Finding Your Center Through Posture
One of the unsung heroes of long-term health and mobility is good posture. It is essential in everyday life and can either help or harm the alignment and function of our body. Additionally, many of our everyday activities (like working at a desk, cycling, crunching, running, to name a few) actually cause our shoulders to hunch forward rather than remain pulled back. Having bad posture can lead to back pain, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, poor digestion, nerve constriction, and arthritis from adding strain to certain joints and muscle groups. Luckily, it can be easily corrected through awareness and simple exercises.
Growing up riding horses competitively in English dressage and jumping, while also doing ballet, I learned the importance of finding your center and standing tall. Riding and dancing helped me develop the muscle memory not only for proper spine alignment but also set the foundation for building a strong core. How we carry ourselves speaks volumes to confidence. Walking into a room and owning it is much easier than you may think. I like to remember to stand up straight and “keep my shoulder blades in my back pocket,” while also wearing a big smile. 😁 The cornerstone of improving your posture is focusing on exercises that strengthen your core. The abdominal and lower back muscles that connect your spine to your pelvis contribute to your quality of posture. Taking yoga and Pilates classes help with training the core. Sit up straight, stand tall, and know that you will exude confidence and beauty!
Start by doing shoulder rolls:
- Stand in a relaxed position and when you inhale roll your shoulders up and back in a circular motion.
- Repeat this 10-20 times.
Here are some exercises, activities, and movements that can help you develop and maintain good posture for life. Courtesy of WebMD. You can see a more comprehensive list of posture-correcting movements on their site.
1. Core Stabilizer: Single Leg Extension
- Why It’s Good for You: This move trains your core muscles to work together to stabilize your pelvis.
- Starting Position: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and hands behind your head. Press your low back into the floor, and curl your head up off the floor.
- The Move: Exhale strongly and pull your navel in and up toward your spine. Slowly pull one knee into your chest, keeping your low back pressed to the floor, while extending your other leg straight at about a 45-degree angle off the floor. Keep your abdominals pulled in and your low back on the floor. If your low back arches off the floor, extend your leg higher toward the ceiling. Switch legs. Start with five to 10 extensions on each side.
- Increase the Intensity: Pull both knees into your chest, then extend both legs straight at about a 45-degree angle, using your core to keep your low back on the floor. Or, as you extend your legs, extend both arms overhead, reaching in the opposite direction from your legs.
2. Pilates Roll-Up / Yoga Sit-Up
- Why It’s Good for You: This move works the rectus abdominis, obliques, and transverse abdominis (the deepest core muscles that wrap around your waist like a corset and pull your abdomen inward and upward toward your spine.)
- Starting Position: Lie on your back with your legs straight, your feet flexed, and your arms reaching overhead on the floor. Press your low back into the floor.
- The Move: Exhale strongly and pull your navel in and up toward your spine. Roll up in slow motion, reaching your arms off the floor, then your shoulders and head, rolling up one vertebra at a time until you’re sitting up with your abdominals still pulled in. Slowly roll back down. Repeat three to five times, adding more as your core gets stronger.
- Increase the Intensity: Cross your arms over your chest as you roll up.
3. Cobra Pose: Back Extension
- Why It’s Good for You: This move strengthens the erector spinae (the back muscles that extend your spine and prevent slouching) and other low back muscles.
- Starting Position: Lie on your stomach with palms flat on the floor near your ribs. Extend your legs straight behind you, and press the tops of your feet into the floor.
- The Move: Exhale strongly and pull your abdominal muscles in and up toward your spine. Lengthen out through your spine and slowly raise your head and chest off the floor, using only your back muscles. Do not push down into your arms to press up. Keep your hip bones on the floor, and gaze down at the floor to relax your neck muscles. Slowly lower back down. Repeat three to five times, adding more as your lower back gets stronger
- Increase the Intensity: Reach your arms long beside your head. Keep your elbows straight.