I hate to be the one to have to tell you this... but your mother was right. All of those times that she told you to stand up straight as a teenager, she was on to something big! Posture is unbelievably important and can have an impact on a variety of aspects of your life, ranging from your emotional state to breathing mechanics and even injury risk (think repetitive strain)!
Want to do a quick screen? Go grab your cell phone, its selfie time! Ideally, you want to place your phone/ipad/tech device on a flat surface where you can get a profile shot that includes everything from your feet, all the way up to the crown of your head! Set your timer, stand as you usually would (DON'T TRY TO FIX ANYTHING) and wait for the flash...
If one angle is good, two is better!
Your next selfie will be head-on, again including everything from your feet all the way to the crown of your head. Just stand as you naturally would without trying to optimize your posture to 'look good' on screen.
WHY AM I DOING THIS....
.....you ask? There are some common postural patterns (often adopted by individuals that sit at a desk for work) that can predispose you to headaches, shoulder impingements, back pain and a variety of other issues. What I'm talking about here is commonly referred to as an 'Upper Crossed' Posture and/or Anterior Head Carriage.
The main features of this posture that you're screening for in your profile selfie are:
An overall 'slumped forward' appearance with some or all of the following features:
- Chin jutted forward 'ahead' of your torso
- Shoulders rounded forward
- Excessive rounding through the upper back
- Bum 'tucked under' your torso.
In your Frontal/Head On Selfie take a look at your hands. If you can clearly see your third knuckle, chances are that your shoulders are rolled forward and your arms are internally rotated (thank Charlie Weingroff for that tip); this is often due to tight chest musculature.
So How Do I Fix It?
Well, the first step is admitting you have a problem. All joking aside, many of us become so use to our 'habitual' way of standing/sitting that we don't even notice that our posture has become flawed. Habits and unconscious patterns are at the root of this problem, so here are a few tips on how you can increase your postural awareness and straighten your stance:
- Get Up
- If your work day involves sitting at a desk or driving it can become very easy to get stuck seated for hours on end. The longer we spend in this position, the great the wear and tear on our joints and bones and creep in our tissues. We also tend to zone out, focus solely on the screen and plugging away at what we're trying to accomplish....
- ....so GET UP! Set an alarm on your iPhone for the top of each hour and stand for 5 to 10 minutes. This is long enough to provide a mental and physical reset!
- Set Up
- Make sure your desk or work environment is set up in a way that is conducive to maintaining good posture! Is your chair back upright, is your screen close enough that you can see it, or do you have to stick your head forward to read your last sentence. Can you reach the floor while seated?
- Move everything in your work environment within reach so you can maintain good posture!
- Every time you walk by a window or mirror, take a quick and honest look at your posture. If you automatically correct yourself every time you walk by a mirror, you won't discover your true postural patterns so look before you fix. If you don't often walk by reflective surfaces, you can also set an alarm on your phone and do a mental and physical check-in on how you're sitting/standing and how you feel!
- Stand like a superhero
- Get tall! Almost like a puppet on a string, think about reaching the crown of your head towards the sky, stacking your spine, and rolling your shoulders back and down such that your proudly displaying your chest (like Superman!....draw a emblem if that helps). Also, superheroes don't lean (except maybe Iron Man...that guy's crazy) so support your own weight!
- Use your muscles
- Many of us check out during the day and rely solely on our bony skeleton to support our weight. Next time you're standing on the subway, waiting for a bus, taking the elevator, look down and check whether you have locked your knees....if you have, unlock them and turn on your quads and Hammies! Actually... Are your abdominals engaged? Your glutes? Turning these key muscles on can dramatically affect your alignment (and feelings of self-confidence!)
- Get Help
- Do you have faulty posture? Is it interfering with your work, quality of life, sleep or recreational activities? The good news is that many of these postural flaws can be corrected with some simple exercises and stretching work. Working with a trainer, physiotherapist or chiropractor could be very beneficial! If you do decide to do so, make sure you learn WHY you're doing certain exercises and stretches so you know how to maintain your body in the future! Seeing a professional for a 'tune-up' every once in a while can be a great way to break out of those little postural quirks that may have a greater impact on your health and wellbeing than you realize!
Thats all for this week's quick tip folks! Keep your mind on your posture and your posture on your mind!
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