Like a building with a poor foundation, a body with poor posture is less resistant to strains and injuries. Poor posture often develops because of habitual, incorrect movements and patterns.
Most of us struggle with muscle pain and limited range of motion caused by or complicated by postural misalignments such as rounded shoulders, forward protruding head or tucked pelvis. Chronic neck pain, headaches and lower back pain are also indicators of misalignment.
But the process of observing areas of our poor posture can be a hopeful experience. Once we are aware of what we need to adjust, we can make corrections that can help create a healthy foundation for our bodies. Creating awareness is always the first step to making a change.
What Does Your Posture Look Like?
Stand naturally, facing a full-length mirror.
- Is your head level or does it tilt to one side?
- Does it protrude forward?
- Are they even or is one higher?
- Is one arm longer?
- Do you see the backs of your hands or thumbs?
- Are your shoulders square or is one slightly forward?
- Hips (most of lower back pain and knee issues relate to the misalignment of hips and pelvis.)
- Place your hands on your hips. Is one higher or one side more forward?
- Does your pelvis tip forward or backward?
- Do your kneecaps point forward, outward or inward?
- Are your knees locked in hyperextension?
- Which way do they point?
- Is one foot slightly in front of the other?
- Where is your weight? (In your toes, heels, sides or even?)
Turn to the side.
- Vertical Line
- What is the curvature of your spine like?
- Is your pelvis neutral, tipped forward, tucked under or twisted?
Moving through your day.
- Sitting: at your desk, at a table, on the sofa, in your car.
- What is your posture like?
- Do you habitually cross your legs, slouch or crane your head forward?
Standing: in line, chatting.
- What is your stance? Do you weight one foot, hike a hip, cross your arms?
We tend to hold our practiced positions, imbalances and movement patterns for extended periods of times. As you evaluate your posture, begin to notice areas that are not in alignment.
Use Your New Awareness to Realign
Breaking old habits takes time and repetition. To strengthen your awareness, it is important to make checking in with yourself a constant practice. If you spend a large part of your workday in front of a computer, set a timer for every 30 minutes. Each time it goes off, check your posture and realign. Or you can use pain as a timer. When you start to feel discomfort, check your posture.
Standing in front of the mirror, imagine vertical lines running from your feet, up through your knees, hips, shoulders and ears.
- Weight your feet evenly, grounding the four corners of each foot
- Stabilize the lower body as you lengthen the upper body, spine and sides
- Breathe into and lift your chest
- Try to align your neck and head with the vertical lines
- Close your eyes and take several deep breaths. Allow yourself to really feel the stability in the lower body and the length in the entire spine from the tailbone through the crown of the head.
- Open your eyes and begin to walk around. Stop, reassess, realign.
- Practice this several times a day.
When you are at the gym, concentrate on starting every movement and exercise with this awareness. Remember: we are what we practice.
Breaking Old Patterns
For a while this lengthened position will feel contrived and awkward because it is so different from your usual pattern, but in time you will feel comfortable. As you continue to practice, notice that you look taller and thinner, convey more confidence and have more energy. Movement and breathing will be less labored and more efficient. You may experience a lessening or disappearance of chronic pains, headaches, or sinus issues.
In the next series of articles, I will be talking about different exercises to help correct common posture problems. Until then, practice awareness and perfecting your posture. It's the first step to a solid foundation.
Stay on the Path!
Carol Porter is a personal trainer and fitness guide in Ashland, Oregon. She is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer, exercise and performance-training specialist, and yoga teacher. Her sports interests are cycling, running, yoga, hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, and cross country skiing. You can reach Carol at email@example.com