Here’s a cold, hard, undeniable fact: Your posture follows you everywhere.
I know it’s not groundbreaking stuff, but you may be surprised how many people DON’T read posture blogs and rarely think about their posture at all. Difficult to imagine, I know.
Even if you are a posture conscious individual with the world’s most ergonomic work set up- at the end of the day, your posture rides the subway home with you, stands in line at the grocery store with you and comes with you to the park when you walk your pup.
If we want to make a real change to our posture and back health that will actually stick, we have to be mindful of it throughout the day. I know that this might seem overwhelming and high maintenance to be ALWAYS thinking of your posture, but fear not Sleekformers! I’ve compiled a list of tips to make it as easy as possible for you to have the posture of your mother’s dreams.
Let’s talk that good posture talk and walk that good posture walk!
1: Find Your Center.
I do this awful thing where I stick my chin forward and lead with my head when I walk or talk or basically do anything. When I say I “lead with my chin” what I mean is that my chin sort of pulls the rest of my body- just a little bit. I’ve been told that this habit is rooted in some sort of psychological fear of being misunderstood or overlooked or underestimated, or something like that. But that’s not really the point- the important thing here is to understand that it’s very common for people to place a fair amount of energy or tension into a certain part of the body, no matter what the reason is. It could be their core that leads, their knees, their neck or chin. If you were to sit on a park bench and watch people stroll past, you’d quickly notice it. People tend to lead with one area first instead of being centered.
This leading, no matter where it’s placed, has a major effect on your posture. It affects how you feel in your body as well as how you present yourself outwardly. If you’re more centered not only will you feel more in control and present, but you’ll also give off an in control and present vibe to the people around you.
Give this a try: Keep your chin level with the ground, your shoulders back, and your core engaged. Place your feet about shoulder-width apart- the same stance you would use for working out, and then lift your arms above your head and release them down to your side. Do you feel that? That’s a centered posture. Memorize this feeling and keep coming back to it.
As you continue to stand tall, imagine a string is coming from the top of your head going towards the sky pulling you upwards. Keep your lower back inline, and don't move to your tiptoes. Your neck should feel loose, sort of like you’re a bobblehead. Wobble your head around to loosen up the muscles in your neck.
Visualization techniques like this one can guide your sense of the proper position you should be in.
2: Back It Up.
Remember when you were a kid and your mom made you stand against the wall with your heels against the baseboard and (lovingly) nagged you to stand up straight so she could track your height growth?
Let’s go back to that real quick.
Find a wall and stand with your back up against it. Pull your shoulders back and down your spine so your entire upper back can press against the wall. Gently touch the back of your head and your butt against the wall. Your heels should be 2 to 4 inches away from the wall. Slide your hand behind your back to check for space. You should be able to slide your hand behind your back but only by a little bit. If you have more space than that, pull your belly button back towards your spine, engaging your core to help flatten your back a little.
If you can't slide your hand behind your back, arch your back slightly so that you can. Try to hold this position as you move away from the wall, take a walk around the room then go back to the wall and rechecking as needed.
Wow! You look so great So tall! Did you change your hair? No? You just improved your posture? Incredible!
At first, you will end up slipping back into your old habits (whatever that may be) it’s inevitable, muscles take time to relearn habits. With just a tidbit of mindfulness and actively going back to this wall posture, your body will get there.
Just as the poster on the wall of my gym says:
“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” which applies here just as much as it applies there.
3: It's A Balancing Act.
The wall is a good way to check in with yourself but it’s not always practical (or normal) to take a second and press your back up against the wall. Plus, we want to be able to take that good posture with us everywhere.
If you’re on the move, forget about the wall and imagine there’s an object sitting on your head. You can do this on the subway during rush hour, or in line at the Whole Foods salad bar over lunch. Visualizing this will help you to keep your head up and your back straight. If you're having trouble imagining it, try a real book for a few minutes (but maybe don’t do this in the Whole Foods line up.)
Our goal is to have good standing posture while moving. Walking with good posture is simply an extension of standing with good posture. Keep your head up, shoulders back, core slightly engaged (but not holding) and your eyes looking straight ahead while you walk keeping your neck and long and straight.
You may be surprised how unnatural this feels, but once again, with a bit of mindfulness and practice how quickly it will become your new normal- not only making you feel good physically but also internally. You may feel more confident and more commanding of the space you’re in.
Let’s start feeling in charge of our space and literally start walkin’ the walk.
I love an impractical shoe. Give me something with a heel, a pointed toe, a fabric that doesn’t breathe and put. it. on. my. foot. Give me a flat sneaker, a cute boot, a patent leather pump- give them all to me. I will wear them. I will battle through the pain in the name of a good shoe.
What I don’t love about my shoes is how I feel the day after wearing them. It always shocks me how tight the muscles in my back are. Have you ever had one of those days where you wake up and when you first move your neck it feels like someone just lit your every muscle and ligament in your back and neck on fire? Woof.
Shoes are just as important to your standing posture as an ergonomic chair is to your sitting posture. When you are choosing shoes to do a lot of walking or standing in, look for something with ample padding to help you hold yourself upright. In addition, make sure they have good arch support. If you’re seriously looking to improve your back and posture health avoid shoes with high heels (ladies, we know, but sometimes comfort has to win over style), as they tend to change your body's alignment. Good posture starts from the ground up, so invest in something that gives you a strong foundation.
I know you’ve got a million things going on and that posture mindfulness is not always at the top of the list of your priorities, but I encourage you to take some time out of your week to try these exercises on and begin to store how they make you feel. This way when you’re walking past a store window and end up catching your reflection you can remember how it feels to have proper posture and you’ll be able to recreate it in an instant.
Do you currently have a mindfulness practice? Does it include posture work? Let us know in the comments how you stay in touch with yourself throughout the day, we’d love to know (so we can add it to our own routine!)