It's time to roll my shoulders, press through the balls of my feet and take a strong stand on proper posture. It's super-important to your health and wellness -- right up there with eating real food and getting enough sleep -- but it's just not top of mind when we think of ways to boost our energy and prevent pain. When it comes to awareness of the awesomeness of body alignment, the country is in a slump.
So let's look at a few things everyone with a spine ought to know about posture and why it matters, inspired by a recent article in IDEA Fitness Journal by personal-training specialist Ryan Halvorson.
"Improved posture can have a significant and instant impact on quality of life," writes Halvorson. "(Would people) pay more attention to good posture if they realized it could improve their jobs, verbal communication, self confidence, mood or even bedroom relations?" he asks.
"Bedroom relations"? I salute you, Ryan Halvorson. It's so hard to make posture talk sexy.
IT'S ALL ABOUT ALIGNMENT.
Many people want strong hearts, toned bellies and buns of steel, but almost no one goes to the gym because they're looking to improve their structural alignment.
And yet, it's one of the most essential elements of your well-being. Bad posture is what poor structural alignment looks like. Chest collapsed, head drooping forward, shoulders hunched. (Exactly the posture we assume when we text! Oy.) It sets you up for injuries of all sorts, including low back pain and a frozen neck.
Poor posture puts extra stress on your tendons, joints and ligaments. It messes with your spine, and the free flow of energy throughout your body is blocked.
Proper alignment -- a learned skill, the reason yoga was invented -- opens you up physically, mentally and energetically. When that happens, you'll save so much in medical bills you'll be able to take yearly vacations to Hawaii with enough left over for a new truck.
STAND UP TO LOWER FEAR.
The research is fascinating and made Amy Cuddy's power-pose talk go viral (the video has 38.5 million views to date): Your body alignment can dictate your mood. And your mood can dictate your body alignment. Think about it... and notice if you're hunched over your screen right now.
People who slouch when they do a task "are more prone to feelings of helplessness compared with their non-slouched peers," Halvorson reports. In another study pitting hunched people versus upright people, "the upright individuals reported better moods, higher self-esteem, greater arousal and less fear than the slumped group."
POSTURE BOOSTS BREATH.
You know how important breathing is, right? So try this exercise: "Maintain an upright posture and inhale as fully as possible," says Halvorson. Then go into a hunched-over position and inhale again. 'Big difference' "I almost always see epiphanies when clients experience how poor alignment influences their oxygen uptake." "Epiphany" is not overstating the case.
EXERCISE BRINGS INSTANT RESULTS.
There are many simple exercises you can do on your own to improve your posture: Chin tucks, shoulder external rotations and kneeling hip-flexor stretches are just three that Halvorson details. Uh-oh. I can feel your eyes glazing over. Who wants to do chin tucks and shoulder rotations?
You do, dear reader. Attaining and maintaining proper alignment when you move through your day is crucial to your personal well-being. It's not going to make you sweat, and mostly when you're doing it you look like you're doing nothing.
Looks are deceiving. You " are" doing something, something essential, but you're doing it inside your body: finding your neutral pelvis, spreading your collarbone and leveling your sacrum.
DEVELOP BODY AWARENESS.
If you're getting interested in this, there are several terrific practices to investigate, including yoga, qi gong, tai chi, the Alexander technique and Pilates.
And now, Halvorson reports, there are a variety of high-tech tools on the market to help you develop posture awareness. Lumo Lift is a small wearable device that vibrates gently when you slouch. The Upright Posture Trainer attaches to the small of the back and helps you train the back muscles to hold proper alignment. The Alex Posture Tracker is a product that hooksonto the ears, rests on the neck and vibrates if your head droops. (I'm not making this up.)
"Every time I drive away from a Pilates session I have to tip the rearview mirror an inch higher." -- Jennifer Priestley