The human body and its mechanisms are incredibly complex, and the spine is no exception. Many factors including genetics, injuries, and gravity determine your posture and the health of your backbone. Although you may not be able to alter the laws of physics, you can certainly change the way you approach your posture.
Saloni Doshi, a physical therapist with Brigham and Women’s Hospital, explains to Harvard Health exactly how poor posture develops: “[An unhealthy habit] overstretches and weakens the muscles in the back of your shoulders, and shortens the muscles in the front of your shoulders and in your chest. Gravity then pulls the muscles forward because the muscles are too weak to pull them back up.” This isn’t a process that happens overnight, so there’s time to improve your posture if you find yourself struggling to keep your spine straight.
A great first step is to notice when you slouch and see if any pattern prevails. For example, you may notice that you crane your neck scrolling through Facebook, or hunch over the keyboard while at work. Even workouts are prime time for posture correction; make sure you’re using the correct technique when weightlifting or stretching to avoid any muscle tightness or injury.
Once you’ve noticed when and where your posture seems to slide, leave a reminder for yourself to sit up straight. A simple sticky note on your steering wheel or work computer can be enough to ensure keeping a straight spine is an automatic habit. If you’re more of a digital person, try setting reminders on your phone or laptop to encourage you to roll your shoulders back and sit tall.
You can aid your posture in the long run by practicing specific sitting poses and other exercises meant specifically to work the body’s core. Doshi also mentions that the key muscles to keep in mind while thinking about posture are those in your abdomen and back, as they work together to keep your body upright and your gravity centered.
Yoga teacher Alison West, Ph.D., has developed several sitting poses and desk exercises to target and reverse slouching. Chair Pose with a Dowel is one that requires nothing more than a chair and a dowel. To try this sitting pose, sit at the very front of your chair (one without wheels) with your feet flat on the ground. The dowel should be upright between your knees as you hold it with both hands like you’re riding a carousel. Push the dowel down into the ground to stretch and lift your chest. To use your desk instead of a dowel, press your palms flat into the desktop to achieve the same lifting motion.
Core Prep with Angel Wings is another one of Alison West’s sitting poses for improved posture. She categorizes this move as a “mild core exercise,” which can make for a good wake-me-up in the middle of the workday. Take the same initial as the chair pose, and sit at the front of your chair with a “neutral spine”. If you’re in the right position, you’ll feel the front of your body start to engage. Inhale, raise your arms out and up at the side of your body, and lower them slowly with each exhale. Repeat this motion ten times.
A fantastic sitting pose for a tight lower back is the Chair Ankle-to-Knee Pose, another of West’s recommendations. To do this, you’ll sit at the front of your chair with your left ankle on top of your right knee. To maintain stability, move your right foot beneath the middle of your left shin rather than underneath the ankle. It might help to turn your right foot out for more support as you slowly bend forward at the hips, stretching the groin, hips, and lower spine. Don’t forget to repeat it on the other side!
Goalpost Squeeze is a seated exercise to lift and strengthen the upper back. To begin, the arms should be in a goalpost-shaped position with the elbows bent at 90 degrees. For this exercise, push your elbows behind you as if holding a marble between your shoulder blades. Holding this pose for around ten seconds will work your spine and stretch the muscles in the front of your body.
To further open up and stretch the chest, try the armpit opener. This is especially good practice for keeping your shoulders back when sitting for a long period of time. Your arms will begin in a similar goalpost-like position, but you’ll reach up and over your head to intertwine your fingers. Alternating between reaching overhead with your hands and pulling your elbows backward will strengthen and open your chest.
BlissMark provides information regarding health, wellness, and beauty. The information within this article is not intended to be medical advice. Before starting any diet or exercise routine, consult your physician. If you don’t have a primary care physician, the United States Health & Human Services department has a free online tool that can help you locate a clinic in your area. We are not medical professionals, have not verified or vetted any programs, and in no way intend our content to be anything more than informative and inspiring.
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