Good Posture Goes Beyond Looking Good
These words still keep ringing in my ear. “Keep your head up, keep your shoulders away from your ears, and open your chest” was another of my mother’s constant refrains to my sister and I as young girls. For those who practice Pilates, these words must sound very familiar.
My mother obviously was way ahead of her time as nobody in Belgium in those days had heard of Joseph Pilates. Every afternoon after school, my mother insisted on giving my sister and I a “posture” session. Under her scrutiny, we would walk with a yardstick across our backs that was kept in place in the crook of our elbows, held in close to our torsos. Then with yardstick still in place, we walked with telephone books on our heads along an imaginary line traced by our mother on the floor. My sister and I loved our “posture sessions” as we felt as if we were models preparing to walk the catwalk!
After the walking exercises, we had our ‘goûter’, an afternoon snack break that was more like high tea. This was immediately followed by yet another “posture” session that focused on sitting upright on our sitz bones (ischial tuberosity). “Not on your lower back! No slouching!” She constantly admonished us.
To this day, my sister and I are extremely grateful to our mother for the gift of her posture sessions. I regret I never thanked her for them. Now that I am a mother too, I find myself repeating my mother’s words, “Tenez-vous droit!” to my sons.All this is to say that good posture goes beyond looking good because before we express ourselves with words, our image has already spoken out loud and clear. Thus our posture is an integral part of the image we project. Unfortunately, bad posture has become the standard in our society. For this reason, as an image consultant and Pilates trainer, I developed a program that incorporates Pilates techniques to help my clients improve their posture and attain their image goals. Imagine for a moment a woman dressed in a beautiful designer suit, with her shoulders slumped forward, her back rounded, her chin down and her stomach relaxed. This is not a woman who would stand out in a crowd or project confidence. Now, imagine the same woman wearing the same suit but standing tall with her back straight, shoulders drawn back and down, chin parallel to the floor, stomach in, and her glutes (gluteal muscles) squeezed together! Heads will turn and she’ll be admired for her carriage, her style and the confidence she projects.
POINTERS FOR A GOOD STANDING POSTURE
(All the following are done in front of a mirror)
· Face front and hold a yardstick across your chest beneath your collarbone (shoulder height) and check if your shoulders are touching the yardstick. If they do, your upper body posture needs to be improved. To do this, draw your shoulders back away from the yardstick and down away from your ears.
· Stand sideways and look for the three natural curves in your back.
Make sure your chin is parallel to the floor, that your shoulders are in line with your hips, your hips in line with your knees, and your knees in line with the middle of your feet. Your pelvis should be neutral, not tilted forward nor backward. To attain a neutral pelvis stand completely straight, place the heel of your hands on your hipbones, your fingers on your upper thighs. The area under your hands should be completely flat.
· Face front: Check that your shoulders, hips and knees are level by ensuring your knees are aligned with your second toes. To do this, squat and look in the mirror to ensure that your knees are pointing in the same direction as your toes.
To help keep everything in alignment while standing or walking, visualize a string attached to the crown of your head, pulling you up and lengthening and extending your spine. Stand tall and narrow your waist by pressing your navel against your spine. Engage the glutes and make sure your body weight is balanced over the middle of your feet.
POINTERS FOR A GOOD SITTING POSTURE
(All the following could also be done while driving)
· Choose a chair with a firm, flat seat.
· Sit all the way back in your chair on your sitz bones. Squeeze them together by pulling in your glutes.
· Elongate your waist by sitting tall.
· Draw your shoulders back and down and ensure they are square with your hips.
· Sculpt your abs (abdominal muscles) inward.
· Press your navel into your spine and upwards.
· Ensure your ears are in line with your shoulders.
· Hold your head level by ensuring your chin is parallel to the floor and lengthen your neck.
Remember good posture will make you look taller and thinner and help you project an air of confidence. But good posture should always feel comfortable. (May take little bit of practice, but be patient). So walk tall, think length and leap with joy into 2014! Happy New Year!