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July 11, 2008

Improve Your Posture

By Samantha Everett

Sit up straight! I bet that the moment you saw that, you stopped slouching and pulled your shoulders back somewhat. Wouldn’t you like to have perfect posture without even having to think about it?

If you’ve ever had a stiff neck, chronic headaches, hunched shoulders, or restricted breathing, chances are you need to learn to improve your posture now before it’s too late.

Bad posture, over the long-term, can lead to an imbalance in your muscles, lack of flexibility, and discomfort that tends to be brought on by nothing in particular.

So how can you improve your posture in just a few short weeks? Well, by devoting some time to your body daily, you will notice a huge difference in the way you stand and the way your body begins to feel.

FACTOID: Significantly more women have erect postures than men.

Improve your posture today

Of course, you need to keep in mind that correcting your bad posture won’t happen overnight. If you’re in your mid-20s or early 30s, just imagine how long you’ve had your current stance. Luckily, with discipline and a tad of dedication, you will improve your posture and stand tall before you know it.

If you tend to walk around with a concaved chest because your breast are big, imagine how bad you’ll feel doing that when you’re in your 40s and look like a little old lady with a hump. Don’t let your breasts get in the way of standing up straight.

There are a variety of yoga exercises available to all, but the Sun Salutation, which contains a series of 12 postures performed back to back, is a great way to improve your posture.

Head to a power yoga class and spend about 20 minutes doing Sun Salutations and you will feel it in your back the next day. You will begin to feel a pinch in your muscles when you keep your back perfectly erect. This is the proper stance necessary to keep looking tall for the rest of your life.

Pilates exercises are designed to not only strengthen your core muscles, but to improve posture. Some people claim to have grown three inches since taking Pilates classes, but because their posture improved so drastically, their straightened spine is what caused the “growth spurt.”

Pilates exercises focus mainly on your entire core, which includes your back and abdominal muscles. After a few short weeks of attending these classes, you will begin to notice a change in your stance.

Sit on a ball
Applying ergonomics in your environment may be expensive, so it may be up to you to figure out how to do so without having to give up your day job. The simplest solution is to replace your chair with a ball.

A firm Swiss ball can help keep your core working all day and will force you to keep your back straight because the moment you begin to slouch, you’ll begin to feel out of whack.

Avoid the one-side carry all
Every time I carry my 10-pound purse (I keep everything in there) and my gym bag around, they’re always hanging off my left shoulder, and now when I stand straight, I notice that my left shoulder hangs somewhat lower than my right one.

You have a few options here if you want to improve your posture: Remove about eight pounds of stuff from your purse, stop carrying things around all day, or alternate shoulders so that neither begins to feel the wrath of your makeup bag.

As for any other bags you carry, try to use one with two straps for either shoulder so that the weight is distributed evenly.

Choose the right mattress
You will spend 1/3 of your life sleeping, so if you spend it sleeping on a bad mattress, imagine how bad you will feel during the other 2/3 of your life.

Opt for a firm mattress, and try to sleep either on your back with a pillow under your knees or on your side with your knees slightly bent. Also, sleep with only one pillow, otherwise you will throw your neck and spine out of alignment. A good night’s sleep will definitely improve your posture.

Stretch your muscles
When you wake up in the morning, get out of bed and stretch your arms above your head. Then, wrap your arms around your body, as if to give yourself a hug, and twist your body to the left and right.

Do not perform any ballistic movements, such as reaching down for your toes and bobbing up and down; this will not improve your posture and will only lead to injury. If you’re going to do some flexibility stretching, make sure to warm up your muscles first by jogging for a few minutes or doing jumping jacks.

Keep your back straight

It’s important for women to ensure proper back alignment because so many things, such as pregnancy, for example, can really take a toll on our bodies and result in permanent damage if we weren’t standing up straight to begin with.

So make sure you pay attention to the way you stand, walk, sit, sleep, and move, and you will be standing tall for years to come.

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