“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Sometimes what lies within us is strength, courage, and peace. And other times there is stress, tension, and anxiety. Stress, tension, inflammation, and just plain life can cause aches and pains that really wear down our body and body systems. At times these pains can manifest into an array of symptoms. Neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain, and posture issues. Today I would like to offer some at home tips to help ease life’s minor aches that occur and help improve our posture!
Foundationally, one of the best things that you can do today to help improve your body’s posture is to work on core strength and stretching. Do not limit strengthening and stretching to the core alone, but to all areas of the body as well. Areas of increased tightness include the hips, shoulder, and neck. If you pay special attention to these areas and maintain them, it is possible that good posture will follow. Simple body awareness is key when it comes to posture issues as well. Oftentimes, muscular and skeletal issues maybe occurring, but if an awareness is made that one is having a forward head posture, or cervical hyper-extension, the individual can start to correct and adjust to a proper alignment.
If it is possible, in the morning or evening, or post workout, carve out some additional time to do some stretching. If you find yourself puzzled over stretching or want something beyond the basics, below is a 4 minute yoga clip by Tara Stiles for “perfect posture”!
Strengthening exercises are also key in correcting poor posture. It is important to strengthen the mid trapezius and rhomboids, posterior deltoids, thoracic erector spinae, external rotator cuff muscles, and of course to work on scapular depression. Now what does all that personal trainer talk mean?! In a nut shell, stretch your back and strengthen your core! Be sure to focus in on your middle trapezius and rhomboids, which are responsible for holding your shoulders back! I definitely went through a phase where my mom was telling me to, “stand up straight!” I don’t think I ever really did stand tall until I developed some authentic flexibility and core strength! And to be completely honest, that was just recently despite my daily fitness routine. I am proof that one can exercise regularly and still suffer from poor strength in this vital area of health and well-being.
To work your Trapezius and Rhomboids perform Bent Over Rows: Grasp a barbell with a wider than shoulder-width overhand grip. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Lean forward from your hips until your body is inclined to around 80 degrees. Do not allow your lower back to round out; this may result in injury. Lead with your elbows and bend your arms to pull the bar into your chest. Hold this most contracted position for one to two seconds and then extend your arms to return to the starting position. Try to keep your wrists straight and your upper arms perpendicular to your torso when performing this exercise (Livestrong).
Here is a short video clip on scapular depression. I urge you to check it out! This is so effective at improving posture and can be done anywhere!
There are also several factors that can affect poor posture. I am sure you can guess many of them! I am not the “sitting” type, nor have I ever really had to be. I have usually held jobs were I am walking quickly from point A to point B (or running!), or I have at least been on the move. Lately, I have been at the computer doing a lot of typing, AKA, blogging! Boy, has my neck and back flared up after a few hours of sitting. I must confess that my sitting posture was terrible at the computer and I was not getting up for breaks very often. I quickly recognized this ailment and made an adjustment: I switched from an office chair to my exercise/stability ball. Now I am sitting up tall and feeling much better at the desk. Jobs that require a lot of sitting or being hunched forward (think mechanics, dental hygenists, surgeons) and active jobs that require you to use your body as part of your work (think post man, Chicago Bear) are all jobs that are tough on our musculature and thus spine.
Additionally, I would like to link to one of my favorite “go to” resources for all things health, Livestrong. This article focuses in on some specific exercises to help improve posture, and again they are quick and easy. http://www.livestrong.com/article/128939-exercises-posture/
Take care of your core by working it out (your core is your abdominal wall, waist, and back muscles), stretch, and strengthen those muscles several times a week. Create body awareness of your posture and how you are “being” (are you all slumped over?) And if you are truly in chronic pain, please see your doctor or health care provider. There may be something more out there for you in terms of help.
“Exercises to Help Posture.” LIVESTRONG.COM. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2012. <http://www.livestrong.com/article/128939-exercises-posture/>.
“What Exercises Can You Do to Improve Posture?” LIVESTRONG.COM. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2012. <http://www.livestrong.com/article/383655-what-exercises-can-you-do-to-improve-posture/?utm_source=undefined_R1>.