The Best Exercise to Improve Posture
Posture matters. Not just for aesthetics, and not just for class. Posture can actually affect social dynamics, moods, pain, and even your ability to think.
Why? Because posture is the key to so many important bodily functions such as breath, circulation, and alignment. And because posture is one of the key things people look to when subconsciously analyzing body language.
It is therefore seriously important that you have good posture. Below I will show you the best exercise to improve posture, as well as its posture-fixing sisters.
If you were to approach a Pilates instructor (myself included) and ask which exercise is best for improving posture, chances are the answer will be swan.
In this exercise, you lie prone and slowly extend your spine into a raised arc. The key to getting the most from this exercise is to maximize the use of your core and back muscles to lift and pull yourself into the position while minimizing the use of your arms to push you.
Here are the steps of the exercise:
- Lie on your stomach with a small towel rolled under your forehead to keep your nose from grinding into the floor
- Place your palms on the floor at the edges of your mat with your fingertips fairly level with the tops of your shoulders
- Inhale through your nose, then exhale and co-contract, drawing your belly button away from the floor
- As you exhale, draw your shoulder blades down your back
- Continuing to exhale, imagine your shoulder blades melting down your back like pats of butter (Mmm!) and lift your head and chest off the mat ( important: do NOT crane your neck or lift your head- keep your nose pointed toward the floor- arching your neck makes you THINK you are extending your spine when you're really just lifting your head) but do not push with your arms
- Lift your chest as far off the mat as you can until you actually need to use your arms to support you
- At this point, you may begin using your hands to lightly help you the rest of the way up (imagine you are doing this on a cracked pane of glass and every extra ounce of pressure from your hands could break it- like in that Jurassic Park scene!!)
- Continue to extend your spine until your sacrum is just touching or just lifted off the floor
- Inhale, opening your chest toward the opposite wall, drawing your shoulder blades down your back
- Exhale, co-contract, and slowly roll back down, starting with your lower vertebrae and returning to just a chest float and moving through to your starting position from there
It's that simple!
Foam Roller Variation
A nice alternate version of swan, pictured above right, can be done with a foam roller:
- The alternate starting position for this version involves lying prone with your arms above your head and resting on a foam roller with your palms facing each other. From there...
- Stretch your shoulder blades upward, inhaling and rolling the foam roller away from you
- Exhale, co-contract, and draw your shoulder blades down your back, rolling the foam roller back toward you
- Continue the movement by continuing into a chest float (your arms should stay straight, however your foam roller should still be rolling toward you)
Additional Exercises for Posture
Below are some additional posture-improving exercises for you to consider.
- Lie on a mat or foam roller with your knees bent and feet lined up with your knees (which should be lined up with your hips)
- With palms facing the ceiling, move your arms in a snow angel motion
- Inhale and exhale smoothly
- Lie on a foam roller, with the base of your scull anchored to one end, and your sacrum anchored to the other end
- Let your arms rest at your sides, palm down
- Inhale and exhale deeply
For an extra stretch, bring your arms into a cactus or goal post-like position.
Rolling Out Your Back
- Place a foam roller under your upper back
- Cradle the base of your scull in your fingertips
- Lift your bottom off the floor, and use your legs to rock yourself back and forth over the foam roller
- Roll no higher than the base of your neck and no lower than your kidneys
Coronal Arm Circles
- Put your arms into a goal post-like position, but let your elbows be a bit forward - you should be able to see your arms in your peripheral vision
- Bring your shoulder blades low
- Bring them together
- Still squeezing them together, bring them up
- Still keeping them up, move your shoulder blades apart
- Keeping your shoulder blades wide, bring them back down
- Repeat, and finish with your shoulder blades in that wide and down position - this is what you want to maintain all day!