compliments of diane@StretchingbytheBay.com:
I’m a Posture Geek (as some of you know). Good posture is a gift you give to yourself to enhance your well-being and avoid a lot of aches and pains and even dysfunction. Good posture makes life easier and your body more comfortable (although it may take a little learning curve to embrace). Various posture blogs have appeared in my newsletter over the years (you can sign up to receive the next one by clicking the box on this site) but rather than have you dig through old issues to get the info, here’s the 411:
If you’re standing, good posture begins with your footprints. Have your weight distributed equally on the balls in the heels, and the inner and outer parts of the feet equally. Building up from that foundation, you want your thighbones directly over your shin bones. For most people, that means you need to stop locking your knees and gently engage the muscles around your knee joint.
Neutral pelvis is the next segment up. (It’s important to have your hip flexor’s lengthened and good muscular balance so that you can actually achieve this alignment.) A little curve in the lumbar, a tiny curve out behind the heart, a little curve in at the neck, and head resting lightly a top these easily stacked building blocks. If you have any of the components out of alignment, muscular tension and stress will be the likely result there and/or further up the chain. For instance, if you’ve been a habitual knee-locker, chances are you’ve got forward head which stresses your trapezius. Knee-locking is also likely to contribute to back pain, as it shortens the lumbar region and disengages your abdominals.
It’s my job to make good posture possible and then it’s your job to implement it.
Seated posture begins with the sit bones. You should have a 90° angle at your hips & knees, or even have your hips a tiny bit higher. Then use your core muscles to maintain an upright position. And further up the chain, the muscles of scapular stabilization need to be engaged to keep your shoulders back and your chest lifted. Lengthen out the crown of your head whether you’re sitting or standing!
Breathe deeply in a full circumference, lengthening your spine with each inhale. Expand your ribs to the sides and the back. On the exhale, gently draw your navel into larger spine engaging your transversus abdominis (TA) while keeping your spine lengthened. With practice, this will all become second nature!
Many of you have already transitioned to standing desks – HOW you stand at them matters! Try to have your economic keyboard where your hands can rest comfortably on it with your mouse close by (so you’re not reaching for it). Prolonged laptop use is the worst: thumb-scrolling rounds the shoulders, and the monitor and keyboard are too close together on a laptop for an adult to preserve their structure while using.
Actually, texting posture is usually even worse! Bring your device up to you! (“It’s not that heavy!!”) Put your device in front of your eyes (don’t drop your head towards your hands). Set your shoulder blades in scapular stabilization and use both hands (or use voice dictation like I’m doing now:-)) to text. Don’t think you’re going to be there “just a second” – chances are you’ll be in some awkward biomechanically stressful position many seconds or minutes if you let it happen at all.
Some of you have professions that require you to be in less than optimal postural positions, so do the stretching and strengthening that you need to mitigate the conditions. Remember stretching is a daily requirement! We all have her little challenges whether it’s something we were born with or profession we’ve chosen that comes with the need to balance out the body. Active isolated stretching and strengthening is a great tool for that!
I can’t keep you from taking a hit on the field, but hopefully this will help you prevent the silly pains that are avoidable when you embody good posture:-)
Last but not least: Sleeping Posture is very important! Ideally, sleep on your back with all of your natural curves supported…. have just the right amount of cervical support (no forward-head pushing pillows – just comfortable support for your optimal cervical curve) …. and, until all your hip flexing muscles are restored to their proper anatomical length, you may need a little lift (pillow) behind your calves or thighs (so you don’t create a pinching of your low back due to tight hip flexors – which you can ultimately lengthen with AIS of course)
Belly sleeping is innately hard on your neck (and shoulders); side-sleeping is the hardest on your shoulders (unless you can achieve a 1/3rd angle with lots of props on a pressure relieving mattress).
Back sleeping is best for most people (check w your physician to be sure it’s OK for you) but many people tell me they start on their backs but flip during the night….or they can’t fall asleep on their backs… Here’s how I’ve helped many a former bad-posture sleeper embrace healthier habits: Put yourself in the optimal position (on your back if possible, with a proper height cervical support, etc). Now, if you are feeling vulnerable/eposed/the need for comfort, try placing a weighted body-conforming pillow such as Pure Living’s organic buckwheat pillow on your belly. (it should feel comforting, not compressive – you should be able to breathe easily). Think about – an animal exposes it’s belly to you as a sign of trust! (And if you do have a small pet you can train to sleep on your belly, you may not need the extra pillow!) I’ve helped lots of formerly belly sleepers make a habit of back-sleeping w this ‘trick’ of adding a small slightly weighted pet or pillow on their belly!
Stairs: zipping up the stairs on tip-toes keeps calves tight and can irritate your knees. Instead, try placing your foot on a step and pressing through your heel, pushing with your glute & hams (while keeping your knee in good alignment). Come to your full body height at each step you use. (Don’t stay flexed at the hip…really anytime you don’t have to!) The pointy part below your knee cap (your patellar tendon) should align with your 2nd toe. this goes for sitting too – because you’ll go from sitting to standing – have good knee alignment, and use the muscles on the back of your thigh and your butt to gracefully rise to your full height.