Magazine writers often ask me about quick fixes for poor posture. While this isn't my real mission (see mission statement at the bottom of this page), I try to translate my teaching into tips. I like how a recent interview turned out, so I’m sharing the whole thing below.
1. Can you offer a few tips for improving your walking stance and posture?
- When walking, look forward to your destination with both your eyes and your heart. It’s fine to glance down to be sure of your footing, but avoid fixing your gaze on the ground. Use your peripheral vision to take in the shapes and colors of the environment as you move through it.
- Imagineyour collarbones have invisible extensions a foot to the right and left beyond each shoulder. This image helps broaden your upper chest and rests your shoulder blades down onto your back.
- Enjoy the movement of your body in the moment—even when you’re going nowhere special. Sensing the pleasure of movement automatically improves posture.
- If you must hook your bag over your shoulder, alternate shoulders so you’re not always raising the same one. And take all unnecessary items out of your bag to lighten your load.
2. Can you offer a few tips for improving your sitting posture?
- Raise your chair seat so your thighs slope slightly downwards.
- Have your weight resting on the tops of your thighs (just forward of your “sit bones”, rather than back on your buttocks. This imparts a slight forward curve to your lower back (called “neutral lumbar curve”) and results in a lift of your chest.
3. What are the top four or five benefits of standing and sitting more straight and aligned?
- All people have slight structural imbalances resulting from compensations from injury or from other experiences that have affected their bodies. Walking and standing more erectly decompresses joints and prevents those imbalances from becoming worse over time.
- An open, upright spine supports deeper, more satisfying respiration.
- Better posture improves your mood and fosters a broader point of view.
4. Do you recommend that people look in mirrors or take photos to be able to recognize their own posture imbalances?
Mirrors can become an obsession and photos tend to produce a pose. Better is a candid video, or the moment of catching your reflection in a shop window to motivate you to become proactive about poor posture.
5. What is the most common posture problem? Is it slouched shoulders?
Hunched shoulders and a depressed breastbone are the most common and obvious complaints. Often, however, these faults are the result of a poor base of support lower down in the body—a rolled back pelvis when sitting which produces the flat lower back in this photo, or flat, pronated feet when standing. In the latter case, proper orthotics can make surprising improvements in overall posture.
6. What are the best types of exercise (workouts) for improving posture? What muscles do you want to strengthen?
Sedentary lifestyles have produced an epidemic of poorly toned abdominal muscles. But ordinary sit-ups don’t strengthen the deepest core muscles. Find a Pilates studio that trains the deep core muscles in the “neutral pelvis” position. Correct strengthening of the deep core muscles can heal or prevent low back pain.
7. Any surprising research or other advice you'd like to share?
Jaw tension stiffens muscles at the nape of the neck and tension in the tongue is often associated with jaw tension. So relaxing the tongue (letting it rest very softly on the roof of the mouth) can indirectly improve posture!