Posture Perfect: The new 'skinny"

In our high-tech society of typing and texting and sitting for hours, 80percent of Americans experience pain as a result of poor postural habits. This pain and tension can be felt in the neck, the shoulders, the low back, the hips, the knees and the ankles. So how can we better manage this?

By working to attain good posture as well as good postural habits, one can significantly improve quality of life at work, rest and play, and minimize pain. Not to mention that one can significantly reduce health care professional bills.

There is no substitute for having good posture! The more you use it, the better it gets and the less you have to think about it. Good posture energizes, exudes confidence and is aesthetically appealing. The new “skinny” should focus more on “proper posture” and less on weight loss, as the way you carry yourself has more of an impact on how people see you.

Ideal alignment has its origins in good movement: a balance between strength and stretch. Let’s review some key principles in the primary positions we’re in on a daily basis.

Standing

  • Your head should feel like it is balanced on top of the shoulders, like a balloon on a string, light and tension-free. Visualize this and feel tension release from the neck and the shoulders.

  • Stand sideways and see your alignment in the mirror. Align your ears with the top of the shoulders, with the back of the neck long and holding its natural curvature. The shoulders should align over the hips.

  • The low back should hold its natural curve. If you tuck your seat underneath, you will flatten the lower back. This is a major cause of lower- back pain.

  • Feel the weight of the feet without shoes, resting firmly on the ground. You should feel as though you are leaning slightly forward. Walking

  • Walking is one of the best exercises when training for posture dynamically. Assume the standing posture that allow your arms and hips to freely move. The biggest mistake people make is pushing their heads forward when they walk or trying to overly engage their gluteal muscles, which limits the legs from achieving their full movement.

  • Walking should be the most freeing of movements and one of the most effective ways to exercise our joints and muscles. Sitting

  • Use a good chair so you can adjust the height and allow your feet to connect with the ground and keep the position of your head in good alignment. If you have to look up to see the computer screen, then adjust the screen itself to immediately reduce neck tension.

  • Keep the front of the shoulders open, just like in the standing posture.

  • Think of pressing your sitting bones into the chair and then come slightly forward on them so the top of the pelvis gently rolls forward, for normal curvature of the lower back.

  • You can use a small, rolled-up towel under your lower back to keep that curve. Do not allow your lower back to sink into the back of the chair. If your musculature starts to get tired then it’s better to get up and walk around rather than let your body collapse into a sloppy position. Adopting these principles for your daily routine can drastically improve your alignment and allow your body to move efficiently. Some good forms of movement that promote good posture with an equal amount of stretch and strength are Pilates, yoga and Gyrotonic. A skilled trainer of these modalities can pick up changes in posture and make appropriate adjustments in a client’s session. There is no reason why you cannot transform your body and mind to create alignment that empowers, inspires and transforms the way you see yourself. Remember, the new “skinny” is all about being “posture perfect!”

Monica Hoekstra

Society Magazine – July 2013

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