When I was younger, I got to spend quite a bit of time hanging out with my grandparents while both of my parents worked. Because of this, I had the benefit of being exposed to a lot of things that other kids my age just weren’t into – Namely operas, orchestras, ballets, and the like. I didn’t mind it much, in fact I loved it; every once in a while I got to dress up like a princess and go to a bog beautiful theatre to check out something new, and sometimes we even hung out afterwards so that we could potentially meet whatever performer was ducking out from the after-show celebrations early.
One of the downfalls of the whole thing (to seven year old me, anyway) was the fact that I was constantly being told to stand and/or sit up straight. Expecting a child of that age to even make it through the performances was quite a goal in itself the more I think about it; but these people were my grandparents – they loved me dearly and just wanted the very best for me – so they continued to push. And it worked – A couple of decades later and while my posture isn’t necessarily something that you’d want to write home about, it’s nothing to be ashamed of either.
Nowadays, you don’t hear nearly as many adults telling the younger generations to stand/sit up straight. Maybe it’s just because our lives have gotten so busy, maybe it’s because we’re all wrapped up in our handheld devices and social media, maybe it’s because we just don’t care anymore. But we should. Oh, we definitely should. Good posture plays such a huge role in how you feel overall (seriously, you can eat great and exercise until the cows come home, but if your posture is horrible you’re going to be preventing yourself from feeling the very best you can)! By the end of this article, you’ll know exactly how to keep your posture on point all day long, and who knows? Maybe it’ll inspire you to make sure future generations are being told to sit and stand up straight again!
The Benefits Of Having Good Posture
What’s the point of doing something if you don’t know why you’re doing it, right? I briefly mentioned that having good posture can help you feel better overall, but it’s a whole lot bigger than that. You’ve heard me talk about yoga a few times before, so you’ve heard me mention the mind-body-spirit connection, right? This is kind of the same thing – Alignment is alignment; the best way to start aligning everything else in your life is by first aligning your body. It might sound kind of corny, but it’s true. Here’s a list of benefits that you can expect to feel as your posture begins to get better:
- Better breathing (sitting/standing up straight will allow you to get more air into your lungs).
- Increased concentration and improved thinking ability (Our brain requires 20% oxygen to function properly. Getting more oxygen by straightening out your body will give your brain more food. Increased brain function equals more thoughts and ideas, so basically good posture makes you smarter).
- An improved external image (People that stand up straight just appear to be smarter and more attractive. So in addition to actually making you smarter, good posture can help make you look smarter as well).
- More self-confidence (even if you don’t feel it right away, having better posture will give off the illusion that you have a lot of self-confidence. Then, you can really rock it when you start to feel it for yourself).
- Less of a risk of developing health complications (which include but are not limited to back aches and pains, slipped discs, sciatica, chest pressure, poor blood circulation, etc).
After reading all that, can you see a reason not to at least try to improve your posture? I didn’t think so. Moving on, we’re now going to cover how to make sure that your posture is as good as it can be from the time you get up in the morning until you hit the hay again at night.
Good Posture From Day To Night
Stand Up Tall
- Stand up straight (at least a straight as you can – depending on your current posture you might not be able to. It will get easier the more you do it though).
- Square your shoulders.
- Place your feet shoulder width apart and put your weight on the balls of your feet (resting on your heels can make you slouch).
- Pull your head back and up, keeping your head on top of your neck and spine. Picture that there’s an arm coming out from the ceiling and holding your head in that position.
If you’re having issues getting your form down, all you need to do is use a wall: Your head, shoulders, and butt should be the only things touching it. There’s a good chance that this will feel awkward and uncomfortable at first, but the more you train your body the easier it will become.
Walk With Confidence
If you’re lucky, you’re able to walk to work. But even if you don’t, you’re certainly doing at least some sort of walking over the course of the day and you want to make sure that you’re paying attention to your posture even when you’re moving around (after all, having good form helps prevent injuries). Obviously you need to start out with good standing posture, but here’s what you’re going to want to add:
- Keep your chest out and shoulders back.
