Posture can affect many different parts of your life, especially if you’re using your body to learn how to sing, play an instrument, or exercise. Learn more in this article by New York teacher Nadia B...
Are you slumped over your computer or phone as you read this? Bad posture can lower our self-esteem, send a message of disinterest or incompetence to the outside world, and cause a great deal of strain, fatigue, and pain. Conversely, an upright and poised posture can boost our self-image, reflect an attitude of interest and engagement and create a sense of lightness and ease within our bodies and minds. While an aligned posture can enhance and support your well-being and reduce aches and pains, poor posture can lead to a variety of ailments. Posture can also be important in a variety of contexts, such as playing a musical instrument, where your body plays an integral role in your expressive capabilities. Read on to discover how to fix your posture with some simple, practical tips.
What’s the Secret to Fixing Your Posture?
The biggest misconception about posture is that a rigid, vertically straight position is the best way to avoid slumping and maintain a good stance. Actually, when we pull our shoulders back and over-straighten the spine, we are creating another layer of tension. The best posture is one that is easily upright, allows you to breathe without constriction and engages the musculature of the core including the front and back (not just the abdominal muscles) in an integrated way. So, the first step in fixing poor posture is to let go of the idea that good posture is a challenging, military-style pose to maintain. This also means letting go of the idea that your back should be straight. Our spines have natural curves that help to absorb impact, and, while it’s not necessary to over-exaggerate the natural curves of the spine, recognizing that the curves exist can allow you to let go of habits of over-straightening the spine.
Pay Attention to Your Support
Now that you have an idea of what you do and don’t want, learning how to fix your posture begins with noticing your points of support and contact as you move throughout the day. When we are standing, our bodies are supported by the ground. Instead of holding yourself up away from the ground, which leads to excess tension and effort, you can allow your weight to release into the ground. Just noticing that your feet are making contact with the ground is a simple and effective way to start to make use of its support. Likewise, when you are sitting, you can notice your sitz bones (two bony structures that you can feel underneath your seat if you rock sideways in your chair) releasing into the chair and allow your body weight to be supported by this contact. These tips are especially relevant if you tend to slump rather than hold yourself up rigidly.
Visualize Your Energy
Once you are aware of your points of support, the next step is to understand that we are inherently built to grow upwards, away from the ground. Just like trees, we are ideally releasing our roots (body weight) into the ground while the trunk of the tree and the branches (the body itself) grow up and out, away from the ground. Sensing the contact with the ground while visualizing the energy releasing up the spine and out the head can give you a sense of this relationship that is always ideally occurring when excess tension is eliminated.
Perhaps the least-known but most crucial concept about posture is that good posture should help you to breathe more easily. The military-like stance mentioned earlier causes excess tension that prohibits the breathing mechanism (the ribs, diaphragm, and spine) from free and easy movement, while slumping also takes away room and freedom for movement by compressing the torso and spine. So a good tip about posture is that if you find yourself with more internal room to breathe and it feels easier to breathe, that’s probably a better posture than one in which you find yourself struggling to allow the ribs to move or where breathing requires a lot of effort. Noticing how you are breathing also requires awareness. While developing awareness may require some initial effort, taking a few moments throughout the day to notice your posture and your breathing will in the end lower the risk of injury, enhance performance, and foster a sense of well-being and tranquility.
Following these steps will help you to fix your posture, whether you struggle with a specific problem like back pain at the computer or want to refine a specific skill that requires a high level of coordination, like playing a musical instrument or running.
Nadia B. teaches fitness, flute, and piano lessons in New York, NY, as well as through online lessons. She acted as principal flutist of the orchestra and wind ensemble at California State University, Sacramento, and then went on to receive her degree in Music Performance from New York University. Learn more about Nadia here!
Photo by See-ming Lee