My posture is pretty dismal.
When I’m cooking, I’ll notice that I’ve been holding my shoulders tight up by my ears for an unknown length of time. On my bike, I suddenly realize that I’m arching my lower back, hunching forward at the shoulders, and jutting my neck forward so that the weight of my head pulls on tendons and connective tissue that have better things to do. My jaw is on perma-clench. I devolve into a quarter-sitting, three-quarter slouching, chin tucked heap while reading in bed at night, and wake up with a stiff lower back. It’s abysmal.
But there’s hope, even for twisted bone bags like me! The first step is realizing that there’s a problem, people. Much of our (I’m including you in this now, too) bad posture is the result of existing among chairs, desks, and tables that entreat us to sit for hours on end. Smartphones, tablets, and laptops vie for our craned necks, and sofas invite, aid, and abet aggressively bad positions that we hold for hours. They also disconnect us from what good posture or positioning feels like. We lose most (if not all) reference points to how it feels to stand or sit correctly, and so our muscles and joints have to re-learn these cues.
All of these factors are parts of modern life that we have to use, so we have to figure out how to exist with them and reconnect with good posture.
A few things I’ve found helpful in improving posture:
- A morning movement routine of some kind. Doesn’t have to be a crazy workout. Just something to move your joints through their ranges of motion. There’s Radio Taiso, the Happy Body, Vita Moves, or you can design your own routine. Whichever you choose, the point is to do something. Get blood flowing and move your limbs. I try different things and switch it up when one routine gets stale.
- Take breaks and move around throughout the day. This might be as simple as swapping sitting for standing, or vice versa. While you’re at it, move your arms and legs through their respective ranges of motion. Get your knees above your hips, and do some arm circles. Depending on your environment, you might need to sneak this stuff in during bathroom breaks. Even the most disciplined people can’t hold the same perfect posture position for hours on end. And even if you could, it wouldn’t be perfect to hold a position for hours–we are built to move.
- Check out Esther Gokhale (pronounce “GO-clay”). There are a number of videos of her method for sitting (“stretch sitting”) and standing. I like the cues she gives (“keep your behind behind you”), and seeing the step-by-step instruction in the videos makes the concepts actionable.
- Schedule time during the week to practice some kind of dedicated movement–free weights, yoga, dance, etc.
- Schedule some time to work on mobility. Mobility WOD is the go to resource. The main site is subscription based, but there are plenty of episodes available on YouTube if you want to get a taste.
So these are some starting points. If your back is sore or stiff or you don’t have a tremendous range of motion in your shoulders, there’s something you can do about it. Some of it is mindfulness (recognizing when it’s time to take a break to move around, for instance) and some of it is movement practice–figuring out what to do to address the issue. But the bottom line is to do something; to move around and avoid staying in any one position for too long. One of those small investments in health that pays big dividends down the road.