Do you suffer from lower back pain? Upper back pain? Hip or neck pain? What about headaches? Do you drag through your day lacking energy? If so, your posture may be to blame.
If you find yourself standing most of the day, you probably have a habit of doing the same repetitive motions one-sided: standing with your weight more on one leg over the other, shifting your weight onto one hip more than the other, hyperextending (locking) your knees, rolling in or out on your feet, or perhaps you were born bowlegged or knock-kneed. These slights add up into a myriad of issues that can cause all sorts of discomforts from knee pain, to hip and lower back pain.
Sitting is even worse, as your spine bears the brunt of your weight when you sit and promotes the perfect environment for rounded shoulders, a concave chest, a tilted head, a rounded upper back, an arched lower back (although this can also be from standing as well) and a protruding abdomen.
Sometimes we may even have uneven shoulders due to carrying a heavy purse on the same side or lugging heavy grocery bags around.
Some of the benefits of beautiful posture are breathing better (buh-bye, fatigue!), balancing our joints and muscles, looking taller and leaner, and our clothes fitting better. What many people may not realize is the correlation with the dreaded pooch — or as I like to call it, the human fanny pack. When I was growing up, I noticed how it seemed as if every woman I knew had a pooch (men had kegs, AKA “beer bellies”). I thought women had it because they had babies, and men had it because they ate too much. While there is some truth to both of these statements, many people who slouch or slump in their chairs on a regular basis are not only crowding their internal organs (think of a pile-up on a high-way) and contributing to their pooch, but they’re also contributing to poor digestion, which can lead to weight gain.
By lengthening the spine as we sit in a neutral position, opening our collarbones, and gently sliding the scapulae down our back (imagine you’re tucking your angel wings into your back pockets), we enable the body to breathe more efficiently through the rib cage — I like to imagine it as an accordion, expanding three dimensionally. As I mentioned before, when you’re posture is ideal, you breathe better and digest better which gives you much more noticeable energy.
Here are some easy tips you can implement in your everyday life:
- When standing and sitting, imagine that you have a heavy robe on your shoulders pulling them open and back and that you are wearing a crown on your head; you don’t want the crown to slip off by dropping your chin down, so keep your eyes level.
- Always think of staying long in your body — especially through your waist to avoid lower back pain. Imagine your head is a balloon, and your body is floating straight up in the sky.
- Keep your knees slightly bent or “soft” to avoid hyperextension. Imagine if you were standing on the beach. Balance your weight through your toes and feet, working your way up through the knees, pulling your bellybutton to your spine, opening your shoulders, and stretching the crown of your head towards the sky like a sunflower.
- When you do find that you are having digestion woes, try gentle abdominal massage in a clockwise motion coupled with gentle pelvic contractions to promote circulation and help with digestion.
- Practice deep breathing. Emphasize a longer exhalation to promote a fuller inhalation. Take your time, close your eyes and release any tension that is creeping into your muscles. Deep breathing relaxes tight muscles.
Above all else, be patient with yourself when implementing these changes. Do them as often as you can, and you will reap the rewards.
Crystal Manjarres is the owner of One-On-One Fitness, a private personal training and Pilates studio for men and women on Marco Island. She is a Certified Personal Trainer, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Colon Hydrotherapist and Stott Pilates certified instructor. Her focus is “Empowering men and women of all shapes and sizes”. To send in a question, email Crystal@PinkIslandFitness.com. She can also be reached at www.101FIT.com or www.PinkIslandFitness.com and 239-333-5771.