6 Tips for Better Posture
Posted 8/24/2016 by UHBlog
It turns out there's a reason that your mom always told you to stand up straight and pull your shoulders back. Good posture has many health benefits, ranging from the ability to take deep, cleansing breaths to using your muscles more efficiently. Poor posture, on the other hand, can lead to tension headaches, tight shoulders, neck pain and back aches, while limiting how much air your lungs take in.
According to yoga therapist and meditation instructor Dawn Miller, MA, slouching creates strain on your body. If you habitually slouch to type, hunch to text and round your shoulders to drive, your body becomes conditioned to slumping.
“The thing with poor posture, the body starts to compensate for that,” she says. “It (slouching) teaches and trains the body to stay in that position. It's cumulative and insidious. For instance, if you carry a baby on your hip or cross your legs a certain way, it can cause wearing on the hips and knees. Your joints can shift out of alignment. Over time, it can lead to pain and even, the need for a joint replacement.”
Here are six tips to help you improve your posture:
- Develop awareness. Notice how you sit at your desk, in the car or at the dinner table. If it's incorrect, take steps to fix it.
“Often, it's the positioning of the body that's not conducive to good posture,” Miller says. “This involves ergonomics. Think about how you sit in a chair. If your pelvic and buttocks are forward and not pressing against the back of the chair, it creates rounding in the shoulders and head.”
It also compromises the three natural curves in your spine in the cervical, thoracic and lumbar regions.
“These are the natural shock absorbers in your body,” she says. “They help the spine to remain straight and improve your posture.”
- Examine your work space. Is your work area contributing to poor posture? It could be if your computer monitor and office chair aren't right for you. Your monitor needs to be eye level. Similarly, your office chair should support your back. If anything isn't right, take steps to correct it, Miller says.
- Avoid the iPhone slouch. Poor posture is endemic with texting, Miller says.
“Most people hold their iPhones down at chest or navel height,” she says. “They're looking down and their heads are forward. The weight of your head can contribute to headaches and pain in your shoulders, neck and back.”
To fix the problem, lift the phone so you are holding it at eye level while you text or use the talk-to-text feature on your phone.
- Stand proudly. Some people are self-conscious about their body, which often started when they were young.
“I see this often with people who are tall or large breasted,” she says. “They've learned or taught themselves from a young age to slouch. This is deeply engrained, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally.”
Although it can take time to overcome learned habits, the benefit is less pain and better breathing.
- Ditch the high heels. If you wear high heels, they can cause your center of gravity to shift. Wearing high heels causes you to lean forward and affects your spine. Miller recommends wearing flatter shoes or only wearing heels on special occasions.
- Exercise to improve poor posture. “The bulk of the work I do is one-on-one with patients,” Miller said. “In an assessment with patients, we begin with their posture and look at the way they stand and the quality of the spinal curve.”
She often recommends exercises that strengthen back muscles – part of your "core" – such as:
- Half Cobra. Lie on your stomach and bending your elbows, on inhale lift your chest head and shoulders off the ground without using the arms to push up.
- Seated Arm Sweeps. While seated in a chair with your arms at your side, sweep both arms towards the back of the chair. This movement strengthen the back muscles that support healthy posture.
- Conscious Breathing to Support Healthy Posture. On inhale, lift and lengthen the torso upwards. On exhale, contract the navel center and abdomen. Practice this several time throughout the day for 10-15 breaths at a time.
For different modalities and classes designed to help improve your posture, visit University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network website or call 216-285-4070.
Dawn Miller, MA is a certified yoga therapist, registered Viniyoga yoga teacher, Stress Management & Resilience Training (S.M.A.R.T.™) instructor and meditation instructor at University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network. You can request an appointment with Miller or any other health care provider online.