Have you been trying to fix your posture? Have you found it frustrating?
Postural problems come from getting stuck in habits of how we hold ourselves up and move. Often what people do to try to fix their posture actually creates worse posture and more discomfort.
Here are some tips that you can put into practice right now so you can actually start improving your posture while you stop trying so hard to "fix" it.
1. DON'T pull your shoulder blades back or lift up your chest - A cultural fear of slouching has developed. Though slouching is a problem, holding yourself in the opposite position doesn't solve it. If you pull your ribcage and shoulders back, you'll just end up stuck in another position and not a very sustainable one. Have you ever tried to hold yourself this way? Not very comfortable, right? You might feel tense. Your breath may feel shallow. All signs that you're just holding another position. I like to call this position "backward slouching" because when you do it you end up leaning back and creating a lot of tension and pressure into the lower back. It's ok to move your shoulder back to open the fridge, start the lawnmower, do a pulling exercise at the gym, or hold a yoga pose, but these are movements and movements are temporary and not a way to hold yourself up effectively.
2. DON'T try to not to stay perfectly still - What is the first thing people tend to do when they think of good posture? After they've pulled their chests up and their shoulders back, they usually try not to move. It's actually impossible to stand perfectly still and it's not good for your body to try and do so, unless there's a mountain lion in the bushes! We are always balancing and rebalancing even when we think we are still.
If you feel out of balance, try my audio guide for a floor exercise that helps you to reconnect to the feeling of being in your body and to let go of some of the stress and tension you've been carrying around. See if you feel a little more relaxed and balanced. When you get up, can be a little more upright and still without having to stiffen?
3. DON'T hold your belly in - Sometimes people mistake holding their gut in for maintaining "core" strength. Not only is holding your belly in not engaging your core, but it interferes with maintaining good relaxed posture, prevents you from breathing properly, and may adversely affect your digestion. Good posture and staying active helps promote core strength, not simply tightening your tummy.
And BONUS, improving your posture can make you look slimmer...not by clenching your belly, but maintaining length in your body and avoiding an overly swayed back (swayed back = belly forward). Here's what one of my clients had to say on that topic:
After 10 or so lessons, several people who hadn’t seen me for a while thought I had lost weight. It was simply the better posture that made me look slimmer and taller! - Katri Touri, Global Accounts Manager
4. DON'T forget your head - Often "fixing" posture is thought of as having something to do with adjusting the ribcage and pelvis. The ribcage and pelvis are, of course, relevant, but what's way up on top of them is the head and the head is HEAVY! And we tend to pull and drop our heavy heads around at our desks, on our phones, rushing on foot or driving through traffic.
See if you can notice during your day if you're pushing your face forward to look at a screen or dropping your head down. When you strain to look at something your probably tense your neck, which pulls on your heavy head and puts a lot of pressure down through your body affecting the ribcage, pelvis, and everything below. And here are 2 easy ways to start changing these habits...
- Let what you're seeing come to you. Don't strain toward what you're looking at. If you're having trouble seeing what you're looking at (ie. your computer screen), move it closer to you are adjust the font size.
- Scratch or tap the top of your head from time to time. This will help you be aware of the top of your head and just that sensation helps people sit and stand taller and more comfortably.
5. DON'T forget your feet - Feet are easily ignored, but your feet are your base of support and although they may be touching the ground, they may be quite stiff and not making good contact with the ground. Try to wear shoes that allow your toes to spread out, keep your feet on the floor as much as possible at your desk, and bring your attention to your feet from time to time. Just that attention, can help you feel more grounded and supported and like you can better relax your upper body.
6. DON'T forget to breathe - This is the fool-proof test of your posture. If your breathing is shallow, you're either collapsed or stiff in your body. (Remember #2...Don't try to hold still. Breathing is a form of movement.) Also, sometime people actively hold their breath to concentrate or when they feel stressed, which sets off a chain reaction of postural issues. If you are trying to change your posture by stiffening and you're breathing feels restricted, then re-evaluate your approach.