Sunday, July 26, 2009

Stand Tall for Good Posture

Good posture is key to avoiding, or eliminating, many common sources of muscular pain. Good posture also enhances our appearance, breathing, and effectiveness at sports. Unfortunately what feels "right" is what we're accustomed to, not necessarily what's healthful.

In a very simple sense, good posture is keeping the body tall and in a vertical line. Of course the spine does have a natural curve and the body isn't made of square blocks, but the overall effect is straight up and down, with everything balanced in a column. The more deviation there is from vertical, the more strain there will be on the spine and spinal muscles.

Here are two simple things to do to check your posture, and to help with improving it.

The first involves using a wall to check the positioning, forward and backward, of your hips, spine, shoulders, and head. Stand about 12 inches away from a wall, facing away. Try to be in your typical posture. Now, without changing how you stand, slowly shuffle back towards the wall. Ideally your heels, hips, mid-back, shoulders and head will touch simultaneously(some sources suggest the feet can be several inches away when the rest of the body touches.) Keep the eyes level.

There should be a gap above the hips between the lumbar spine and the wall about the thickness of one or two hands, with the palm flat to the wall. At the neck the gap should be a bit larger.

A common problem is there will be a larger space behind the neck, the head not touching, and the shoulders not touching. This often caused by too much sitting at a desk and reaching forward.

Now try to align your body so that it does touch the wall in the places mentioned above. Raise your chest up, shoulders and head back, everything taller. If the gap at the low spine was too large, tighten your abs to tilt the pelvis back a bit.

The second is done either as a visualization technique, or with a partner. Your partner's real hand, or an imaginary one, touches the top of your head. Now push the hand higher by straightening your self out. This makes you taller, and removes some sags and kinks in the process.

Keep in mind that good posture looks poised, not rigid. Don't let the idea of standing against a wall make you think otherwise. And as your posture improves, you will find a greater ease of movement that will be far from wall-like.

Practicing these techniques daily will both teach you how to stand and make it more effortless to do so. See the self care page of my main website Positive Massage Therapy for some stretches that will also help.

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