One distinguishing characteristic that gives the classy woman an elegant look is the way in which she carries herself, excellent posture is a huge component of that. A lady does not slouch or sit hunched over at her desk or over a meal, she is careful to sit up straight and tall. This not only lengthens her torso making her appear slimmer, it also exudes poise and confidence.
If you've noticed that your posture isn't what it could be, there are several techniques that you can use to improve it. Good posture is not only aesthetically pleasing, it's imperative for optimal health also. If you haven't paid much attention to it lately, look at your reflection in a mirror from a profile view, usually you can see the shoulders and back starting to round and the head starting to jut forward. While nursing my daughter and leaning forward more than I needed to for many many months, as I just wasn't using enough pillows in the early days while in bed, along with working on my laptop much more at the kitchen table (once my office was replaced by her nursery), my posture had slipped a bit. I'm literally correcting all of my tendencies to lean forward as I write this post sitting at my kitchen table. ;)
Taller women and young girls often feel a bit awkward or self-conscious about their height, especially if they tower over their male counterparts and tend to slouch just to blend in. Sometimes, women with larger than average chests also have a tendency to position themselves in the same manner as to not draw too much attention. Either way, it's important to embrace the body we have and enjoy it instead of attempting to hide it.
If you're unsure exactly what proper posture is supposed to look like, below are some visuals of how your spine should look both when standing and while sitting. Whether your work has you standing in one spot, walking the floor or sitting for long periods either in front of a computer or on the road in a vehicle, it is of paramount importance to understand what proper posture should look like if we want to emulate, achieve or maintain just that.
Let's face it, most of us spend far more time in a seated position than we do standing or walking. Below is a visual of the proper way to sit at your desk to ensure you maintain proper posture.
The changes in your posture are most noticeable when you are standing,
it is essential to get into a routine of using correct standing posture.
TOOLS TO IMPROVE YOUR POSTURE:
1. Raise the Bar While in the Car- While driving, you have an opportunity to create better posture. Firstly, a good seat support is a must everywhere you sit for extended periods of time, including the car. I have a little trick I use that actually came about while noticing that after a Chiropractic adjustment, my rear view mirror needed to be re-adjusted and raised. When our spine is more compressed, we sit lower in our seat however once that is released and our spine becomes elongated once again, we sit taller. Start by sitting comfortably, then raise your rear view mirror up just a bit forcing you to sit more upright to see properly. You'll likely need to re-adjust your side mirrors a touch also. Before doing this, remember to ensure your seat is in an ergonomically correct position. Keep your seat mostly upright with a slight recline and use your lumbar support and head rest adjustment to ensure proper position (not all cars have those options, but if yours does be sure to take advantage of them). Ensure you are sitting close enough to the steering wheel and pedals. When the driver's seat isn't properly positioned, it can create unnecessary strain, especially in your lower back.
2. Balance Yourself- Otherwise known as a fitness ball or balance ball (which you've likely seen in the gym), stability balls have many uses. One great tip is using it as a replacement to your office chair for even just one hour per day. Of course you can't lean back on a regular ball or you'd fall off of it, but that short time on it will cause you to train your core to become tighter and building a stronger back in the process. There are options for sitting on a ball longer, for example, an ergonomic balance ball chair (also here) is the perfect tool as it has a built in restraint bar to keep the ball from rolling all over. If you don't wish to use it at work, try it in your living room instead of sinking into the sofa to watch TV or read.
3. Strengthen Your Core- Of all the forms of exercise that exist, I personally love yoga (I used this wonderful DVD while I was pregnant with Lily), Pilates and ballet barre classes. I enjoy them most in a class environment but when I'm pressed for time, videos works well too. These all focus on a strong core, strength and flexibility, all of which are key components to good posture. There are so many amazing benefits to yoga in particular from the stress reduction aspect, deep breathing and stretching to the strengthening and flexibility that comes from holding poses for a length of time and twisting to open up various areas of our body for better detoxification and circulation. Yoga naturally helps release stress and builds a better posture while holding poses. Incorporating this into your workout routine is easy, even just a couple sessions per week will encourage a more properly aligned spine. If yoga is truly not your thing (I've never met anyone who hasn't liked it) then any form of exercise when using proper form will help increase your overall posture such as training with free weights especially focusing on the back and abdominal muscles to build strength or even maintaining proper form while running can help.
