Posture is everything
Posture is everything
Posture is everything.
As promised in my first blog, I am also going to write about exercise. It's a very extensive subject with lots of advice coming from all directions. But there is some basic information you should know before you start an exercise program, even if you are a life long exercise enthusiast. This blog is about one of those basic concepts--correct posture.
The basic principles of posture were the first things taught to me in my Pilate's certification class. It is so important that each instructor, before becoming certified, learn how to identify postural problems and help to correct the issue, or at least bring the problem to the attention of the client. The instructor then must design a program for each individual client based on their needs. I am not going to go into all the details of the training regimen but will give you a good awareness to help you exercise in good form, thereby creating a strong, flexible, and graceful body.
Let's start with something we never think about unless you have an issue such as asthma. Breathing is the most elemental of all body functions. Most people only utilize about 1/3 of their lung capacity. Its not your fault: you were never "taught" to breath. You pop out of the womb, the doctors slaps your bottom and you scream. Your first breathe! The rest is up to you for the rest of your life with no guidance whatsoever! Believe it or not, there are many technique's to breathing. It's just something we don't give a lot of thought to and that's unfortunate because it is so darn important. A good deep breath all the way to the bottom of your ribcage with a soft belly will help oxygenate your blood, relax tight muscles, and help strengthen a muscle you didn't even know you needed to strengthen--- your diaphragm. It wraps 360 degrees around the bottom of the lungs. Not exactly an anatomy class but close enough for you to get the idea. As you breathe in you want to direct your breath to the bottom of the lungs. It's not just depth we are looking for but breadth as well. You want to bring breath into the sides, front and back of the lungs while trying to utilize 100% of your lung capacity. I have had clients tell me after even 3 deep breathes they are light-headed. They are just not used to using all their lung capacity. So let's practice a few. Sit up tall in your seat and take a deep breath in and let it out through pursed lips like you are holding a straw in your mouth, controlling the breath. Now pull your belly in and force out the rest of the air. Just try 3 or 5 breaths and think how much better you feel already. Now that you are sitting up tall and your tummy is pulled in, you are going to find yourself at the next principle; pelvic placement. This can be different for everyone and unless a qualified instructor is standing over you and knows your issues, we are just going to stick with pulling in the abs without moving any other muscles or bony structure. Think of it as if someone had a string that popped out of the top of your head and was attached to your bottom. Imagine the string being pulled up like an elevator and your pelvic floor is coming up one level. Did you feel yourself grow taller? Excellent. Now consider where your ribs are-- are they over the hips or tilted forward or back? Now as you are sitting up taller where are your shoulders? Are they rounded forward? Of course they are! You drive, text, sit at a computer, eat, breathe and watch TV in that slumped position. Can you just imagine what you are doing to your internal organs? Squishing them! As you can imagine, this is terrible for your neck, low back, and your upper back too, not to mention the impact on your breathing and digestion. I like to tell people take your left shoulder and put it in your right back pocket and your right shoulder in left back pocket. Hmmm, feel that? Your whole front opens up. This simple cue is not going to fix what may be a lifetime of poor postural habit, along with injuries and a host of other things that can attack your body, but it certainly will make you think.
Now let's talk about your head. Are your ears over your shoulders or more like your lap? Does lying down on the floor make your chin jut up to the ceiling? Is it uncomfortable and tight to tilt your chin down? Does your head arrive in the room before you do? You may have a "forward head". As you can see in the poster we keep in our Pilates studio, this postural issue affects the whole rest of the body! So now to my point about being aware of this issue before you go to the gym or buy a workout DVD or whatever your form of exercise is---are you doing it with correct posture or are you making matters worse? For example, I have taught hundreds of cycling classes. In every one of them I have spent some/most of the class time cueing body posture tips to the cyclists. Invariably I observe many students cycling with horrible posture. Now that I take classes rather than conduct them, I have noticed that not one instructor offers much guidance in this area. I sure wish they did. I see some of the worst body postures when people become fatigued. This may be happening to you! No matter what you are doing, try to include posture in your thought process. Whether you exercise in bad posture or you are now sitting in front of your computer right now in a slumped position, you are only reinforcing the problem.
My blog is not intended to send everyone to a Pilate's studio, although it wouldn't be a bad thing in my opinion. If you are having neck or back pain in particular, you may want to seek a Pilates professional to examine your posture. It may take 4 or 5 one-hour sessions to begin finding some relief, but simply focusing on your posture will help put you on the road to pain relief. A good Pilates instructor can design a workout routine to help. Meanwhile, here's a simple tip that you can use before driving your car next time. Have someone sit next to you in the car and check your alignment. Is the headrest positioned so the back of your head lightly touches the headrest? Are your ears now over your shoulders? Are your shoulders bunched up around your ears? Relax, and lower them down in the pockets! Are your shoulders over your hips now? One last thing before you put the car in drive: tilt your chin down as if you were holding an apple against your chest. Perfect. Now sit up straight in the car seat and practice good posture the entire time you are driving.
Posture is a very complicated issue. One of the secrets in our house for counteracting the forward head position is an arc barrel. Several companies make them and a few our listed at the end of this blog. It is a tool that has helped my husband who spends way too much time on the computer. Every home should have one, also purchase a dvd explaining its proper use for maximum results.
Some people have spent years developing their forward head condition via poor posture. My intention is to only bring awareness. Next time you are in a public place, like an airport, take a look around. There are plenty of people to watch. Start looking for the forward head on your fellow passengers. Is it attractive to you? Does it make the person look older, out of shape? Does it look painful? And the million dollar question......Do YOU want to look like that and have those painful neck and back issues? Let's all sit up straight and focus on good posture--starting today!