Do you feel like you’re hunched over all the time. Do you commute? Do you work at a computer? Do you have a ‘smartphone’? Then you probably ARE hunched over all the time.
Stand up for your health.
Posture Is More Than Standing Straight
Good posture means good health. Having good posture helps you exude confidence, poise, and even sexiness. We often get so bogged down with life that we forget this spine of ours can really help us get what we want out of work, life, and play.
Having bad posture can not only affect your confidence and send weird signals through body language, but from a physical perspective, bad posture can effect the way you digest food by having your intestines all squished up in your abdomen.
Excessive sitting in a slouched position has even been shown, through a study out of Harvard, to increase cortisol and decrease testosterone. It also follows logically that your spine and other support structures of the body have an optimal way that they function. The more we can be in optimal positions, the more the entire machine of our body can run in a more efficient and healthier way.
How to Fix Your Posture
We can often find that using the squat to address our posture position is a great way to bring the focus onto the entire body. Many of us think of our posture as being about the back, when in actuality, your posture affects how you move all of the time.
If we can improve the position and posture in squatting, we can almost always improve posture in everyday life. In this post I’m going to suggest a few movements to check yourself as you move, and build good posture in the process.
Shoulders in Your Pockets
We will start our positioning with the shoulders. The best visualization I use with people is to think that your shoulders are being put into your back pockets. This not only gets your shoulders moving into position (by drawing back), but also engages the biggest muscles in the back, your latissimus dorsi, or lats. These important muscles, when activated and braced, allow you to move, sit, and stand with confidence and safety.
Shoulders back and down, like they’re going into your back pockets. That’s number one.
But wait…there’s more!
We’re going to take that sweet position of shoulders back and down, and we’re going to move with it. For this next piece you’re going to need a wall.
With your hands held up straight above your head, approach and face a wall. Get close enough so your toes are about six to eight inches from the wall. With hands straight overhead, elbows straight, and palms to the wall, drive your hips back and down, push your knees out and squat as deep as possible.
Don’t let your hands touch the wall! Be careful! Many people will have a tendency to feel like they’re going to fall backwards. Most of us, even if we don’t get to a full depth position for the squat, will feel a big amount of activation through the upper back. Keeping your hands above your head, and squatting without the hands touching the wall, will provide wonderful activation for your posture. Most of us will feel tension in the upper-mid back. This is your midback muscles actually getting turned on and working to your favor.
Surprisingly, this facing the wall squat is one of the most effective tools to help not only with posture, but with flexibility, balance, and strength as well. No equipment necessary, just a wall!
Elbows In, Hands Back
Another quick cheat, borrowed from the world of yoga, that can help to correct posture while standing is a variation of rolling the shoulders back. It goes like this. Stand up straight, and with elbows staying by your sides, raise both palms up, as if someone was going to give you a present. Your elbows should be by your sides, and bent at 90 degrees with palms up and in front of you.
From this position, move both of your palms out and away from you until your fore-arms are at least 45 degree angle to your body. As you make this move, your shoulders should naturally move back into a good posture position. After dropping your hands to your sides, you will notice that your chest is more open and that your shoulders are in a better position as well.
This little “palms up and out” posture cue is a great one to use while you’re waiting in line, by the water cooler, or just standing in your kitchen before starting your next Paleo meal!
While much of our focus here has been on the back, and how to reorganize your position of the shoulders and back, many of us spend up to several hours a day not only at desks on computers, but staring down at a smartphone, the result of which can be a very pushed forward position for the neck. I bet that perhaps even right now reading this, your head is pushed forward and your chin is dropping out and down towards your chest. Yikes!
To reposition your head, picture a string or thread attached to the back of your head, and picture that string being pulled to the ceiling or sky. This should shift your head back into a position where your ears are back over your shoulders, and you don’t have your head pushed forward like a chicken. In addition, simply standing with your butt and back against a wall can be very telling about your neck position. Essentially, when standing with your back against a wall, your heels, butt, upper back, and back of the head should all be in contact with the wall. See? Walls are so useful!
There you have it, a little reminder that there are simple changes that we can make throughout the day to have our body structure more organized. These simple changes, or even just being aware of how we position ourselves, will not only have positive changes on us physically, but also mentally and even socially.
We mentioned squatting early in this post, and wanted to remind you that we have a few posts from the past that address this basic, yet essential movement pattern. Check out these articles to balance and correct your movement!