About 12 years ago, back when you had to wait to develop film before you see your pictures, I was anxiously awaiting some photos of a girls' weekend with some great friends. I couldn't wait to get the prints back, visions of an evening spent scrapbooking dancing in my head. But when I finally got the pictures back, I threw them away. All of them.
Why? I was really uncomfortable with the way I looked. I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time, but something felt off. Looking back, I know what it was: I chronically held myself in really awful, unattractive posture. I certainly didn’t do it intentionally, I just didn’t know any better. My poor posture wasn't only unattractive, it also wreaked havoc on my body also wreaked havoc on my body. I had chronic joint and muscle pain, jaw issues, headaches ... you name it, I had it.
So what changed? I started practicing and teaching yoga and Pilates. As a result, my body, body awareness, and posture totally transformed. Throughout my 10-plus years of teaching, I’ve found these five tips to work wonders with helping people train their bodies toward more functional, attractive posture.
1. Adjust your rearview mirror.
The next time you hop into the driver’s seat of your car, take a moment to sit up as tall as you can. Activate your abdominal muscles to support you by pretending like you’re zipping up a tight pair of jeans. Then, think of your head as a clock with the very top being 12 o’clock, your nose being 3 o’clock and your neck being 6 o’clock. Envision a string at 11 o’clock and pull that imaginary string straight up, toward the sky, to help you lengthen your spine.
Once this strong posture is intact, adjust your rearview mirror. Then, don’t let yourself readjust it. When you notice you can’t see out of it, readjust your posture instead of the mirror.
2. Put a yoga block between your thighs.
Whether you’re standing in the kitchen, washing dishes or sitting at your desk, putting a yoga block between your thighs is a simple way to improve your posture. First, it’s going to help get your feet grounded in a functional position. Ideally, you want your feet about hip-width apart with your toes pointing straight forward so the outside edges of your feet are parallel.
If you’re used to standing with your toes pointed out (like most people), this new foot position might feel awkward, almost like you’re standing in a pigeon-toed fashion. This is definitely how I felt at first. Just like anything else, though, the more you practice it, the more comfortable it becomes. Since your feet are your foundation, it’s important to get them set up properly.
Secondly, holding a block between your thighs activates your inner thigh muscles. This fires up your abdominal muscles to support your posture and takes pressure of your back. Strong, engaged inner thighs are an important component of strong, attractive posture.
3. Sit at the edge of your chair.
Most chairs aren't designed ergonomically correct. So if you’re constantly lounging back and relying on them to support your posture, the results will be less than fabulous. Sit at the edge of your chair and train your muscles to support you instead.
4. Sit on a stability ball instead of a chair.
When you replace your stable base (a chair) with an unstable base (a stability ball), muscle groups are forced to begin engaging simply to keep you from falling off. In other words, sitting on a stability ball is a great tool that automatically reminds your body to engage muscles that will support your posture.
5. Turn your palms so they’re facing forward.
Whenever you’re standing and not using your hands, like when you’re waiting in line at the grocery story, gently turn your hands so your thumbs are pointed out, away from your body with palms facing forward. This subtle adjustment works wonders because is pulls your shoulder blades back toward your spine, opening your chest … a much more flattering look than being hunched forward.