on the floor with your knees and hips bent to 90 degrees. Roll your shoulders back and then down so that the shoulder blades move down your back. Check your pelvis alignment by gripping your public bone and tilting your pelvis forward. Your ears should be directly in-line with your shoulders which are in-line with your hips.

Correct Standing Posture

When standing, your ears, shoulders, hips and ankles should all be in a vertical line. Set your feet to hip-width apart with toes pointed forward. Your knees should be straight, but not locked. The spine should be erect with the shoulders pulled back and then down. Often raising your chin up will help fix standing postural issues.

Healthy Lying Posture

Proper posture when you?re lying down is partly dependent on what?s comfortable for you. However, the American Chiropractic Association recommends using a pillow so that your cervical spine is kept in a neutral position and to avoid sleeping on your stomach. If you sleep on your side, a pillow between your legs will help keep proper alignment of your spine. A pillow under your knees when you?re sleeping on your back is ideal.

Exercises for Posture

Regularly incorporating yoga or other similar exercises can help build strength and improve flexibility in postural muscles so that you?re better able to maintain proper spine curvatures. If you find that you hunch forward at the shoulders, incorporate the locust and cobra poses to strengthen your trapezius and rhomboids in your upper and mid-back. The locust pose involves lying on your stomach with your arms by your side and lifting both your shoulders and legs at the hips off the floor. The cobra pose is performed from a front-lying position as well. Place your hands flat on the floor outside your hips and push your shoulders and chest off the floor until your torso is vertical. If long hours of sitting has caused your hip flexors to become tight and thus your lower back to arch, add lunges and the warrior pose to your regimen. In addition, add crunches to strengthen the abdominals, which will reduce your pelvis from tilting forward.

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