We are excited to have Allison Oswald guest blogging again today. Allison’s tips on finding balance were a huge help and we are thrilled she is sharing her tips and advice on maintaining good posture. Thank you Allison for keep us aligned and feeling our best!
Most people think of posture and alignment only during exercise, or once they see someone else with noticeably poor posture. (I know you all just sat up a little taller after reading that first line…so did I) But posture is something that is important throughout the day and even during sleep.
Correct alignment has numerous benefits, including putting the least amount of pressure on our joints, allowing the most efficient movement patterns, creating optimal space for our internal organs and in turn preventing injury and keeping us feeling our best. Posture also affects how we portray ourselves and what others perceive of us.
So here are a few of my tips for achieving and maintaining good posture. Remember this takes practice and time so don’t overcorrect, and allow your body to find it’s best alignment comfortably. These are very general guidelines, so if you are having pain please seek out a physical therapist in your area to create a treatment plan specific to your needs.
1. KEEP BOTH FEET ON THE FLOOR: If you can remember to keep your feet planted when sitting or standing, with equal weight in each foot, you will avoid leg crossing or hip dropping. This will keep your pelvis aligned and create a better base for good posture.
2. DON’T SQUEEZE YOUR SHOULDER BLADES: Most people “correct” their slouching posture by over squeezing their shoulder blades, as pictured below. But this just arches the low back and can cause compression in your spine. Gently “set” your shoulder blades down and back to open up your chest, but don’t arch.
3. KEEP YOUR RIBCAGE OVER YOUR PELVIS: Always remember that your ribcage should be directly over your pelvis. This keeps your spine in the most neutral position. In the correct picture below you can see how the horizontal line going through the diaphragm should be parallel to the top of the pelvis. Look in a mirror for feedback because this doesn’t always feel natural at the beginning.
4. BREATHE LATERALLY INTO LOWER RIBS AND BELLY: By breathing into your lateral ribs (where the arrows are in the picture) and lower into your abdomen you will connect to your abdominal muscles, pelvic floor and diaphragm, that all work together to create stability in your body. This will also take the tension out of your neck and shoulders, where most people tend to breathe and in turn arch their backs. Or even worse is when people don’t breath at all. And always exhale with exertion, (i.e. lifting a baby, getting up from the ground, lifting weights at the gym) this will naturally create more stability and strength, as mentioned above.
5. AVOID CURLING INTO A BALL WHILE SLEEPING: Since we sleep for hopefully at least 6-8 hours a night, it’s important that you keep your spine as aligned as possible. If you’re on your side, keep your spine neutral and bend your knees up with a pillow between them. If you’re on your back, you can put a little pillow under your knees if that is comfortable. And if you’re a tummy sleeper try to switch completely since that is the worst position for your back.
I hope you find these tips helpful and are able to start using them today during whatever you are doing (work, childcare, exercise class, driving). You need no equipment, just start practicing them and you will begin to increase your awareness and improve your posture gradually over time.
Allison Oswald is a Doctor of Physical Therapy board certified in women’s health. She is also a certified Pilates instructor and incorporates a Pilates based approach with her clients if appropriate. As a women’s health specialist, she addresses issues associated with pregnancy, the postpartum period, pelvic pain, pelvic floor dysfunction, incontinence, prolapse, sexual dysfunction and more. She sees clients in her Santa Monica, CA studio, will do house calls and is available for group workshops and speaking engagements. Outside of work, Allison stays busy with her two boys Vincent (3 ½ years) and William (2 years) and husband Pete.