Strengthen and Stretch Your Way to Better Posture: Lessen Pain and Increase Circulation By Brianna Prutz
Feeling good and looking good have a lot to do with how you move and hold your body. If you have poor posture you might have shoulder, back, and neck pain. Slumped posture can even effect the way you walk and how you breathe, causing less oxygen intake and in extreme cases circulatory problems. Poor posture is a really tough thing to fix, first because you have to be constantly thinking about it and second because you have to stretch and do exercises every day. I have put together some simple ways for you to start changing your posture that are quick easy and don’t take a lot of time.
The first step to good posture is strengthening muscles that have become weakened over time. Lifting weights to strengthen shoulders, chest, and back muscles along with core strengthening exercises help to reinforce the spine. Your spine will have less pressure placed on it if your muscles are strong enough to support and stabilize it.
Here are 3 important postural strengthening exercises:
- Single Leg Extension
Why it’s good for posture: Strengthens abdominal muscles and stabilizes the pelvis.
How to do it: Lay on your back with knees bent and hands behind your head. Place your feet flat on the ground, while making sure to keep your low back pressed into the floor. Activate your abdominal muscles by pulling your navel in toward your spine. Bring one leg towards your chest while extending the other 45 degrees from the floor. Switch legs and repeat 5-10 extensions each.
- Plank Pose
Why it’s good for posture: Strengthens oblique’s (side abdominals), chest, shoulders and back.
How to do it: Start on your hands and knees with your palms in line with your shoulders. Extend both legs, with toes tucked under (push up position). Pull navel in toward spine to support your back. Hold until fatigued. Rest and repeat. If you would like a bit more challenge you can do the plank resting on your forearms instead of palms.
- Alignment Exercise
Why it’s good for posture: Training your body into recognizing correct alignment.
How to do it: Stand with heels to wall, step out from wall 6-10 inches. Slowly lean back to the wall pressing your shoulders and head back. Hold this position for 10-20 seconds and repeat 5 times.
The key to strong posture is not only strengthening muscles but also lengthening and loosening them as well. Stretching muscles that have been shortened over time helps to take pressure off other muscles bringing you more in balance.
Here are 3 important postural stretches:
- Pectoral (chest muscle) Stretch
Why it’s good for you: sitting at a desk or computer all day causes your shoulders to slump forward, over time your pectoral muscles become rigid and shortened. Lengthening them allows pressure to be taken off the upper back, reducing shoulder and neck pain.
How to do it: stand with your left shoulder facing a wall, bring your arm up resting your forearm on the wall with your arm at a 90 degree angle. Lean forward until you feel a stretch in your chest. Hold for 30 seconds, switch and repeat on opposite side.
- Cat/Cow Pose
Why it’s good for you: Creates mobility in the spine and neck, allowing increased circulation to the vertebra.
How to do it: Kneel on all fours with your palms under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Bow your back bringing your navel toward the ground; lift your head up toward the ceiling. You will feel a stretch all down the front side of your body from the front of your neck down to your abdomen. Hold this for 5 seconds then do the opposite. Bow your back up toward the ceiling and slowly drop your head to the floor. You will feel the stretch all down your back and relief in your shoulders and neck.
- Back Twist
Why it’s good for you: Increases range of motion in the spine, decreases muscle strain and tension.
How to do it: Lying on your back, bring your right knee up toward your chest; make sure your upper back continues to make contact with the floor. Slowly bring your right knee to the left side resting it on the floor if you can. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Improving your posture on your own is a very difficult task, so seeking help from others is also very helpful. There are so many wonderful forms of care that are right at your fingertips, to help you feel your best. Take advantage of your chiropractor, your acupuncturist, and your massage therapist. These professionals can help you achieve whatever goals you have set for yourself. Massage, in particular, is a great way to reduce strain on postural muscles. With regular massage muscles are loosened and joints have greater range of motion. Massage relaxes muscles therefore, aiding the body to position itself in a natural posture. If ongoing massage is of interest to you please consider making an appointment here.
I hope this article inspires and helps, have a wonderful day!