Modern society has us bent out of shape, making us hunch over laptops, tablets and smartphones for the majority of our days. As the workplace continues to be driven toward technology, there's little light at the end of the tunnel for our posture.
It's time we create change in our daily routines to create a better outcome for how our bodies feel and perform. Here are a couple tips to help:
1. Stretch your ALL.
Our muscles develop and change based on a "use it or lose it" principle. Spending hours on end in a position where the front of our body is shortened sends a signal to our brains that this is the way we like to use these muscles. Over time, this causes our muscles to lose the ability to lengthen in a way that is sufficient to find balance.
Give your body a hand up by stretching the Anterior Longitudinal Ligament (ALL), which is a thick ligament that runs along the front of your spinal column. The ALL can shorten as our bodies take on a hunched position and can be the culprit for low back pain, hip tightness and shoulder problems.
To stretch the ALL, lie backward over a foam roller so that your mid back (just below the shoulder blades) is resting on the roller. Place a folded towel under your head as you lie back, creating an arch in your spine. Focus on letting your body melt into the roller while you breathe deeply for 60 seconds.
2. Add some variety to your movements.
With each of our movements, our body begins to develop muscle memory. Muscle memory is the series of connections that our brain makes to produce movements efficiently. Spending 10-12 hours a day in a sitting position gives us ample opportunity to develop muscle memory around poor habits, such as slouching.
Counteract the effects of these strong neural pathways by introducing movement variety into your day. Changing the movements that you do during the day helps stimulate the neuromuscular system so that you are better equipped to handle activities in a balanced and safe manner.
Gentle backbends: Sit up tall with your pelvis upright. Imagine you had a headlamp on your chest bone and shine it upward as your roll your shoulders back. Perform five repetitions.
Rib release: Raise your arms above your head with your fingers reaching toward the ceiling. Inhale to prepare, then exhale as you allow your ribs and shoulders melt down toward your pelvis. Repeat three times.
3. Consciously resume your sitting posture.
As the day grows long and hours go by without getting up from our seat, we tend to switch from one poor posture pattern to the next without giving much thought to how to maintain a healthy position that is devoid of aches and pains. Taking a moment to listen to our body can be crucial to avoiding chronic issues such as back pain.
The next time your body begins to speak to you in the form of discomfort, take a second to give it some thought. Are you spending too much leaning on your right hip? If so, stand up and stretch your right side in any way you know how. When you resume to your seat, follow these points to help you achieve a balanced sitting posture:
Imagine your pelvis is a bowl.
If you filled this bowl to the rim with water, position the bowl so that none of the water spills. This should put you so that you're sitting directly on your sit bones with even weight between your right and left hips.
Imagine you have a headlamp on your chest.
Shine the beam of this lamp so that it is parallel to the floor. Notice if it shines up or down your pelvis is unable to maintain an upright position.
Imagine that a string is pulling you upward by the crown of your head.
The combination of these three simple tips will help you achieve a posture that is healthy for your body in sitting, standing and lying. The added balance will improve your ability to perform daily activities, as well any sports you play or any physical activities you love!