We bet you’ve heard “stand up straight” or “don’t slouch” a few times before — even if the critiques and criticisms about posture weren’t directed at you personally. But what is good posture and why exactly does it matter?
The Merriam Webster Dictionary offers a straightforward definition, listing posture as “the way in which your body is positioned in sitting or standing.” The Kansas Chiropractic Foundation says that good posture means “your bones are properly aligned, so your muscles, joints and ligaments can work as nature intended.” Kerrisa Smith, a Certified Bar Method Instructor at the Bar Method Marina in San Francisco and the National Physical Therapy Consultant for The Bar Method, tells us that the benefits of good alignment as nature intended include a healthy spine, improved circulation and digestion, efficient respiration and your ability to portray a more confident body image. She also notes that good posture can even help you to prevent injuries.
“Posture isn’t actually an inherent trait as it’s affected not only affected by genetics but also our daily rituals, positions and habits,” Kerrisa says. “Our hectic routines and mobile lifestyles can attribute to bad habits and cause problems like neck pain, shoulder impingement, carpal tunnel, back pain and tendonitis.” Even more, slouching in chairs, carrying heavy backpacks or purses, and sitting in awkward positions while driving can also lead to postural issues — leading to discomfort and injury over time.
The silver lining? Kerrisa says that it’s never too late to correct your posture. “Making simple changes to your daily routine can save you from pain and impairment in the future,” she promises.
To begin practicing better posture, Kerrisa tells us you’ll need to take a quick inventory on your current physical stature. While facing forwards, look into the mirror and notice:
- Are your shoulders level?
- Is your head straight?
- Are you hip straight?
- Is there equal space between your arms and sides of your body?
- Are your ankles straight?
Next, turn to the side or on profile to the mirror (or take a picture):
- Is your head upright? (not pointing forwards or backwards)
- Is your chin parallel to the floor?
- Are your shoulders in line with your ears and the midpoint of your hips?
- Are your knees straight?
- Is there a slight forward curve to your low back?
After assessing your posture, begin to incorporate her five easy tips into your daily routine. They’ll correct postural imbalances while helping you maintain the superb stature you’ve mastered by taking class.
- Lift your chin: Kerrisa says, “Doing this will help help decrease unnecessary stress on your cervical spine.”
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together: Whether you’re sitting at your desk or standing in line at Starbucks, begin to perform small isometric squeezes of your shoulder blades. Kerrisa tells us that this will help to lift your chest and stretch out tight, rounded shoulders.
- Pull your belly in: Do this all day and every day! Kerrisa explains, “This action will activate your deep abdominals (the transversus abdominis muscle) — just like the work you do in flat back. Think of these muscles as your inner girdle and know that as this muscle strengths, it will help protect your back and help flatten your stomach.”
- Stand with relaxed legs: Like your instructors tell you in a Bar Method class, avoid locking out your knees. This puts increased pressure on your lumbar spine.
- Stand tall: Be proud of your height (or lack thereof!) and own your body by standing tall. Not only will your inner confidence will reflect outwards, and you’ll look more lean while doing so.
As Kerrisa reminds us, “We’re only given one body in life and it’s our job to love it, respect it and nurture it. Take the time pay attention to your daily positions, and make the necessary changes to improve your posture. You’ll find yourself with a healthier, happier body.”
We’d love to learn how Bar Method has helped you improve your posture — share your personal story in the comments!