Do you ever wish you could wave a magic wand, find the perfect device, app, chair, or one easy exercise that would just fix your posture once and for all? All of these tools may offer you some benefit, but they won't necessarily change your habits...except for maybe the magic wand. Did Harry Potter ever learn that spell? Posturoso Leviosa! Actually, I take that back...I think the magic words are Expecto To Practice!
Expecto To Practice because changing your posture is about changing your habits. First step is learning what and how to practice so that what you're practicing is effective. Once you understand what to do, then create a manageable routine.
Here are three examples of how to begin to change postural and movement habits by becoming mindful of how you use your eyes, head, and shoulders in three common activities.
Lifting and carrying
Phone, kid, bag...and sometimes all three! Keep the shoulders level and use the arms and the back to lift. Bring the child toward you with your arm instead of leaning far back and resting her on your hip. Don't hike your shoulder up to hold the bag and don't squeeze it in to hold the phone. And finally, as you look down at the phone, move your eyes first and then gently tip your head down.
Reach for your keyboard and notice what happens to your shoulders. Do they tense up? Pull in? Do you constrict your breathing a little? As you reach for the keys, keep your shoulders wide even as your hands and arms move in. Start the movement slowly so that you can pay attention. Keep resting your back on the back of your chair to help you not pull your shoulders forward. Move the chair closer to the desk/table if possible.
A laptop's screen will not be at your eye level if it is at an ideal level for typing (arms parallel to the floor). You could raise your laptop up on a stand and use an external keyboard, but if you change locations often, then this may not be practical. (Don't raise the laptop and reach up to type on the laptop's keyboard. This may cause you to hike your shoulders up.)
If you need to look down at the screen, use the same strategy that you used with the phone. Look straight out and then lower your gaze and gently tip your head slightly down as pictured. Don't drop your head or stick your chin out.
Reaching for something high? As this is an action often performed in the kitchen with sometimes heavy, fragile objects, take a moment to make sure you feel your feet planted on the floor before you reach up. Look up with your eyes and let your head follow and tip back gently. As you reach, lead with your fingers, not with your shoulder. You're shoulder should lift last if you are reaching for something high up like the teapot in the photo. If reaching on a low shelf (like where the plates are stacked) there would be no need to raise the shoulder, or very little depending on your height.
Changing your posture for the better isn't just about positioning. It's more to do with becoming more mindful. As you replace the habits that are causing poor posture, the new habits eventually become more automatic. I recommend taking lessons and classes, but also Expecto To Practice! It's not a magic wand, but it works!