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Home Improvement Through Better Posture

May 19, 2014 | by Jeni I

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Posture can say a lot about well-being.  In my talks with adolescent girls I demonstrate the power of posture using a job interview as an example.  I leave the classroom and come back in, slouched over and sunken into my hips, with a smile on my face.  I leave again and return with straightened back, shoulders back, and that same smile, asking them who they would consider to hire just based on body language alone.  The point is not lost on them.

Have you ever noticed how a baby sits on the floor?  They sit with their legs straight out in front of them with their spine perfectly erect (unless they have some type of physical health issue or challenge).  We are born with the innate knowledge of anatomically correct posture.  Somewhere along the way we lose it, unless it is drilled into us nicely or not, verbally or physically. (Posture can be quite the hot button issue between mother and daughter. Many a friend of mine remembers the loving hands of their mothers, changing the direction of shoulders while digging in with fingers and thumbs.)  Apparently, I have taught my 6-year-old daughter too well; she now corrects me when I’m too tired to stand up straight.  Sometimes you just feel like slacking off!

ID-1007287(1)However, if you believe your body is your temple, then consider how posture may affect the overall structure and “rooms” within. Posture doesn’t come from the back and shoulders alone. It involves the entire spine – coccyx to base of the skull. Is your house sagging or structurally sound? Where Women’s Health Foundation is concerned, our evidence-based program, Total Control, teaches women how to engage their core, especially their Pelvic Pyramid: the front, back and floor of the pelvis.  The exercises taught in The Total Control program are fundamental to maintaining healthy posture, which is part and parcel to strengthening bladder control muscles as well.  One of the easiest ways to improve your posture even as you read this blog is to grow one inch from hips to head – literally! Imagine your spine is a candy necklace. Stretch from your hips, creating imaginary space between each vertebra. Doesn’t that feel good? It’s an excellent stretch. If it actually does not feel particularly good, keep on practicing and improving before you seek scaffolding for support.

Here are some other posture improvers:

  • While seated pretend your head is a helium balloon floating up and your tailbone is tied to the chair.
  • Imagine lengthening your tailbone like you are growing roots through your chair.
  • Walk with a pretend book on your head – this good old-fashioned one is a keeper for sure.
  • Thanks to all the ballet in my younger years, I still love pretending to be a marionette with an invisible string that pulls up the crown of my head, elongating my neck like a swan’s.
  • Walk as if you are floating with feet just off the ground.
  • Adjust your shoulder blades so they are slightly pulled together and drawn down your spine. This posture looks beautiful in profile.
  • Think Audrey Hepburn. Need I say more?

We cannot forget the importance of keeping your abdominal muscles strong when it comes to good postural alignment.  In the Total Control Class and DVD we teach how to engage the deepest layer of muscles in your stomach, the transverse abdominal muscles: Grow an inch again, then, pull your belly button gently towards your spine.  Now you are being supported by your internal corset.  I am fortunate to have had this ingrained in me from my dance training, it’s automatic and where I feel the most muscular power in my body.

For those to whom this information is new, try to do little tricks to maintain your better posture throughout the day. For instance, when you drive first thing in the morning be seated with perfect posture, then, adjust your rear view mirror.  The next time you get back into your car, don’t readjust your mirror. Adjust yourself. Try it!  Most of us don’t realize our posture has sagged.

Poor posture habits contribute to a host of health issues from constricted blood flow to neck and back pain, and yes, bladder control.  As you have read here, there are many tips to help you maintain good posture, but remembering to do them is the key to life-long positive postural habits.

Standing and sitting up straight can help improve your mood too – just like a fresh coat of paint.

Go ahead, give it a try.  I’m sitting up straight right now as I type, and it feels so good.

House image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.  

Spine image courtesy of cooldesign / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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