3 Ways to Improve Your Posture
Be body aware - posture is 24/7, not just an hour a week in a Pilates class. Do you know how to sit, walk, drive and perform all your daily tasks in good posture?
Standing normally, have someone take photographs of you from the front, side and back. Then do the same in sitting. If you have access to a smartphone, ask someone to video you walking towards and away from the camera. Once you have the printed and enlarged photos and video footage, analyse yourself. Use a ruler on the photographs. Are your shoulders level? Is the gap between your elbows and ribs exactly the same on both sides? In sitting, is your pelvis in line with your spine? You will probably find you could sit better and stand better, but on a normal day this is what you do. What posture advice would you give yourself? Be body aware and try to make these changes each time you sit at your desk, stand in a queue or walk anywhere. With this awareness and by making small changes we can correct and improve our posture over time.
Cue the perfect you
Once you have identified the changes you need to make to your posture, give yourself regular cues within your day to remind yourself. This could be to sit correctly when the phone rings to ensure perfect posture during each call. If you drive a lot, realign your posture when you’re stuck at a red light. If you walk a lot, re-engage at each lamppost or tree. Try to find a way of encouraging your body to be in correct alignment more often within each day. Over time these muscles will learn the position you are repeatedly asking them to achieve and this will gradually become the 'norm', which will be closer to your neutral spine than you were before.
It is important to remember this is a long battle. Posture cannot be 'fixed' overnight. Imagine a glass bowl full of water. If you were to put one drop of green food colouring in it, the difference would be minimal. But if you added one drop each week you’d see the difference eventually, although it would take some time. One drop each day would make changes happen sooner and several drops a day would really make a difference. This is how we correct posture. Thinking about it once a week in a Pilates class would make little difference. Once a day would benefit you eventually and several times a day can give you real results. This is another reason why it is so important to give your clients the tools and advice to help themselves during the week.
Mobility and stability
Your spine is a series of joints giving you the opportunity to move in many ways. Analyse your own performance of Shoulder Bridge (low layer only, no arms or legs) and Spine Twist – be really objective. Could you have any more movement in the joints in your spine? As your Shoulder Bridge lowers, do your lumbar vertebrae reach the mat before your buttocks? As you rotate your Spine Twist, really look to see where the movement comes from. Could your thoracic vertebrae rotate further?
With mobility comes the opportunity to be less stable, so also analyse your performance of Shoulder Bridge with arms or legs and side kick with a small kick. Watch out for spine stability. Then really watch for spine stability. The muscles needed to stabilise your spine against load are the muscles that will strengthen your spine in this neutral position. As they become stronger and your awareness increases with regular cues, it is easier to stay in 'good' posture and keep your spine closer to neutral. Is it easy? No. Is it possible? Yes and, as the saying goes, anything worth having is worth working hard for.
Written by Heather Oakes