Long to be taller, slimmer, and more confident? Mastering perfect posture can give you all three…
What’s the secret? It’s all in the way you hold yourself! Fitness expert Lucy Wyndham-Read explains what you can do:
Pull in your tummy
One of the most important muscles that is responsible for giving us perfect posture is called the transverse abominus – a large fibrous band that wraps around our middle and is often referred to as our ‘core’. This acts like a corset and the stronger it is, the better posture you have (plus the flatter your abs are). A great way to strengthen this muscle is using a piece of string:
- Stand tall and, with good posture, pull in your tummy muscles really tight. Now, tie a piece of string around your waist, keeping your tummy pulled in; as soon as you relax your tummy muscles the string will feel tight, so it prompts you to pull back in.
- This is a good drill to do every day, and you only need spend a couple of minutes doing this, so it’s great to do while you’re cooking dinner as you can be toning your abs at the same time.
Re-engage your posture first thing in the morning to quickly readjust your muscles and pull everything back into place:
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with your arms by your sides. Imagine you have a piece of string attached to the top of your head pulling you up to the ceiling, so you lift your entire body, making it as tall as possible, but keep your feet firmly placed on the floor.
- Keep your tummy muscles pulled in tight and take a deep breath in; as you inhale, raise your arms directly above your head and gently clasp your hands.
- Then slightly bend your upper body to the right, hold for a couple of seconds and return to the other side, while taking deep breaths in and out. Just be sure not to lean forwards or backwards. Repeat these alternating side-stretches 10 times daily.
Balance out your handbag
Every time you sling your handbag over your shoulder you could be sabotaging your posture. The heavier your bag is, the more weight you’re applying to one side of your body, which will have an effect on your posture. If you must carry a heavy load, then a backpack is the optimum choice, or decant into two bags and carry one either side of your body.
Take a break
Make sure you stand up from your desk every 20 minutes, even if it is just to get a glass of water, stretch, or walk around. This will help you limber up and prevent slouching. When we sit for long periods we apply more compression to our spine, and our shoulders can become rounded. Try setting a reminder on your phone.
Sit up straight
“Sitting up straight wakes up your brain stem, giving you an awakening feeling all over,” says nutritionist Charlotte Watts, author of De-Stress Effect (Hay House).
The easiest way to practice holding the correct posture when sitting is to practices poses set out in the Feldenkrais method. Developed in the 30s, its range of gentle techniques aim to help correct poor posture habits, which can cause stress and tension.
For an easy intro, why not try and run through these easy steps each time you sit down at home:
- Sit upright in a chair (without leaning on the backrest) and face straight ahead.
- Slouch by slowly rounding your back, tilting your pelvis towards your bottom.
- Straighten, and then slowly tilt your pelvis forward towards your legs – as if trying to improve your posture.
- Tilt your pelvis back and repeat – slouching and straightening several times – noticing the difference in how your body feels.
Stretch it out
One on the main reasons for poor posture is down to having tight hip flexors – the muscles at the front of your hips. When we sit for long periods, these can become tight and pull on our pelvis. Doing pelvic tilts every day is a great way to prevent this:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, with your arms by your sides and palms facing down.
- Keep your spine in neutral – in line with your hips and shoulders, and not arched.
- Take a big breath in through your nose and then gently exhale through your mouth, as you pull your navel towards your spine, tilting your pelvis so your pubic bone lifts and you lower your back to the floor. Hold for a few seconds, then return to the start. Repeat 10 times.
Align with yoga
Along with correctly aligning your body, experts reckon Iyengar yoga can help lower blood pressure, ease back pain, and reduce stress.
This triangle pose stretches arms, legs, and sides. Try it at home:
- Spread your legs three to four feet apart, with your left foot pointed slightly inward and your right foot out at 90°. Extend your arms out from your sides and look straight ahead.
- Slowly bend your upper body from the hip to the right, until your right hand touches your shin.
- Gently twist your torso to the left, turning your head to look up at your left hand. Hold for five deep breaths.
Pilates for perfect posture
Pilates aims to strengthen core muscles for a longer, leaner, and more toned body. It is ideal for those who want a longer shape or stronger back as it strengthen the mid-section muscles.
Try this relatively gentle move to get you started at home:
- Lie on your back with your knees drawn to your chest.
- Slowly roll your head, neck, and shoulders off the floor.
- Extend legs off the floor at a 45°, while raising your arms overhead.
- Slowly sweep arms out to the side, then bend knees back in and grasp your ankles. Repeat entire movement five times.
DISCLAIMER: You must not rely on the information on this website/newsletter as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.