Dr. Michelle Robin breaks down the value of good posture and how to get it.
Story by Dr. Michelle Robin
Sit up straight. Put your shoulders back. Don’t slouch. These are things your mother or music teacher may have said to you growing up. Most of us didn’t pay much attention to our posture when we were young. Then we followed it up with decades of arms outstretched and shoulders rolled forward while working on a computer, often training our bodies in poor posture. Who cares?
Let’s start at the beginning. Why does posture matter? Posture is the upright position of your body in relation to gravity standing, sitting or lying down. Having good posture means that you are holding your body in such a way that it has the least strain on muscles and ligaments. Good posture also means that your spine is in alignment, supporting the spinal cord and not in a position that disrupts the nervous system (i.e. pinching a nerve).
When we sit poorly, slouch, hover over our keyboard, or sleep in unhealthy positions we feel it. It shows up as a stiff neck, numb arm, sore shoulders or painful lower back and hips. Being intentional about holding good posture will help with all of these (seeing a chiropractor helps to get you started, too).
Think of your spine as a plumb line. You want it to hold it straight. That will guide you in how you hold your head, shoulders, and hips. Try the following while sitting or standing:
- Sit or stand up as tall as you can, stretching your spine and neck.
- Roll your shoulders up and back; let them drop back…and then drop again, really letting them loose.
- Look straight forward with your whole head, not just your eyes. Now drop your chin just a bit and see how that feels at the top of your neck. As you move your head you’ll notice a position that just feels more comfortable.
- If standing, keep your feet straight forward and hip width apart. This is grounding and also keeps your spine straight instead of shifting weight from one leg to the other. If you have problems with your hips or knees, this will help over time.
- If sitting, scoot your bum near the back of the chair. Most modern chairs dip a bit near the back. That lower center of gravity helps support the lower back. Keep your legs straight in front of you, not tucked up under you or crossed (those positions can cause hip and lower back issues).
Once you’re in a position that you feel is “good posture,” take a few deep breaths and relax into that posture. We tend to stiffen up when we’re trying to pay attention to our posture.
Here are a few suggestions to help you practice and maintain good posture:
- Start your day with simple stretches and standing up straight.
- Check your posture each time you sit down or stand up.
- Meditate. Most meditation practices start by being intentional about posture and breathing.
- After a chiropractic visit, sit with your best posture in your car. Adjust the seat and mirrors based on this posture. You’ll start to notice when you’re not holding good posture because you won’t be able to see out of your mirrors, and it’s better to adjust your body than the mirrors.
- If you have a particularly difficult time with posture, check out the bras, shirts, and undergarments of AlignMed.
- See your chiropractor regularly.
Maintaining good posture is good for your health as it lessens stress and strain on your muscles and ligaments and keeps your spinal cord and nervous system unencumbered. It also has the added benefits of making you appear more confident, poised, and allows your clothes to fit better. Good posture for good health.
Dr. Michelle Robin is an author, international speaker, and Founder and CWO of Your Wellness Connection, P.A. She is the author of “The E Factor: Engage, Energize, Enrich – Three Steps to Vibrant Health, Wellness on a Shoestring: Seven Habits for a Healthy Life,” and co-author of the No. 1 bestseller “Succeeding In Spite of Everything.” Dr. Robin can be reached at [email protected], www.drmichellerobin.com, and as Dr. Michelle Robin on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.