LQM: Stand Tall - Laura Tapper explains how to use a simple yoga sequence to improve posture and health
Life has a tendency to push us out of shape. Years of bending, lifting and carrying – bags on shoulders, children on hips – along with crossing our legs and tapping away on keyboards, may have left us with some awkward postural habits. Then there's the impact our emotions can have on our bodies: whenever we’re worried, embarrassed, exhausted or upset, every part of our bodies respond. What start out as helpful, comforting movements, or part of our natural fight and flight response, soon become habits. Over time, those muscle tensions take their toll.
Spend a little while watching young children and you can quickly spot how efficiently they use their bodies. When they are absorbed in their play, they move naturally, keep everything in balance and their posture tends to be open and relaxed. As adults, we sit with our legs crossed, or stand with one hip to the side, putting all our weight on one leg, and our shoulders round forward as we hold our arms somewhere in front of our bodies rather than at the sides. And our heads, the heaviest part of our body, pull forward and down, rather than resting balanced on the top of our spine, putting a constant strain on our necks.
Whether you’re sitting or standing, take a moment now to think about your posture. As far as you are able, injury or disability permitting, this is as good a time as any to check through it.
Place both feet on the floor, hip distance apart and ensure that they are parallel to each other, neither turned out nor turned in.
Are your knees above your ankles? Keep them relaxed - not locked out or feeling any strain.
If you’re sitting, put your buttocks towards the back of the chair. If your standing, ensure your hips are level and facing forward.
Now, as far as possible for you, think tall in your spine and bring some gentle tone into your abdominals, keeping the natural curve in your lower back.
Taking your attention up to your shoulders, press them gently back and down, moving your shoulder blades towards your spine.
Finally, imagine a string coming up through the crown of your head, gently easing it up into position. As it does so, tuck your chin in. You should feel a stretch down the back of your neck.
This simple sequence can be done at any time in the day and helps to remind us what good posture feels like. When you're on a train, in a supermarket queue or waiting for the kettle to boil, why not take a few moments to reset yours – it really will pay dividends. It’s particularly interesting to do it in front of a mirror and witness the transformation in your appearance when you stand well. And, if you want to explore the benefits of more extensive posture work, there are many organisations which offer classes in systems such as The Alexander Technique, yoga and also Bagot Stack, as taught by FLexercise https://www.fl-exercise.com/