Ways to Improve Posture

Imagine a beautiful lady with shiny flowing locks, a gorgeous, well-toned body or an angelic guy with muscles and a six-pack abs whose stance look like a question mark. It is a complete turnoff, right? Having a bad posture is not only unsightly but also unhealthy too.

Stephen Maxwell, a fitness coach, physical educator and Jiu-Jitsu instructor who travels around the world leading seminars in strength and conditioning and joint mobility says, "Sitting is the new smoking." According to him, continual, chronic chair-sitting while hunched over a computer may be a recipe for a compromised structure full of imbalance and continual pain. When you look carefully at some old, stooped, crippled-up people, you'll see their bodies shaped like a chair. Dr. James Levine, director of Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative who has been studying the adverse effects of a sedentary lifestyle has even claimed, "Sitting is more dangerous than smoking."

The forward head posture or "Scholar's Neck", "Reading Neck", or "Text Neck" as some would call it, is common in young people. One of the causes is the extended use of computers, tablets and mobile phones. This poor posture puts a pressure on the spine.

How important is good posture and what factors affect it?

In humans, posture of the body is one of the means of communication. It conveys social standing, personality, current emotions and interpersonal attitude. People with a higher position in society often takes a relaxed posture compared to those inferior. Good posture often suggests confidence. A study of researchers from Harvard University reveals that body language had an impact on hormones within the body. They conducted a study and made their participants strike a high power pose (open and relaxed) or a low power pose (closed and guarded). The high power pose increased testosterone by 20% and decreased cortisol levels by 25%. It made the participants feel more powerful. Proper head to toe alignment allows muscles to work efficiently and synergystically, overcoming fatigue and gives more energy to do even our daily vigorous activities.

Stress can affect posture subconsciously. It can tighten muscles along the spine and, when prolonged, can manifest itself in pain in body parts. According to Alexander Lowen, founder of bioenergetics, some tensions become chronic, the muscular block is always activated. Muscular block affects posture and the way humans move.

Back and shoulder aches, headaches, neurological issues, depression and heart disease and even reduced lung capacity are just some of the consequences of having a poor posture.

The good news is that even after years and years of slouching, bad posture can be fixed.  How do we do that? By exercise.

Proper seating. To fix bad posture, you have to change the habits that gave you that posture in the first place. If in your office you sit on a chair that forces you not to sit straight, then replace it with an ergonomic one. If you cannot replace them, at least prop pillows or supports behind your back. Also, find a way to stand once in awhile after prolonged hours of sitting.

Crawl like a baby. This effective exercise which involves mimicking the movement of babies eases tension and unlearns the unhealthy postural habits. Maxwell, being a huge proponent of joint mobility, said that baby patterns is very restores flexibility and quickly beings back mobility to the spine. In his program, you just follow movements like Rolls, Crawls, Cross Crawl, etc., which develops posture. Not only do the movements stimulate the muscles but the nervous system as well.

Yoga. Do yoga. There are yoga schools out there that you can enroll yourself in to learn the discipline. It's very important to keep the spine in good condition because it holds up our body all day long. The simple Mountain Pose which may seem like just standing is the foundation for all of the standing postures and improves posture, stability and confidence. The Cobra Pose opens up our chest and strengthens the back. Another is the Hero Pose, a seated yoga pose that makes slouching difficult. The Cow Face Pose removes the stiffness from the back, neck and shoulders and stretches the hips. These are just some of the Yoga poses that, aside from increasing body awareness, can greatly improve our posture.

Work your core. Weightlifting and other heavy resistance training is discouraged for those with painful posture because there is added pressure on the body and it makes our posture worse. Poor movement patterns, according to Maxwell, can cause even more imbalances on the body. There are exercises that can fix a bad posture by focusing on strengthening the core muscles and reinforcing your glutes, latissimi dorsi, and rhomboid (mid-back) muscles. He also discourages devices like back braces that promise to improve posture. He says these products do not teach your body to do the right things. “Learning to move properly—with stability, strength, and good posture—it’s the only way to go", he says. If you want to start working on your core with the help of a trainer, get in touch with Jen at Strongbodiez! ;) 

Rolfing Structural Integration. Try Rolfing. Named after its founder, Dr. Ida P. Rolf, Rolfing Structural Integration is a form of bodywork that reorganizes the connective tissues, called fascia, that permeate the entire body. These connective tissues surround, support and penetrate all of the muscles, bones, nerves and organs. Rolfing works on this connective tissues to release, realign and balance the whole body, thus potentially resolving discomfort, reducing compensations and alleviating pain. Unlike massage, which often focuses on relaxation and relief of muscle discomfort, Rolfing is aimed at improving body alignment and functioning. Research has demonstrated that Rolfing creates more efficient muscle use, allows the body to conserve energy, and creates more economical and refined patterns of movement. Rolfing has also been shown to significantly reduce chronic stress, reduce spinal curvature in subjects with lordosis (sway back), and enhance neurological functioning. 

Rolfers are trained and certified by the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration in Boulder, Colorado — the only school accredited to teach Rolfing. The training program usually requires two years of study. Following certification, ongoing continuing education is required to maintain active status in the institute. Most Rolfers charge session by session and fees range from $100 to $250 per session.

Walk and breathe slowly. Slowly breathe in through your nose, hold it for a few seconds then breathe out. Practice this throughout the day to decrease stress and improve posture.

Now imagine that the beautiful lady with shiny flowing locks, a gorgeous, well-toned body or the angelic guy with muscles and a six-pack abs walking with his body correctly aligned is you. Win!