I’m sure when someone mentions anything about poor posture, you hear your mother’s voice in the back of your head saying, “Sit up straight! Your posture is horrible!” Well, she was onto something.
Posture is powerful. It has the power to prevent you from living a life of physical pain. Your future would be different if you could prevent having low back pain, neck pain, or tension headaches, all simply by improving your posture.
Our everyday lifestyles leave us prone to sitting in positions that encourage us to strain our bodies. Today, activities that encourage poor posture include using smart phones, sitting in cars for long periods of time, and working or studying at a desk for countless hours are leading us toward a future of chronic pain.
Our bodies are not meant to be in a slouched position for hours a day — we were made to move. However, it’s not too late to embrace the power of good posture.
What exactly is good sitting posture?
Good sitting posture is when you are able to maintain an upright position where your:
– Ears, shoulders, and hips are aligned in a straight line.
– Hips and knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.
– Feet are flat on the ground or a solid surface such as a stool.
Practical Stretches to Improve Your Posture:
Do you find it difficult to maintain a good posture and easier to gravitate back to slouching? This is because some of your muscles are tight. When sitting with a slouched posture for a long period of time, parts of your body that tighten, such as your chest, back of your neck, front of your hips, and the back of your thighs, make it hard to straighten your posture.
By doing these four stretches, you can loosen up those muscles to regain and maintain an upright posture:
1. Butterfly Chest Stretch
How: Place your hands behind your head. Pull your arms back and lean backwards with your upper back. You should feel a stretch in your chest.
Benefit: To open up your chest and to provide you with the flexibility to pull your shoulders back.
2. Posterior Neck Stretch
How: Place your hands at the top part of the back of your head and pull down. You should feel a stretch at the back of your neck.
Benefit: To reduce the muscle tightness at the back of your neck and to provide you the flexibility to pull your head back so your ears can align with your shoulders.
3. Hip Flexor Stretch
How: Step forward with one leg into a lunge position. Keep the front leg bent and the back leg straight. You should feel a stretch at the front of the hip of the leg that is back. You may also feel a stretch in your calf.
Benefit: To reduce the tightness at the front of your hips. This stretch can prevent low back pain. When you sit for long periods of time, your hip flexor muscles get tight. The iliopsoas muscles attaches to the spine. When this muscle is tight, it will pull on your low back causing tension and pain.
4. Hamstrings Stretch
How: Bend forward and reach for your toes. Try to keep your legs straight but with a slight bend at the knees. You should feel a stretch at the back of your thighs.
Benefit: To reduce the muscle tightness at the back of your legs. This stretch can also help to reduce low back pain. The hamstrings attaches to the bottom of your pelvis. When it is tight, it pulls on your pelvis causing low back tension.
Hold each stretch for 30 seconds and repeat each stretch 2 to 3 times. You’ll need to hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds in order for your muscles to improve their flexibility. These stretches are easy to do that you can do them at school or work. When in the library studying or sitting at work, try to take a standing break every 30 to 60 minutes.
Incorporate these changes in your life and you’re already on your way to less doctor visits and pain killers! Most importantly, you are one step closer to changing your future. Embrace the power of posture, it can do wonders.
Images provided by Dr. Cindy Kimmi Dao; Feature image via Becca Tapert
Yes! I really needed this, I’m spending more and more time at my desk and I can feel myself hunching over – thank you!