Sit up Straight!
Yes, I am talking about posture. What is it? It is the position a person holds their body while standing or sitting. Do we all have good posture? Probably not. Do we all mean well? Sure. (Yes, I like to ask and answer my own questions)
I am sure most of heard the words from either a parent/teacher/person of authority, "Sit up straight!". It was teachers that mostly uttered these words to me. My mother's famous phrase was "Pick up your feet!" (this was while I was walking. The way I walked is an entirely other blog post).
Getting back to postures. Posture analysis was an enormous part of my pilates training. We spent quite a bit of time on it. We all analyzed each other's posture and then had to suggest exercises that would help benefit some of the issues we saw in the posture. My instructor trainers told us that they hadn't seen anyone that had perfect posture. It's just the way it is. We have different activities that make us walk, stand, sit certain ways, that there most likely is going to be something going on.
It is important to note that most people have "characteristics" of a specific posture, they don't necessarily fall into that specific category completely.
There is so much I can say about different postures, so I am going to stick to one for today.
Kyphosis: forward rounding of the upper back. This is sometimes called "hunchback". Now if someone analyzes your posture and says you have rounded shoulders, this doesn't mean you have kyphosis, it just means you show characteristics of it and is very "slight". Most of us (remember I cannot diagnose) have traits of different types of postures.
We all have been experiencing "text neck" for years now, but I feel the last six months has just increased the rounding of our shoulders and has done a number on our postures. I remember back in March/April I was looking at my phone every few minutes. So I am sure my posture took a hit from it. It's best to have someone with a trained eye to do an analysis of your posture. During my certification course I started noticing everyone's posture and I would note the thinks I saw in my head. My course took place over the summer in New York City so I analyzed every person walking in front of me wearing a tank top. The more I did it, the more I noticed.
So what can you do? Pilates, that's what. Seriously, pilates helps with posture. Check out my first post here.
When you have your posture analyzed and are told your have this rounding in your shoulders and upper back, it means that your back muscles aren't being utilized enough. Anything you can do to open your chest and bring your shoulders toward one another will be a huge benefit to your posture. You can just practice that sitting at your desk. Think of "lifting your heart to the ceiling" and you got it. You can do this kneeling, sitting, or standing. Now your eyes don't have to look behind you. Everyone will have different flexibility in their spine. Here is what I notice in the photo below (now keep in mind this is a still photo and I am not seeing them perform the entire exercise). I see the person in white shirt is able to extend their spine a little bit more than woman on the right. It's not much, it is very slight from what I can see from this photo. He seems to be able to extend his cervical spine a bit more in this snapshot or maybe she just hasn't gotten to that part- as I said, it is tough to determine from one photo and without speaking to the participants. Her chin is lifted up (but not as much as person on the right) so I can see she is in or attempting to be in extension in neck as well You can see that their ribs are expanded and extension in the thoracic spine (upper back) on both people. My point? They are both doing it correctly. We aren't carbon copies (please tell me you know what that means) of one another and we will not look the exact same in most exercises/stretches.
The cat/cow stretch is also a great way to start. I often begin and end exercise sessions with this exercise. It just mobilizes your spine and warms up your body. It is good to do at the end of a session because many times fitness classes end with core work on the floor. If you have done many "crunches" or " ab curls", you need to move your body in the other direction. Your muscles will thank you later.
Sometimes a rounded back can make you feel tight in your pec muscles and the anterior deltoid (front of shoulder). I love using my foam roller (another post coming all about this awesome prop soon) as shown below. Just lying on the floor doesn't do it. The posterior shoulder muscles need somewhere to go in order to feel the stretch the the front of your chest in shoulders. This stretch feels amazing. If you haven't tried it, I suggest finding a foam roller and doing it a few times a week.
Now she looks great doing this stretch. It might not feel so good to you the first time you try it. You do need to make sure that your head/neck is supported on the foam roller. Sometimes people need a rolled up washcloth under their head to feel a bit more comfortable on the roller. It very well be because of the "text neck" and they just need an extra boost to allow those muscles to relax.
Like I said, I can go on and on about postures. We should all work on them each day, even if it is just a few stretches. But remember that I cannot diagnose a posture and you shouldn't begin any exercise/stretching routine without consulting a physician.
Oh, and one last thing...no slouching!