A straight spine shows the world that we are aware and ready to take on anything that comes our way. Proper posture keeps us alert and clear. Studies even suggest that maintaining a straight spine may alleviate feelings of depression while encouraging more alertness and higher self-esteem.
But let’s face it, life can be stressful, and tension often gets stored in our bodies ⸺ especially in our upper back and shoulders. Between driving, cell phone usage, and everyday pressures, we can’t help but find ourselves slouching at times … or for some of us, all the time. Figuring out how to improve your posture in a world where it seems that poor posture is the norm can thus feel nearly impossible.
These days it’s common to see people walking down the street hunched over their smartphones. The continuous rise in cell phone usage has nearly become a full-blown epidemic. Our heads weigh between 10 to 12 pounds on average, and research has shown that we can spend over four hours every day (yes, four!) glued to our screens. This inevitable strain on the neck and spine raises major concern with how we stand all throughout our day. So if you’re looking to discover how to improve your posture, you can start by taking inventory of those everyday habits that cause strain on the neck and shoulders.
Standing up straight with our shoulders back not only looks better, it’s far more beneficial for our health in a myriad of ways. It improves digestion, reduces lower back pain and headaches, and increases lung capacity and circulation, just to name a few. Plus good posture conveys body language that emits confidence and presence. So how do we improve our posture? What can we do to maintain the optimal function of our spine so we may walk through our days with grace and ease?
Here are some tips on how to improve your posture to keep you standing tall and those shoulders back.
1. Practice yoga.
Yoga is an amazing practice that improves spine function and mobility. In addition to strengthening the entire body, many yoga poses focus specifically on maintaining a straight spine. Poses such as cat cow, downward dog, cobra, and mountain pose all assist in cultivating better posture. If yoga sounds intimidating or you’re too busy to get to a gym or studio, YouTube has a multitude of yoga videos to get you started in the comfort of your own home. This video is a great place to start as it demonstrates how to improve your posture with a simple practice that takes about ten minutes.
2. Hold your phone at eye level.
We spend SO much time looking down at our screens that the muscles in our neck and upper spine can become fatigued, which can ultimately cause pain, headaches and long term spinal issues. Instead, raise your phone in front of your face, at eye level. Avoid “text neck syndrome” by not looking down so much at your phone … besides, far more beautiful things can often be seen in the world around us than what’s on the screen.
3. Optimize your work station.
Adjust your computer so that the screen rests at eye level. Keep your computer close enough to your body so that you don’t have to reach for your mouse or lean forward to read the screen. As for how to improve your posture while sitting at your desk? Resist the urge to slouch back into your chair and hunch your shoulders. And if you find that you spend hours on end sitting at your desk, try taking some standing breaks. Take a few minutes to walk around every once in a while … maybe even throw in a few yoga stretches you learned on YouTube while you’re at it before you sit back down.
4. Practice proper driving posture.
Most of us spend at least an hour behind the wheel each day. And while your first instinct may be to sit back, ride low, and tune into your favorite podcast or playlist, consider your body positioning during your commute. Sit all the way back in your seat and make sure the steering wheel and gearshift are within comfortable reach. Your knees should be slightly bent while the seat supports the entire length of your spine and the head cushion rests at the base of the skull. If you find that your car seat doesn’t offer the support your body needs, consider getting a cushion or even a rolled up towel to place at the lower base of the spine.
5. Stand tall.
It sounds simple but check in with yourself. Are you really standing up straight? Are you truly in alignment? Here’s how to improve your posture while standing: Stand with your head, shoulder blades, and butt against a wall. Your feet will be a few inches away from the wall. Level your chin. Hug your navel in slightly. Keep your weight evenly distributed over the balls of your feet. Let your shoulders slide down the back of the spine. Close your eyes and focus on how your body feels when standing in proper alignment. Check yourself from time to time by closing your eyes and recalling that feeling.
6. Invest in proper footwear.
Sure, those five-inch heels and leather boots may look fantastic, but if you’re looking to improve your posture while walking, get some supportive footwear with a proper insole. Even just wearing sneakers as you commute to work, and then changing into your work shoes can make a world of difference.
7. Firm up.
The quality of your mattress may have something to do with those hunched shoulders and back pain. Make sure your mattress is both comfortable AND supportive so that you don’t develop an unnatural curve in the spine as you sleep. If you sleep on your side, place a pillow between your legs so that your knees stay stacked on top of each other, and avoid sleeping on your stomach to prevent straining your neck.
8. Pay attention to the quality of your breath.
Poor posture can actually cause shortness of breath. Stand tall and breathe fully by using your diaphragm. Drop your breath down into the belly rather than breathing in the chest to use your full lung capacity. As you inhale, fill your belly with breath as if you’re filling up a balloon. As you exhale, gently glide the navel towards the back of the spine. Breathing fully allows more oxygen to enter your bloodstream and can help you feel more energized.
9. Get support.
You may feel the need for a bit of help in developing your new good posture habit. If so, you could also try a posture corrector brace. It’s like having the posture police on your back at all times that over time will train you to have better posture. Once accustomed to standing up tall, you can reduce or even eliminate the need for the brace, but it can be a great aid in getting you to that point.
These simple techniques can help you improve and maintain the optimal function of our spine, allowing you to stand tall and walk through life with ease and grace.
Visit the TelMD Upstream Blog for more ways to achieve optimal wellness!
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