Do you want to look 10 lbs lighter and 10 years younger? I don’t know about you, but I do! How, you ask? Posture! Yes, I said posture. Having good posture helps the body run more efficiently. The spine acts as a shock absorber while running and jumping. Good posture aids in digestion, elimination, improves blood circulation and allows freer breathing of the lungs. This not only helps us with day-to-day activities but will extend our lives.
So lets take a little test. Stand against a wall and lets check our posture. Stand with feet parallel and hip width apart, heels, butt, shoulders, and back of head touching the wall. How do you feel in the position? This posture should feel natural but for most of us…not so much. Most activities that we perform in our daily lives tend to round us forward because the action is in front of us. We lean forward to see, to touch, and to feel, which causes our shoulders to round and our chins to press forward.
Good Posture – What Is It?
Stand with the feet parallel to each other and under hips, line ankles and knees under hips. Stack shoulders over hips with the heart reaching up. Squeeze shoulder blades together and down the back towards the hip pockets. Lastly, the head should sit squarely onto the shoulders as a natural extension of the spine gently drawing jaw bones toward the cervical spine. If viewing the human body from the side, you could play dot to dot, lining ankle bones with knees, hips, shoulders, and ears. Another area that can be off is the hips and pelvis. It can have an anterior tilt (lordosis), flat back, sway back, and scoliosis (which can occur in any area of the spine). This article will touch on a couple of exercises for strengthening the posture: in the upper back, rounding of shoulders, stretching the chest muscles and forward chin tilt.
Standing Back Extension / Standing Backbend
this strengthens the upper back muscles and stretches the chest muscles. stand with feet hip width apart, weight evenly distributed over feet, reaching tailbone toward the heels of feet, abdominals pulling in towards spine, hands and fingertips down to support the lower back, shoulders squeezing towards the spine, chest and heart reaching to the heavens, head extending up. Inhale to lengthen up, exhale to reach up and slight the back, into a small standing backbend, at the same time drawing the chin/jaw bones toward spine. Breath in and out through the nose 5-10 breaths for 5-10 repetitions.
This pose strengthens the upper back and stretches chest and front abdominal (six pack) muscles. Lay prone, belly and face down onto mat or floor, feet together laces of shoes flat. Legs should be straight and actively squeezing together. Pull belly in and upward towards spine. Hands are at ribcage level fingers spread wide like starfish, thumbs at lowest rib. Squeeze shoulder blades together at the same time lift shoulders to elbow height. Press hands into floor. Inhale to lift upper body off the floor, keeping elbows bent and reaching the heart upward. Bring chest forward at the same time pressing the tops of the shoe laces(feet) into the floor. Hold this position for 3 to 5 breathes for 5-10 reps.
This is a rest stretch and good to do between cobra reps. This pose is prone. Begin in a tabletop position and place toes together and knees wide. Rest belly and chest between legs or on legs, forehead to the floor or block. Reach arms out in front of shoulders, hands spreading, starfish fingers into the mat. Press sitz bones to heels for 3 breathes.
This last stretch can be done sitting or standing. Squeeze shoulder blades together, gently draw the jaw bones back and in and gently upward while keeping chin parallel to the floor.