Your mother used to tell you all the time: Sit up straight. Don’t hunch over. Stand up nice and tall. We shrugged it off at the time, but maybe mom was on to something – proper posture is crucial.
Now is probably a good time for a reminder about proper posture, considering all that’s going on in the world and not only the state of our physical health, but our mental health too.
Even in normal times, posture was something many took for granted, but now that many of us are more stressed or tired than usual, not to mention tech neck, it’s taking a toll on many.
That’s why, for this blog post, I want to go back to the basics and talk about posture. We’re living in strange times, and there are a lot of things out of our control. Our health and well being shouldn’t be one of them. I know it sounds simplistic to think standing up straight will solve our problems, but that’s not really the point.
If we commit ourselves to exercise and an active lifestyle, then maintaining good posture will come naturally. As a result, our overall mindfulness benefits. These forces feed off each other. Think about it; when your physical self is healthy and fit, your mind is usually in a good place, it’s self fulfilling.
The reverse can be true, too—a calm and clear mind is relaxed and focused. This positive energy manifests itself to the physical being and gets us excited to continue our active ways.
Considering the new year and if you subscribe to New Years’ resolutions, this becomes a great motivator to start getting your body back in shape.
So let’s start things off simple. I’ll offer seven exercises to improve your posture. Within some of these exercises there will be time and space to focus, breathe, and recenter the mind.
This is one of my favorites because it’s so simple but also so effective. Yogis all over are familiar with this one, and I think it’s highly underrated. You get nice stretch for the thighs, hips, and ankles while also lengthening and aligning your spine. You can sit in the pose for a while to relax the body and mind.
To do it, kneel on the floor with your shins on the ground, knees hip-width apart, butt over your heels and your toes touching. Inhale. As you exhale, bend at the hip and hinge your upper body forward between your knees, making sure to keep your back straight and aligned with your neck. Gently place your forehead on the floor. Reach your arms forward with your palms facing down, relax the shoulders, and try to keep your butt on your heels. If you can’t, placing a block underneath could help. Alternatively, you can roll up a blanket and place it between your thighs and calves.
Once you’re fully in Child’s Pose, actively focus on your breathing. Inhale through your nose, hold it for a moment, then exhale from your mouth.
Planks are an excellent exercise for correcting posture because they strengthen the muscles that often get ignored when we hunch over. Best of all, it’s so easy—all you do is lie there! Ok, there’s more to it than that, as we’re about to see. Remember form is crucial and focused deep nasal breathing has many health benefits.
Starting with the standard plank, this strengthens your shoulders, butt, hamstrings, and even your lower back and core – all the problem areas that need work when talking about proper posture.
This one’s easy: starting on your knees, place your elbows on the floor and extend your legs out, so the only thing touching the floor are your toes and elbows. Keep your chin tucked, midsection raised (this will work your glutes, lower back, and core muscles), and your back straight.
The goal is not to dip! Make sure to keep your chest open and shoulders back. Hold the pose as long as possible, up to one minute. For a little more challenge, go into a high plank position by placing your hands on the floor instead of your elbows.
Side planks are next and are great exercises for maintaining the neutral alignment in your spine. In part, they activate the obliques (your side abs), which usually get ignored during normal ab exercises. In case you haven’t noticed by now, a strong core goes a long way towards maintaining good posture.
You start in a similar position as a normal plank but move your left hand or elbow (we suggest starting with your elbow) towards the center. Rotate your body so your weight is now on your left elbow and your right ankle is stacked over the left. You can put your right hand on your side or even raise it as if you’re trying to touch the sky.
From here the same rules apply: lift your midsection up by engaging your abs, side muscles, and glutes to maintain a straight line from your feet to your head and look straight ahead.
If maintaining the straight line is too hard, drop your left knee to the floor for support but keep the right leg straight. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat on the opposite side.
The last in our plank series is the reverse plank bridge. Out of the three plank options, this one gives me the most satisfaction because of the great stretch it provides. It’s also the antithesis of the bad posture slump since we’re stretching the pectoral (chest) muscles and flexing the back muscles.
