A forward posture can eventually cause kyphosis, neck pain, back pain, and even heart, lung, and throat inefficiency. It is never to late shift your environment so you are up straight.
There are only four things that we do behind our back: Toilet hygiene, loop a belt, and scratch or wash our back. Everything else is done in front of us so we can easily fall into a posture that promotes rolled in shoulders, a forward head, and slumping over. Here are a few of my thoughts on how to prevent this posture from becoming unfixable.
#1: Should you always focus on standing and sitting up straight?
No! This could be exhausting. Imagine if I asked you to hold your arms out straight for an hour. That would be very tough. When you constantly force yourself to sit or stand up straight you are asking your muscles to work without a break. When you stop, you will curve forward from exhaustion even more. Plus, this is just causing tension. Let’s achieve a neutral, upright posture naturally.
Solution: Change your environment to promote a more upright posture gradually.
- Raise your seat height so your hips are at a 70-degree angle, not 90 degrees
- Keep any screen, especially your computer screen, at eye level. You can use Tupperware containers to elevate a laptop in conjunction with using a wireless keyboard and mouse or check out this great laptop elevator. Urmost Laptop Notebook Stand Holder
- If you are using a standing table, make sure to give yourself some breaks, and try sitting on a stool. Variety is the key.
- When reading a book in paperback or on a tablet/phone, elevate your arms on a pillow so that screen is at eye level
- If you knit, crochet, cross-stitch, sew, or anything of that nature, rest your arms on a table so that you are not doing your craft in your lap
The main objective is to shift your activities so that they are at eye level or as close to eye level as possible. I am constantly evaluating my postural habits to determine how I am shaping my body. If you need some extra suggestions, feel free to contact me. We can video chat now through my virtual sessions!
#2: Should I use a postural strap?
Postural straps are a great idea, but they need to be used as a suggestion, not a correction. If you are using a postural strap to pull your shoulders back than the strap is taking the place of your muscles. This will cause weakness of the muscles. Plus, the strap is going to be really uncomfortable under your armpits.
Solution: My suggestion is to use the postural strap a few times throughout the day for 20-30 minutes at most. Keep the strap loose enough that you can place one hand under each strap. This amount of tension activates your back muscles by providing a slight proprioceptive input for the muscles to turn on. Without you know, you are strengthening the muscles and will get much better long term results. Because those muscles are being activated, do not keep this on for more than 30 minutes or you will be exhausted! Refer back to the #1 suggestion.
I use a yoga strap that has a D ring on it, but there are several you can buy, try, and return if the strap is too thick under your armpit.
#3: Will stretching and exercising improve my posture?
Most definitely! The best place to stretch to improve your posture is your chest and stomach. These areas have shortened and are fulling your body into a concave position.
Solution: Grab a rolled-up towel or foam roller and lay with it along your spine as your shoulders and chest open up. You can then take the towel, foam roller, or a releaser ball and use it directly on your chest in standing or laying down. As your chest and stomach soften their pull forward, you will also feel your upper back begin to soften.
Then begin the upper back exercises such as rowing or pulling a theraband/resistant band straight out to the side directly in front of you. You may just pull your shoulder blades together 10x or 5x while holding for 5 seconds. Be careful not to over-do it.
Never force a stretch or an exercise. I highly recommend personal training sessions in which someone can design a program specifically for you. Make sure they consider your core muscles first. Michele Gangwer at the wellness center is an amazing resource. Click here to contact her.
Voyage to HEAL Weekly Task
Stretch: Hold onto the back of your chair and lean forward. Lead with your sternum more than just pulling your shoulders back. Let your neck be soft. Stay here for at least 2 songs as you gently breathe.
Exercise: I provided a few suggestions above, but I also really like the cactus exercise as shown in the video above. Stand against a wall, raise your arms up against the wall with elbows bent, and raise them up and down to your comfort level 6-10x. I actually do this in the shower because there is wall space there and then it becomes part of my daily routine.
Habitual Change: Move your environment to eye level
Perspective Enlightenment: I let go of resistance to any person, place, or thing. Whatever I am holding onto that is pulling me down or moving my life in an undesirable direction, I surrender and allow myself to go with the flow of the universe. Surrendering is not giving up. It is allowing God to be in charge and trusting God. I let go of resistance.
This week’s task follows along with week #5: Opening the Chest. Click here to start your Voyage to HEAL.
Godspeed on your Voyage to HEAL learning Healthy Everyday Activities for Life.