Your guide to a posture-perfect back
Good posture is essential for looking and feeling good. Standing tall and not slouching will automatically give your body a leaner, more attractive shape and the ability to move better. Learning to use your body in a proper manner so all its parts are in alignment is really all good posture is. When the body is in alignment, breathing becomes easier and deeper.
Good posture is also preventive. If you have poor posture, your bones are not properly aligned and your muscles, joints and ligaments take more strain than nature intended. Faulty posture may cause you fatigue, muscular strain and, in later stages, pain. If your shoulders are slouched, there’s less room for your body’s internal organs, which hinders flow of oxygen into the body, affecting digestion, circulation, and other basic functions.
One of the first things to pay attention to is how you stand. Follow this simple exercise and feel the difference between standing correctly and the way many of us habitually stand.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, making sure both legs are facing forward.
- Your legs should be straight but your knees should not be locked.
- Let your arms rest naturally at your sides.
- Feel your weight being supported in the middle of each foot. You may want to see how it feels to rock onto the ball of your foot and then back on your heel. Finally, find a balance in the middle.
- Press your shoulders down your back. A good way to do this is by taking your shoulders up to your ears and then rolling them back to relax away from your neck.
- Make sure your head is centred directly on top of your spinal column.
The same applies to sitting. Many of us spend more than half our waking life sitting in chairs behind desks. So finding a comfortable chair is essential for good posture. When you’re looking for a chair to support your back and allow a proper sitting posture, check for the following:
- You should be able to place both of your feet flat on the floor.
- The seat of the chair should support your entire thigh.
- The back support of the chair should be as high as your shoulder blades.
Exercises for better posture
Sitting straight, take hold of the back of your chair. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold this position for two minutes while taking long, deep breaths.
Health benefits: This move encourages flexibility of the muscles around the shoulder joints, shoulder blades, breastbone and spine. It can also help reduce shoulder pain and ease headaches.
Seated forward bend
From the sitting-straight posture, bend your body forward so your torso is resting on your thighs. Your head and neck are relaxed, hanging loosely while your arms can rest on the ground or your elbows can be clasped with either hand. From this position, slowly rise with a flat back to sit tall. Repeat this movement 10-15 times.
Health benefits: This exercise releases tension in the shoulders and back while enhancing circulation. It also balances the joints of the shoulders and hips.
Clasp your hands behind your neck while pressing your elbows back so you feel a stretch in your chest and shoulder blades. Twist your torso gently to the right, hold for three deep breaths, then twist to the left for three breaths. Repeat on both sides 3-5 times. If you need to rest, come back to the centre, rest your hands on your knees and do some easy neck rolls, then resume the exercise.
Health benefits: The twist realigns the spine and its surrounding muscles. It also helps to eliminate shoulder and back pain.
With your feet hip-distance apart, stand with your head in line with your spine and your stomach muscles pulled in. Think about standing correctly as described above, though your knees may be bent slightly. Drop your head down to your chest and let the curve continue into your shoulders and back, then slowly to your waist and hips, so your arms are hanging or your hands may be touching the ground. Stay in this position for a few long breaths. Then, one vertebra at a time, roll gently up. Keep your stomach tucked in and the muscles of your buttocks tightened as you roll up. Your head is last to come up, directly in line with your spine. Repeat this exercise several times to get a feel for the proper alignment of your body.
Lie face-down on the floor, keeping your neck straight, with your legs extended and arms straight overhead. Slowly raise your left arm and right leg about six inches off the ground. Hold for five seconds and lower. Repeat with the right arm and left leg. Repeat five times on each side.
Lay on your back. Bend your knees and draw them into your chest to stretch the lumbar vertebrae. Place your feet back on the floor, keeping your knees bent and your entire lumbar back in contact with the floor. Throughout the remainder of the exercise, keep the lumbar back and pelvis in contact with the floor. Lay your arms across your chest and clutch your ribs while rocking from side to side to elongate your torso. Move your hands to the back of your head and pull forward to lengthen your cervical spine. Gently lower your head and neck to the floor.
Remember that regular exercise will always promote good posture. Walking, swimming, dancing or bicycling will help your body stay aerobically conditioned, while strengthening exercises will help the muscles surrounding your back to stay strong. These benefits of exercise promote good posture, which will in turn further help to condition muscles, prevent injury and keep you looking and feeling great.