Part 1–21st Century Posture Profiles

If you’re like me, you have little patience for not being able to move freely because of a chronic ache or pain.  Yes?  I’ve assessed hundred’s of postures at this point in my yoga therapy practice and lately I’ve been seeing two main posture types and the movement impairments that accompany them.

Often, if we rest from the activity that spikes the pain, the pain goes away. This makes us happy temporarily, but only to find that when we go back to our beloved movement, the pain rears its sleepy head… as if it never left.

Sometimes it’s the movement pattern itself that needs attention, awareness and repatterning, but more often than not, the source of the issue comes from the foundation of our posture. In order to have effective and efficient movement, it’s advantageous to move from a sound foundation.

Ok, so hear me out on this.  It’s important to put Mr. & Ms. Perfection on the shelf for now, and instead, begin to build your awareness about your posture type. Then once there, take measured steps towards a more aligned one, or you’ll only fuel that self-loathing demon to rear its ugly head!  Fear not, I’ll be offering some posture remedies in subsequent posts.

3 Posture Types

Let’s take a look at and understand 3 posture types: nuetral posture, and the two 21st Century postures that I’m seeing a lot of these days: the swayback and the c-spine.


                Neutral Posture                                       


Figure 1 shows the posture that our mothers were referring to when they told us to “stand up straight” or the posture that comes from walking with a book on our heads. I know I may be dating myself here, but there was some really good wisdom in that book-on-the-head walking, and we’ll revisit why later.

The alignment of a neutral posture that we find in textbooks and in figure 1 would have plumb line points through the:

  • ear lobes
  • shoulder joint
  • slightly posterior of the hip joint (through the greater trochanter of the femur)
  • just anterior of the center of the knee joint
  • slightly anterior of the lateral malleolus (outside ankle bone)


Please note:  We are not textbooks, we are humans.  So we won’t have a textbook posture, but we can move toward it and it will enhance how we move.

 Determine Yours

Wonder what your posture type is? A quick test would be for you to stand with your back to a wall, but not yet touching it. Without correcting your posture in any way, slowly step back until some part of your back body touches the wall. What hits first: your head, shoulders, upper back or buttocks? Check yours and save this information for later.

From a neutral posture, movement builds strength and balance in our muscles and our joints are supported. There will be less drag and more efficient use of energy, thereby building stamina with less effort. Incidentally, a neutral posture will have only your buttocks touching the wall in the wall test.

Swayback Posture

Figure 2 depicts a swayback posture. I took the neutral image and cut it up to show the shifts and tucks in the posture, and to aid in understanding what the heck swayback is.

In this posture, the thoracic spine sways back and the pelvis sways forward.  Additionally, the pelvis also tucks under (posterior tilt) and the lumbar spine becomes flat versus having a concave curve. There is excessive hip joint extension and the hamstrings can become locked short.

Someone with this posture tends to hyperextend in the knees, the head moves forward and down, and the shoulders round. The wall test would have your upper back hit the wall first with it being quite difficult to bring your head and buttocks back to the wall.


Figure 3 illustrates a c-spine. If you trace an imaginary line from the model’s red ear circle to the one at the hip, you’ll see that the line is C-shaped.

This posture is quickly emerging as the most common posture type today. Prolonged sitting  and looking at devices reinforce it.  In this posture, the head shifts forward, the upper and lower back shifts back, and the pelvis tucks under. The wall test would have your mid-back touching the wall first.

What’s Next

Check back next week for Part 2.  We’ll look at how the swayback and c-spine postures impair movement and I’ll give some posture remedies.

Parts 3 & 4 will look at postures that have twists and turns in them.  We’ll consider their particular movement limitations, and some poses for bringing ease to the tight spots and strength to the weak ones.

Finally, in Part 5, we’ll look at the wisdom of the walking-with-a-book-on-our-heads throwback. Then we’ll consider ways to cultivate a more neutral spine while sitting, walking and standing.

Let me know your posture type in the comments and what kinds of aches and pains you’re having.

Yoga As Therapy, 2015 Edition, Volume 1, by Doug Keller.


Bea Doyle, MST, E-RYT500, C-IAYT, is a Functional Yoga Educator and Yoga Therapist, a former yoga studio owner and a high school math teacher. Her trainings and private sessions foster a focused and supportive environment for learning, and empower her students and clients to step into their personal journey, be it for self-care, or for sharing yoga’s healing gifts with others. Her enthusiasm for health, her belief that everything is figure-outable and her commitment to service are her whys for working therapeutically with yoga. She holds certifications in Anusara Yoga, Yoga Tune Up® Fitness Therapy and with the International Association of Yoga Therapists. Bea lives in Santa Fe, NM with her partner David and mini-poodle Blue. Learn more about Bea’s offerings at