- Look forward. Shifting your glance will subconsciously make you shift your body weight a lot of the time.
- Try to avoid pushing your head forward (you probably do it without even realizing it now. I know I still do from time to time). Imagining that there’s a hand holding your head in place can sometimes help.
Sit Up Straight
Many people spend countless hours at a desk staring at a computer screen (myself included). This is one of the easiest ways for your posture to take a turn for the worst (especially since they make such comfy office chairs that are easy to slouch in). To make sure that you’ve got the best posture you can during the longest part of your day, use these handy tips:
- Invest in a chair that’s ergonomically designed for proper support and is suited to your weight and height. If you’re unable to afford one at the moment, you can try placing a small pillow in your chair for lumbar support.
- Sit at your desk so that your arms are at a 75 to 90 degree angle when you reach for your keyboard. Any straighter than that and you’re too far back; any more than a 90 degree bend means that you’re either sitting too close or slouching.
- Square your shoulders and keep your head upright.
- Align your heels with your neck and back and keep both of your feet on the ground (or on a foot rest if you prefer).
- Align your back with the back of your office chair to help remind you not to slouch or lean forward (which is pretty likely to happen after you’ve been sitting for a long period of time, especially if you’re just beginning to train your body).
- Remember to take a standing break every once in a while (once an hour is ideal, but not always doable). The human body simply wasn’t designed to sit for long periods of time, and even the most perfect posture won’t change that. Whether you stretch, do a little bit of exercise, or just stand up (straight!) and shift your weight around, remember to keep moving!
Sitting Tall While Driving
And I’m not just talking about your driving. The seats in your vehicle were designed to protect you when you’re sitting in them properly. That’s not to say that you’re absolutely doomed if you get in a car accident with bad posture, but you are a lot less likely to get hurt if you’re sitting properly (again, proper form is an incredibly important factor in protecting your body). Start with good sitting posture, and keep these couple of tips in mind as well:
- Make sure that your seat is the proper distance from the pedals – If you have to point your toes, reach for the wheel, or lean forward to drive, you’re sitting too far away; if your chin is practically sitting on top of the steering wheel, you’re sitting too close.
- Sit so that your back is straight up against the seat and your head is sitting directly above your shoulders.
- Ensure that your head rest is in the correct position – Your head should be able to gently rest directly in the middle of it (it can be tilted as needed for comfort). There should be no more than four inches of space between your head and the headrest.
Sleep More Peacefully
While I can’t guarantee that this will happen for everyone, I can say that I personally sleep better when my posture is in check. Obviously you’re not going to be able to maintain any sort of posture (consciously at least) while you’re off browsing through Dreamland, but how you start out sleeping can affect your waking posture (and in turn your mood!).
Start your days off right – pain free and in a great mood – by following these handy tips:
- Sleep on your back if you’re able to. This will help keep your shoulders straight.
- Don’t overdo it with the pillows. Yes, you’re going to need one or two of them to support your head and align it with your shoulders, but any more than that and you’re more likely to wake up feeling groggy, stiff, and sore.
- If you’re someone that has to sleep on your side (like me), try sleeping with a small, flat pillow between your knees – This will help keep your spine straight.
- Use a firm mattress to help maintain proper body support. It doesn’t have to feel like you’re sleeping on a rock, but you shouldn’t feel like you’re sleeping on a fluffy cloud either.
Things To Consider
Remember that you’re going to be training your body to do something new and you’ll probably experience some discomfort for a little while. Uncomfortable isn’t pain though – Know the difference and if you start to experience any pain, stop doing these exercises until your body recovers and try again.
If you have (had) back, neck, knee, or pelvic injuries, you should definitely contact your doctor or a licenced physiotherapist before trying to correct your posture. Otherwise you could irritate your injury or bring back a pre-existing one.
Once you get the hang of better posture and balance, the benefits will definitely start rolling in one after the other! What types of things do you do over the course of your day to ensure that your keep a mind-body-spirit balance? Let us know in the comments section below.
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