I will admit this one may be more of an advanced move for some, so if you can’t do it then this is something to work up to while perfecting the other plank variations. But if you’re ready, then here’s what you do:
If the plank series seemed strenuous for you, then Cat-Cow will be a nice break to realign while catching your breath. It really is the total package since it stretches your spine, relieves tension, and helps promote blood circulation.
To do it, go onto your hands and knees, shoulders aligned with your wrists, hips over your knees, making sure to distribute your weight evenly. Take a deep inhale.
As you do, look up and lower your abdomen towards the floor, extending the spine. On the exhale, tuck your chin back in towards your chest and arch your spine back toward the ceiling.
This is not a speed move. We’re not going for rep count, so engage in the movement and focus on breathing. The stretch and the relaxation from it will come naturally. Repeat the movement for as long as you need, but at least for one minute.
Another one of my favorites, Pigeon Pose, is a great hip opener that also targets the spine, hamstrings, and glutes. By opening these areas, you’re counteracting the effects of bad posture.
To do it, start on all fours. From there, choose a knee and place it behind the corresponding wrist, crossing your foot, so it’s perpendicular to the other knee, and place the shin flat on the floor. Take the knee that has stayed planted so far and extend that leg all the way back, resting your thigh on the floor. Take a deep breath through your nose, then slowly exhale, lowering your torso over your hip while bending over. Extend your arms out in front of you. For a little deeper stretch, once you settle into position take a breath. On the exhale, try to walk your fingers out a little more. Hold the position for 30 seconds to one minute.
When you’re ready to come out of the pose, walk your hands back, lift yourself, and switch legs. Then repeat the motion again. Throughout this stretch, practice your breathing and meditation to calm the mind and find your center.
Good posture is born from having a strong and healthy back. The common slouch we typically think of with stereotypical bad posture is a lot harder to pull off if your strong back muscles keep you standing tall, proud, and upright.
The rowing motion is the opposite of the slouch position, and if you find yourself seated for long periods it’s inevitable you’ll find yourself slouching at some point. We all do it. The important thing is to catch it early and realign. A good way to counter the effects of the dreaded slouch and to built proper posture again is the row.
There are so many different row variations, but the basic premise is the same: squeezing your back muscles. Gym rats are likely familiar with the many different weighted variations of the row you can do with dumbbells, kettlebells, or bars, but for the purposes of this article we’ll keep it simple with a basic isometric row you can do from the comfort of your office chair.
You don’t need any weight – or, really, any extra equipment at all – for this. Here’s what you do:
A favorite amongst yogis everywhere, Down Dog is a great, relaxing stretch for the whole body. Here’s what you do:
This one is simple. Quit looking down at your phone all the time. Text Neck, also referred to as Tech Neck, is terrible for your cervical spine and causes all sorts of aches, pains, and posture issues.
I know it’s impossible not to look at our phones, but instead of looking down to see that can’t-miss cat video, bring your phone up to eye level. That way you can maintain good posture AND see that cat meme at the same time.
Here’s a bonus tip that you probably saw coming from a mile away. Improving your posture is a full-body exercise that works every bit of your body. Strengthening and stretching might seem like hard work at first, but your body will ultimately thank you for it.
And you know what else your body will thank you for? A nice massage as a reward for the hard work you’ve put in to better your appearance. Much like these tips encompass the whole body, The Backmate is the best full-body massager short of a trained therapist.
With the right positioning and the appropriate attachment, you can take advantage of The Backmate to roll out any particularly bothersome or sore areas. It’s especially great at targeting the various back muscles, including the thoracic and cervical spines.
The Backmate works by calming the nervous system and distracting pain signals to the brain while increasing circulation and range of motion to restore optimal function to the area.
It turns out mom was right all along. Just pushing your hips forward while standing and adding tension to your core feels great and looks great too! Good posture is essential, and it’s my sincere hope these tips have inspired you to commit not to take posture for granted. If you’ve read this far, then you probably don’t need motivation to get started, but just in case, did you know it’s been proven that people with good posture are seen as more attractive? Who wouldn’t want that?
So, take the first step now to improve your posture. Who knows, before long, you might notice a few more eyes giving you the nod of approval.
Yours in good health.