We can all recall as kids being asked to stand or sit up straight. Correct posture is essential to health and well-being. Why? Because posture affects breathing, lung capacity, and overall energy levels. Slumping or slouching compresses the lungs and decreases the volume of the breath. This limits oxygen inflow, vital to maintaining peak energy levels and proper functioning of muscles, nerves and all major systems of the body. Hours in front of a TV or staring at a smart phone can weaken the core muscles of the back and abdomen while tightening those of the hips, chest, shoulders and neck. We can reverse the influences of our modern lifestyle by paying attention to posture.
First, take stock of how you sit.
Proper Seated Posture
- Feet planted flat on the floor or footrest
- Avoid crossing the legs
- Ankles directly below the knees
- Knees level with the hips
- Knees, hips and shoulders level
- Forearms parallel to ground
- Midsection engaged and pulled in
- Breath directed into upper chest
Next, notice how you stand.
- Body weight even on both feet Feet hip-distance apart
Feet and knees pointed straight ahead
- Hips even, stomach tucked in
- Back straight without rounding or arching
- Shoulders even, pulled back and down
- Chin level with the ground
Reversing Bad Posture
Noticing your posture throughout the day is a great place to start. A few simple exercises can help us begin to reverse the effects of our bad posture habits. One of our favorites is the Seated Spinal Stretch. We love doing this throughout the day when we’ve been behind a desk for a while or as a way to transition from one activity to another, like getting out of bed in the morning. This simple but effective spinal stretch can also be performed on the hands and knees where it is referred to in yoga as the Cat-Cow Pose.
Seated Spinal Stretch
- Place your hands on your knees. Inhale, pulling the shoulders up, back and down, expanding chest – arching the back.
- Exhale, straighten the arms, tucking stomach towards the spine, and press down into knees – rounding the back.
Building Everyday Postural Awareness
- Take frequent breaks to stand and walk if seated for extended periods
- Plant feet firmly on the floor anytime while seated
- Keep shoulders back and chin level whenever using a smart phone
- Switch a handbag between shoulders throughout the day
Posture is critical to balance: when the bones and joints are in correct alignment, less strain is placed on the back. This makes any activity safer and easier, from walking to the corner store to carrying groceries up the stairs. There are very few daily activities that do not depend on proper posture, solid balance and effective breathing. According to Harvard Health Publications, greater attention to everyday habits can visibly improve posture within weeks!
It’s never too late to improve your posture!