“Sit up straight” is most likely a command you remember hearing throughout your childhood. Whether it was your mom, dad, grandmother, or any adult within 100 yards, it may have been slightly annoying to be reminded throughout the day to change your posture. But, looking back now, it turns out they were right! And, that sound byte, was super important and advice we should have heeded.
Proper postural alignment while sitting and standing helps you function more efficiently. Everything lines up allowing muscles to move in a coordinated fashion, the way the body was intended to move. Moving requires less effort and produces less fatigue and strain on your body’s ligaments and muscles which is good now and will serve you well into the future.
Good posture is hard to come by these days. Not only is it hard to remember to sit up straight throughout the day, but it also requires more effort. We spend nearly every waking moment out of alignment due to our normal daily activities. From reaching forward to eat, driving the car, talking on the phone, and watching TV, most of what we do throughout the day leaves us with arms in front of us, rounded shoulders, a rounded upper back, or some other deviation from a neutral posture.
Here are three quick fixes to provide your body with a bit of relief:
1. Find neutral
To get started, you need to revisit great posture and get the feeling back in your body. Take 2 minutes to do the following posture check. Stand against a wall with your feet pointed straight ahead and hip-width apart. Your heels, hips, and shoulders should be touching the wall simultaneously. If you’re having trouble getting your heels to touch the wall, try starting with your heels 2-3 inches away from the wall and gradually progress yourself to heel-to-wall.
Allow your head to remain in a comfortable position looking straight ahead with chin parallel to the floor. As your posture improves, the head will come back to the wall. But, don’t force it. Notice how your body feels in this position. What could you loosen, tighten, or otherwise engage in carrying this stacked posture away from the wall?
2. Set reminders
Becoming aware of just how often we are out of alignment will be your first step. Think about your day and times your posture is compromised. The most popular culprits are driving in the car, at your desk, and when relaxing at night. Next, figure out a few environmental cues that could remind you to check yourself and adjust during these times. For example, in the car, you could make a mental note to check posture each time you stop at a red light or when you have an itch to look at your phone. Then, at your desk, it might be each time you answer emails or get distracted by facebook. Having built-in ‘checkpoints’ throughout the day associated with a ritual like task will ensure you get back into alignment periodically.
3. Perform the 3×3
Finally, at least three times per day, repeat the following three exercises to help turn back on stabilizers and release tension from your upper back and neck. Ideally, you would perform this quick set each time your environmental cue reminds to reset posture. Begin the sequence in good posture.
Shoulder Drops – with arms above your head and soft elbows, try to pull your shoulders down away from your ears without bending your elbows. Hold for a count of 3 and release. Repeat three times. You should feel muscles underneath your shoulder blades turning on and helping with this movement.
Shoulder Squeeze – with arms out in front of you at shoulder height and soft elbows, try to bring your shoulder blades to touch without bending your elbows. Hold for a count of 3 and release. Repeat three times. You should feel muscles underneath between your shoulder blades turning on and helping with this movement.
Shoulder Rolls – with arms down by your sides, make a backward circle with your shoulder. Keep the movement slow and controlled, trying to make the biggest circle you can without bending the elbows or changing your posture. Repeat three times. You should feel the muscles surrounding the shoulder girdle dancing between working and relaxing as you move through a pain-free range of motion.