Instantly improve your posture with these tips
Posture, or the alignment of your body, is how your bones, muscles and joints all work together as a system. It affects how you look and feel, from your confidence and comfort to your athletic performance and injuries.
According to Molly Kroeker MSPT, certified MDT and CSCS, physical therapist and Pilates instructor, the benefits of good posture go far beyond having a better appearance. They include a healthy spine, increased circulation, digestion and better breathing.
Kroeker also notes that proper alignment is key for injury prevention. “How we carry ourselves is so important, in so many ways. Busy lifestyles can cause back and neck pain as well as shoulder problems,” Kroeker said. “Many people sit at computers all day, which can lead to injury over time.” Other injuries and postural problems stem from carrying heavy backpacks or purses, slouching in chairs or wearing high heels. Kroeker suggests some simple posture checks and exercises to get you started.
Start by checking yourself out in a mirror and doing the following:
- Lift up your chin. This helps relieve pressure from your cervical spine and neutralizes your neck.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades down and together. If you lift your chest slightly and pull your shoulders down, it will help tight shoulders relax over time.
- Pull the top of your head toward the sky. Remember, you
- Pull in your belly button. Activating your core (the transverse abdominal muscles) helps to strengthen and protect your lower back and your abdominals.
“Remember that sitting all day can leave our bodies tired and stiff, shortening the hip flexors and pulling on our lower back,” says Bruning Brown. She notes that many back and pain issues stem from compressed disks and lack of movement. She has found two yoga-based stretches that she finds to be very effective for relieving low back stress and for improving posture and alignment right away.
- Backbend arch. From a standing position, gently arch your back with hands on your hips, while still standing tall. Open up and stretch your arms back like your wings are out and open.
- Seated Cat/Cow. In a chair, while seated, place feet in front of you flat on the floor with hands on the knees. Gently inhale and lift chest and push hips back, arching the back and opening the chest while squeezing the shoulder blades. On your exhale, round chest and scoop in belly while curling your tailbone inward. Drop your head down, bringing your chin to your chest and head down toward your sternum.
Dr. Jenni Bruning Brown, owner of Fly, says that in addition to postural remedies, these simple stretches can help lengthen and align the muscles. In fact, research has found postural improvements in those who participated in barre & yoga classes regularly. She recommends perfecting your posture in one of Fly’s barre classes or trying a regular yoga class to help stretch out tight muscles.