The Power of Posture
June 29, 2010
As children, our parents and teachers were always reminding us to sit up straight and don’t slouch. I know this was one of my mom’s favorites. She would say, “Good posture shows pride and confidence and keeps your body functioning properly.” I didn’t really understand the true importance of this until I became a physical therapist.
Now there seems to be a whole portion of my brain dedicated to posture. Numerous injuries result from abnormal posture so it’s on my mind while I’m treating patients. Even when I’m not at work I can’t help myself. I’m constantly observing it; at a restaurant, at the beach, at the mall. I’m always improving my own posture as well with small adjustments throughout the day and especially with yoga.
I’m sure if you pay close attention you will notice that you’re surrounded by posture too. You’ll find endless articles in health magazines on the topic. If you go to any exercise class, the instructor will surely draw your attention to your alignment. I just ran a search for “posture” on Google and got 18 million hits. It seems impossible to sort through all that information but maybe I can help.
– Improves bone health
– Keeps muscles working efficiently
– Decreases stress on ligaments
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– Decrease abnormal wear and tear
– Requires less energy
– Prevents pain
– Improves breathing
– Decreases injury risk
– Looks good
Neck: Your chin should be level and slightly tucked back so that your ear sits over your shoulder. Your neck should not be tilted to the left or right.
Shoulders: Your shoulders should be pulled down and back. Pretend to squeeze an orange between your shoulder blades to see what this should feel like.
Back and abdominals: Keep your pelvis level and not tilted forward or back. Maintain the natural curves of the spine. In the neck and low back, the spine should curve slightly forward. In the mid-back, the spine should curve slightly backward. Finally, tuck your abdominals in.
Hips, knees and feet: Your hips should be even when looking from the front. When looking from the side, your hips, knees and feet should be in line. Your feet should be hip-distance apart to provide a good base of support.
Practice: Check yourself out in a mirror to see how you stand and sit. Make adjustments and be aware of how they feel on your body. Stand against a wall to check your posture. When standing a few inches away from the wall your head, shoulders, upper back and buttocks should be touching the wall. In this position, tighten your abdominals and pull them up and in. Practice every day and feel how your body changes.
Movement: Standing and sitting in one place can fatigue postural muscles making it difficult to maintain a good alignment. It can also tighten muscles and joints. Take breaks from sitting by standing up and walking around.
Deep breathing and relaxation: Feeling stressed? Stress can manifest as muscle tension. Use deep breathing and relaxation techniques to lower your stress level.
Reminders: Every time I hear or read the word posture I automatically sit up straight. You can do this for yourself by adding reminders throughout the day. Correct your posture every time the phone rings or when you get a text message. Leave notes around the house. Set an alarm on your computer to remind you while you’re at work.
Adapt your environment: Make changes to your environment to accommodate your body. Adjust your work station and invest in an ergonomic chair.
Exercise: Yoga and Pilates are an excellent way to improve your posture. Get into an exercise routine that will strengthen your back and stretch tight muscles. Start with the exercises below.
Chin tucks: Keep your chin level and slowly tuck your chin in toward your neck as though you were trying to make a double chin. Hold 10 seconds. Perform 10 times.
Shoulder rolls: Roll your shoulders backwards to open up the chest and relieve tension in the neck and upper back. Perform 10 times.
Scapula pinches: Pinch the shoulder blades together. Hold 10 seconds. Perform 10 times.
Pelvic tilt: Lie on your back with the knees bent and your feet on the floor. Tighten your abdominals. Pull your belly button in towards your spine and gently push your back into the floor. Hold 10 seconds. Perform 10 times.
It’s never too late to enjoy the benefits of good posture. Stand tall and walk confidently and before you know it you will be looking and feeling great.
Michelle Snyder is a physical therapist at Emerald Bay Physical Therapy at 812 Emerald Bay Road. She can be reached at email@example.com.