I have just been for a walk around Lake Hakanoa in Huntly NZ – and seen others pacing around it too, making the most of the fresh morning before a humid day. So many of them are slouchers! Each time i saw one I found myself rolling my shoulders back further and walking tall and enjoyed the feeling of my anti gravity muscles working. If you slouch, your nose will get there first, and you tend to be slightly flexed at the hips which accentuates the whole impact of gravity pulling you towards the earth a bit quicker than it needs to!
So here is a chapter out of my book REST:A SCIENCE AND AN ART you can buy off my website. [Sorry that the image is a bit fuzzy here – you don’t need stronger glasses.]
Whole books can be written about posture, but I feel I need to discuss
one particular, awful posture that reinforces a poor breathing pattern,
accentuates muscle tension or demonstrates a low self-confidence. Next
time you are people-watching, notice how many people adopt the ‘chook
look’ position, where their ears are in front of their shoulders. Their nose
will get there first. Maybe it is the slouch of tiredness, an altered posture
after spending hours looking at a poorly positioned computer screen, or
due to an occupation requiring prolonged forward-bending. Or maybe it is
the result of poor self-esteem, anxiety, a woman trying to make her breasts
look less significant or a poor breathing pattern.
This posture activates the accessory muscles and increases the work of
breathing. It compresses the diaphragmatic area, restricting its movement
and therefore the amount of air you can easily take in with each breath.
The forward-head posture winds up the muscles around the jaw, which can
cause stiffness, grating or clicking in the joint.
It also rotates the shoulder joint forward and slides the scapula around the
ribcage. The rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder can weaken in this position
and cause shoulder pain by putting an increased shearing force on their
tendons. The mid-thoracic spine between the shoulder blades becomes
rounded and less mobile, lengthening and weakening the antigravity
muscles down the spine. For every 2.5cm you let your head move forward
from the neutral position, you put about 4.5kg of extra load onto your
spine’s musculature, increasing the body’s work and strain each day.
Next time you are out walking, simply roll those shoulders back a
centimetre, gently tuck in your chin, tighten or do a post-menopausal lift
of your lower abdominals – only 10% of their strength – and feel those
antigravity muscles down your back and in your bottom working.
Who wants to become a stooped old person in the future?
Walk tall and Own Your Zone.
Here are some tips of how to undo the slouching habit
1- Stretch out the tight structures at the front of your chest.
Stand in a doorway or the corner of a room with your forearms against the doorposts or wallsand your elbows level with your shoulders. Put one foot in front of the other and bring your weight onto the front foot until you can feel a stretch across the front of your chest. THIS IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE PAINFUL. Keep your chin slightly tucked in.
Hold for 20 seconds, relax for 10 and repeat 3 times.
This is a butterfly stretch that I recommend for anyone who has been sitting for too long. When I was running Stress Management Seminars I realised no-one was going to do 5 different stretches and so I combined them into one movement.
- Start with the backs of your hands together then reach up with your fingertips as high as you can.
- Lead with your fingertips on the way down stretching your arms slightly back behind you.
- Do it 3x slowly getting a good range of movement then 3x fast to stimulate your circulation.
2- Strengthen the muscles of your back
I like this picture because you start with your forhead on something and your nose to the floor, so as you lift your arms and head you can keep your chin tucked in. You may find it easier at first with your elbows bent so your hands are near your head.
Don’t lift your feet off the floor.
Lift and hold 3 counts, then relax and repeat 5-10x depending on how strong you are. If this is too easy. hold each one for longer, and aim to increase the time you hold it as you get stronger, until you can hold each for 10 counts
3 – Relearn what standing straight feels like – WITHOUT having to use wooden splints.
We all have a ‘postural reflex’ which is a reflex built into our brains that tells us what has become our normal way to hold a posture. e.g. After a time of depression or pain, if we have held a stooped posture for a while, the brain readjusts and this becomes our new normal. It feels natural and comfortable even if it is not the most efficient use of our body, and even if it will cause pain from not using our body well. The good news is that we can change it by often taking on a new posture.
If you have been a sloucher, try standing with your arms by your sides, and your thmb will be pointing forward. Now roll your thumb out to the side and around until it points backwards. Keep your shoulders in that position and relax your arms back to hanging comfortable beside you. Tuck your chin in a little and …
There, think what it feels like to be standing taller, you will have opened up the area around your tummy so you will be able to breathe with your diaphragm more easily, and your antigravity muscles will have kicked in to do what they were built for, holding you up tall.
I hope you enjoy the new posture and attitude.