Improve Your Posture, Today
It’s radical. I am not going to tell you to stand up straight. If you really want to improve your posture, you’ll have to let go of some old ideas.
First, why doesn’t it work to just tell yourself (or someone else) to “just stand up straight?” Here’s the short answer. We have to deconstruct. And then we’re able to reconstruct.
What? Deconstruct and reconstruct? I am sure you are wondering what is it exactly that you might deconstruct and then construct.
And the reason the “stand up straight” cue doesn’t work? Mostly we have it reversed. We are trying to “construct” our posture.
Many might argue that posture construction is just eliminating your old patterns and ways of holding yourself. And from this elimination, apply a new pattern.
What are the common cues you’ve heard for the construction of better posture? I’d imagine they might sound something like this.
- Pull your shoulders back.
- Tuck your tailbone under.
- Lift your chest.
- Lift your chin up.
- Suck your belly in.
So, I’m gonna be honest. I hate those cues.
If you’re sitting down reading this. Get up. And do each cue in order.
And do them really, really, really well. Because you want better posture, right?
What do you feel?
Do you feel tension? Where?
Do you feel grip and strain? Where?
I think what all those cues do when combined together is create a lot of grip and strain. And, in truth, those cues just layer a new (and I’d argue also a dysfunctional) pattern right on top of your old (and I’d argue a little bit less dysfunctional) pattern.
So, in essence, we just put one pattern on top of another pattern. Think of it like wearing two coats. Both of them are bulky and a bit cumbersome. And, maybe one coat is on backwards and fully zipped up.
Really, I think you’ve created a lot more work for yourself. It’s not gonna be easy to move fluidly with both of those coats on.
And, it comes with a lot more grip and tension. And eventually after holding any one of those cues for an extended period you either fatigue out or create additional pain in your body.
So what’s going to help us with our posture, then?
Well, I can’t “fix” your posture. And neither can you. We both must admit that.
More importantly, we need to recognize is why we want better posture. That’s the first key to our posture construction solution.
Why do we want better posture?
I guess most of us primarily want better posture because we’ll look better. When posture is “off,” we certainly can have an appearance of “not quite right.” Furthermore, we might hear some comments.
- Are you tired?
- Oh my. She really has aged. (This one comes with a bit of judgment attached. Like aging can be avoided? That’s another topic for another article.)
- Are you in pain?
- Do you feel okay?
- Are you sick?
Furthermore, we often feel the effects of “bad posture.” We feel back pain, neck pain, and spinal compression. As well, our forward heads and slumped shoulders contribute to our aches and also may prohibit us from freely moving in response to life.
Posture influences the strain on our joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. As well, posture affects our ability to digest food and eliminate waste products. In addition, posture also affects our breathing. Furthermore, posture allows us to orient well to our environment effectively using our 5 senses to know where we are as well as where we are going and where we have been.
Posture as a Communicator of Emotions
Posture does communicate our feelings. And, yep, we can get stuck in a feeling. Our posture communicates our emotions for us. We’ve all looked at friends and loved ones and immediately felt their “state of being” just through their posture. We’ve seen it all and felt it all, ourselves.
So, if posture communicates our emotions and feelings, what is “good” posture?
Is “good” posture only positive, happy emotions?
Well, that certainly would leave out half of life. We’d all look like blocks of wood walking around. And, I am going to date myself with this next statement. If our posture showed only our “good emotions” then we’d look like the Stepford Wives, for sure.
Posture is Dynamic
Maybe then we can agree on a major point. Posture is dynamic. It changes from moment to moment. The change is based on a feeling state.
Now, I will agree that we do have held positions. Some of these positions we’ve held for so long that they have become a way of being.
Also, we have ways in which we have continued to move through life. These repetitive movement patterns have also created a pattern through which ambulate and engage with the world.
How Can I Improve My Posture?
Radical answer. I think we change our posture by changing our mind about posture.
Yes, there are exercise we can do. And, I’ll give you a sequence that will be beneficial. We certainly can work towards better skeletal alignment so that our connective tissue and muscles are under less tension and strain. So, if that’s what you came for, here’s a movement sequence.
Time needed: 15 minutes
A Chair Yoga Sequence to Improve Posture
- Open your Feet
Roll your foot on a soft air-filled ball. An old tennis ball is an inexpensive option. You may be seated or standing as you roll out your foot.
By opening the tissue in your foot, you’ll be able to dynamically respond better as well as decrease the ways in which you hold yourself up since your foundation – your feet – are able to adjust and adapt to changes. As well, you’ll use your foot better.
We stand on our feet. So, better posture begins in our feet.
- Forward Bend
Sit on your chair with your sitting bones close to the front edge. Press down into your feet. Inhale and on your exhale tip from your hip joints to forward fold.
Keep your hands on your legs or touch the floor. Keep your hands touching something to help support your spine.
Breathe. Stay here for 5 breath cycles. An inhale and an exhale equals one breath cycle.
Use an inhale to sit back upright.
Forward bends help open up the back line of our body. Our back muscles are often tight and forward bends help alleviate the tension.
- Lateral Bend
Press down into your feet on the floor as well as your sitting bones on the chair. Breathe.
Inhale. Raise your right arm up.
As you push down with your left hand on the chair seat, tip your spine to the left.
Be sure to keep both sides of your pelvis down on the chair.
Breathe and maintain the lateral bend for 5 breath cycles.
Inhale to sit upright. Repeat on your other side.
Lateral bends help create space in our side body which allows our tissue to move more freely and allows our spine and organs to have a bit more space.
Sit sideways on the chair. Press down into both feet and your sitting bones. Inhale and as you exhale turn towards the chair back. Use both hands on the chair.
Breathe. Stay in the twist for 5 breath cycles. Use an inhale to untwist.
Repeat on your other side.
Twists do create spinal compression. From the compression, we have the possibility of increased extension.
For a natural extension of your spine, keep your feet and pelvis rooted in a seated position.
Breathe. Raise both of your arms straight up.
Keep your based rooted and your arms lifted for 5 breath cycles.
On an exhale, lower your arms.
Now, that you have a sequence to practice, I am hoping you came for more. “The more” that I offer is what’s available with your mind and how your mind influences your movement. I teach these ideas through the Franklin Method, as well as in Yoga and Pilates classes, workshops, and trainings.
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