Do A Quick Posture Check
First, what does “good” posture mean? It means that you have a neutral spine and that the muscles that surround the spine support the body equally.
Try this simple experiment:
- Stand against a wall. The back of your head should be touching the wall.
- Place your heels six inches from the wall.
- Your buttocks and shoulder blades should touch the wall.
- Ask a friend to measure the space between your neck and the wall, as well as the distance between the wall and the small of your back.
If the measurements for both are less than two inches, it is a sign you have good posture. If they are greater than two inches, it indicates a curved spine and poor posture.
Benefits of Good Posture - and How to Achieve It
Taking steps to improve posture can:
- Reduce Lower Back Pain
Slouching and slumping for long periods of time puts a great deal of stress on the muscles, ligaments, facet joints, and intervertebral discs.
If you build up your gluteal and abdominal muscles, your body uses them instead of relying on your lower back for support. Bridges help you do this: lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Contract your glute (i.e. butt) muscles to lift your hips and lower torso off the floor. You can tighten your muscles at the top for an extra burn! Then slowly lower down. Repeat for several reps.
- Reduce Headache Frequency
When we have poor posture, it puts a lot of tension on the muscles in the back of the neck. This can contribute to headaches.
Try: The Double-Chin Exercise
Strengthen the neck muscles by lying down on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Make a double chin by pushing your chin towards the floor. Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds, relax, and repeat 10 times.
- Increase Energy Levels
We could all use a boost to make the most of our days! The answer may be in your posture. When your bones and joints are aligned properly, the muscles don’t have to work as hard to do their jobs. Less fatigue, more energy, the ability to conquer your day!
Try: The Russian Twist
When you strengthen your obliques (the muscles the run along the side of your core), they help support you when you are standing or sitting. To do the Russian Twist, sit on the floor with your knees bent. Lift your feet off the floor about six inches, and rotate your upper body and elbows from side to side.
If this is too difficult, go ahead and put your feet down on the floor. It still works! Either way, be sure to hold your core tight to protect your back.
- Decrease Abnormal Wearing of Joint Surfaces
Joints naturally begin to wear down as we age, but when you sit or stand in a crooked position (e.g. resting on one leg, putting your weight on one side of the body), it puts a lot of extra stress on them. If you practice good posture, you will have far fewer problems now and down the line.
Try: Hip Flexor Stretch
To strengthen your core and lower back, begin in a lunge position. One leg will be at a 90-degree angle in front of you, foot flat on the floor. The other knee will be on the floor, with the leg stretching back. Engage your core. Gently lean into the stretch until you feel it in your hip flexor.
- Increase Lung Capacity
Try to take a deep breath when you are slouching. It’s not easy, is it? When you sit or stand taller, you give your lungs more room to expand.
Try: Push Out Your Pecs
There are a few ways to stretch your pectoral and chest muscles. Stand in a door frame and place your forearms at shoulder height. Put one foot in front of the other and shift your weight forward. When you feel a stretch in your chest, hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
You can also stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lock your hands together behind your back and hold for 20 seconds. If you need to, gently lean forward until you feel a stretch.
- Improve Circulation and Digestion
Certain positions (e.g. crossing the legs) impedes circulation, as does slouching, which compresses vital organs. When you have good posture, you have healthy blood flow and boost digestive health.
Try: A Thoracic Foam Roll
Foam rollers are inexpensive, and you can do a variety of moves to help stretch, relieve aches and pains, and improve posture. Lie on your back and position a foam roller (firm is better) underneath you at the bottom of your ribcage. Use your arms to support your neck. Extend your spine over the foam roller, moving up an inch or two, holding for a few seconds, and breathing calmly. (This feels terrific!)
- Improve Your Form During Workouts
Proper form is essential in workouts to ensure you maximize results and minimize injuries and aches and pains. When you do a squat, for example, engage your core and keep a neutral spine. This protects your back and gives your abs a good workout too.
Try: Tree Pose
Don’t worry if you’re not bendy! This is an easy yoga move that can help greatly with posture. Stand straight with your feet firm on the floor. Position your hands in the middle of your chest with your palms and fingers touching. Pull your shoulder blades back and down. Next, lift one leg up to your shin (or your thigh, if you can). To stabilize yourself, press the sole of your foot into your leg and engage your core.
Improving your posture also helps increase core and scapular strength, reduce tension in your neck and shoulders, and make you appear taller and slimmer.
Take On the World with Good Posture!
Research shows that good posture improves confidence in people’s own thoughts. In her landmark TED Talk, Amy Cuddy talks about “power poses.” Simply holding your body in specific ways for just two minutes increases confidence.
The Superman Pose, for example, is when you stand up tall and straight, check out, shoulders down and back, with your hands on your hips. Doing this for a few minutes before an important meeting, a presentation, a public speaking engagement, an interview, or another event in which you need to be at your best, does - according to studies - give you the boost you need.
This is the power of posture! Slumping doesn’t feel good for the body, and that affects the mind. When you improve your posture… you are poised to take on the world.
Imagine a cape, if it helps!
If you want to improve your posture and reap the benefits, contact the team at Beth EL Wellness & Chiropractic. Whether you want to resolve current health issues, prevent them, and/or live your best life, we are here.