Why posture could be hindering your wellbeing
Bad posture can cause a multitude of problems, from pain, to stress, to muscle and bone disfunctions, digestive disorders, migraines, fatigue and it can make us look a bit wonky aside from these other unwanted issues.
Most of us spend a certain amount of time at a desk seated for work, on our laptops or on a phone. You may even spend all day and everyday seated due to work and business commitments, say if you’re a taxi or bus driver. The worst thing about being seated for so long is that it’s abnormal to us humans that need to bend, stretch and flex and move alongside resting, to feel healthy and well. If there isn’t the balance of movement alongside our sedentary lifestyles, we may start to see things like muscle wastage, a loss of energy, a lack of motivation, lack of self-esteem, lack of strength to name but a few not so pleasant things.
So, what can we do to help ourselves feel better just by enhancing our posture? (especially when the thought of coming to a class to help our posture may just be too much for us to begin with.)
Here are 10 tips to help you get resume better posture and feel better from the inside out:
1. By some tennis balls/ massage balls for self-massage.
(image: Ben Hershey)
Whilst driving and slouching across a desktop at work we all have a tendency to grip and tighten in our pectoral muscles, which can cause our shoulders to round forward and instigate pain in our back, shoulders, neck, arms, hands and even up to our jaw.
To help release that built up tension in your pectoral muscles and to encourage your chest to open up and your shoulders to move back and downwards, you can take a tennis ball and place it between a wall and just under your collarbone inbetween your shoulder and the centre of your chest, and roll the tennis ball from side to side, even all the way to the creased of your armpit. You can then repeat this on the other side and as long as you feel it feels helpful. Remember to roll your shoulders up and back down your back afterwards, to stretch your self-massage efforts out!
2. Lie on some blocks to encourage an open chest and pectoral muscles.
Place two rectangular blocks or books on your mat in a T shape. The top half of the T is for your head and the other half is for your upper spine. Lie back onto the blocks so that you head meets the horizontal block and your upper spine meets the vertical block. Your shoulders should be encouraged to relax either side of the vertical block. Make sure your chin is softly tucked towards your chest and you can either bend your knees, lie your legs straight or bring the knees towards each other and the feet as wide as your mat to relax the lower sacrum/back area also.
3. Squeeze a pillow for inner thigh strength and to stop saggy buttocks.
Take any pillow and fold it in half, then lie your whole torso up to the wall and place your feet a few feet away from the wall and bend your knees so they are in a 90-degree angle, but in line with the ankles. Place the pillow inbetween your knees and squeeze and release this pillow 10 times, take a break and go again. You can in turn increase the reps. This exercise will help to support and encourage strength in your back and pelvis.
4. Chin in exercises to stop a chicken head and neck strain.
This is a good exercise to do at the desktop or anytime you notice you are poking your head forward like a chicken, which puts a lot of strain on the trapezius muscles, which lie either side of your neck, across towards the shoulders and down the back either side of the spine. Place a finger on your chin and gently assist your head back in line with the rest of your spine. Be mindful not to round the shoulders forward. Focus on opening them backwards.
5. Spine rolls to child’s pose for flexibility in our spine and to avoid a constant titled pelvis.
Start standing, take a nice deep inhale and bring your chin to your chest, place your hands on your thighs and walk your hands down your legs, keeping the chin tucked under, all the way down to your toes. When your reach the floor, come into all fours and then rest in child’s pose for a few seconds. To come back up, drop the heels down and bring the weight into the feet and then connect the hands to the ankles and keep your hands connected as you roll up the spine, leaving the head until last. Make sure you work to roll down and up each vertebra, taking your time to unravel any knots or tension in the whole body.
(image: Nate Johnston)
6. Get a laptop support to stop hunching over your desktop.
Amazon has lots of options to prop up your laptop. You want to find something that allows you to have your laptop at eye level, whilst your torso is up right in a seated position. You can also get seat supports to stop the pelvis tilting under whilst driving, which in turn causes strain on the lower and upper back as we then tend to hunch over the wheel aswell. If you don’t want to buy something, use some old shoe boxes to level up your laptop, also making sure that it’s not so high that your elbows are in mid-air as you write because that would then put strain on your biceps and shoulders.
7. Resistant band stretches to support the spine and pelvic region.
Place a resistance band around either your thighs or your shin’s. Then do the monster walk. So, what is the monster walk? Open your legs to hip distance apart and squat the buttocks downwards. Make sure you don’t stick the chin and chest out in the process. Then step to the right with your right foot as far as you can, bringing the left foot with you afterwards, then step the right foot forward as far as you can (remembering to stay in a squat form) followed by the left foot, then step the left foot to the left as far as you can, followed by the right foot and then finish by stepping the left foot back as far as you can followed by the right foot. You can repeat on the opposite side also. This enables engagement in the outer thighs, hips and ankles. When we sit, we can have a tendency to cross our legs or rotate our thighs inwards and outwards. This monster walk with a resistance band helps us to keep a balanced form whilst seated.
8. Shoulder blade engagement to stop rounded shoulders.
In a seated or standing position, bring your elbows down and in towards the sides of your body, place the hands facing up in front of you, in line with your elbows. From here, think about squeezing the shoulder blades together behind you as you bring your hands out to the sides and then back again. Make sure your shoulders are not coming up to your ears and that you are not popping the ribcage to achieve this movement. The idea is to open the chest and shoulders outwards by engaging in the muscles in between the shoulder blades.
9. Tummy tucks to protect and support the spine.
Place your hands and feet in all fours, making sure your hands are under your shoulders and knees are under the hips, hip distance apart. Relax the belly, take a breath in and expand the belly, without moving the spine. Then on the exhale, lift and squeeze the belly (from the groin up to the belly button) up towards the spine and hold for 5 seconds, and then release and repeat for a consecutive number of sets. You can also do quick pulses upwards with the belly after, if you feel.
10. Take up space so you are not causing restrictions in the body.
There is a tendency to shrink in our seats, through stress of the work we are doing, to being too cold, to being shy, to resist others company or being in confined spaces. These are just possibilities. But it is important to notice and be aware if you are shrinking in or resisting outside forces. Once you notice this, you can work to intentionally soften and allow yourself to take up and expand into the space you are in. You can consciously relax the shoulders and the face, and allow that to follow into opening up the rest of the body, to feel more free in your space.
(image: Hanneke Laaning
Byline: Crystal is a yoga teacher and writer. She is Yoga Alliance certified in Yin, Hatha, Vinyasa, Swing/aerial and myofascial release, meditation, pranayama. She is also a qualified NLP practitioner and journalist. She loves cats, eco-friendly focuses and tea in all forms.
You can email her Crystal here
(Feature image: Joyce Mccown)