4. Get Reflective- For the same reason fitness centers line their walls with mirrors, you need to get into the habit of sitting near one also. Buy an inexpensive wall mirror and place it against the wall where you work and take notice of your posture. Studying our reflection allows us to see where we need to make minor tweaks. Speaking of gyms, while you're there, whatever your chosen activity is, get in the habit of looking at your body in the floor-to-ceiling mirrors, focus on your muscle groups, the movement and of course your stance. I like to do this while stretching, performing yoga poses and using free weights most specifically. Over time, you'll notice once you pay attention to your posture, you'll start to see more favorable results because you'll be more apt to correct it.
5. Roll With It- Beyond exercise, stretching and being mindful of our posture, there is a really great tool that I've come to love and can't say enough good things about, it's the foam roller, but specifically the egg crate design foam roller-both are great but the textured design seems to work muscles out a bit deeper. They're intended for rolling out stiff muscles after a workout, allow for greater circulation, prevents lactic acid build up but mainly they're used to prevent and relieve muscle tension and soreness. While you can use it all over your body, I love that I can lay on top of it and roll it up and down my spine. I also find that when I roll out my hip and glute areas, I feel SO much better to the point that I actually crave using it twice daily. I've visited my Chiropractor much less since getting it and he even attests to the fact that it's an essential tool. I use it first thing in the morning before stretching for the day and again in the evening before bed. When our body feels good-stretched out and free from pain, we're far more likely to sit up without feeling aches that cause us to slouch.
6. Be Ergonomic- Some companies actually employ groups to come into the workplace to properly outfit their employees' desk space with ergonomic office chairs and desk heights that are appropriate along with proper positioning of computer monitors and the like. Sometimes having a small foot rest to prop feet up a bit takes strain off of the lower back. This knee chair with memory foam is said to be amazing. Look into this and if that's not possible or you work form home, be sure to invest in a really comfortable and ergonomically correct office chair. It also creates better overall alertness and focus so you'll be more productive too-bonus! If you're not ready to shell out the cash for a whole new chair just yet, this portable tool as well as this lumbar mesh back support also work to properly position your body while seated and are both inexpensive options.
7. Make Some Adjustments- A trip to the Chiropractor or Massage Therapist might be just what you need to help begin a better posture regimen. Sometimes our spine is misaligned for a variety of reasons (including all that slouching or the way we sleep at night) and we just need someone to get the kinks out. A massage is also a great place to begin to ease away stresses and pain that might be to blame. For me, massage is always a great reminder of the areas where my body carries the most stress or is weak (the hips are my worst area from sitting on the floor with a toddler playing and also sitting in front of my laptop for work) and I'm constantly looking for new stretches to keep those areas limber.
8. Re-train Yourself-If you feel your posture has slipped to a point where minor tweaks aren't going to help (after having attempted some already for a few months) and years of neglect have led to a hunched position, consider wearing a posture support. I have never worn one, I can't attest to how comfortable they are but if your goal is a straighter spine, consult with your medical practitioner and see if that might be a good option for you. The options today are modern and are easily put on as an undergarment underneath your clothes, so they're invisible to everyone else while doing their work. I especially like the idea of this Intelliskin sports bra. It's a matter of reading the reviews and seeing which ones are said to be most comfortable. Women with more voluptuous breasts might prefer this particular model. Posture supports are a tool that don't allow you to slip into your old ways if you forget to pay attention to the mirror or slouch back into your chair. The positioning encourages better alignment as you're wearing the garment during the day. This is not for everyone, but an option if you're feeling like it's needed. I've read of many singing their praises so it's definitely worth trying out.
Yoga does far more than help create better posture, there are so many amazing benefits.
I love this yoga infographic that I came across which reveals how your body can become transformed anywhere from just a single class to years of regular practice.
Improving one's posture has so many wonderful benefits. Consider that it allows for better digestion, provides a more youthful look (a hunched position is associated with aging), instantly creates a more slim looking physique (who doesn't want to instantly lose 5 lbs?), allows for deeper breathing for greater circulation and better oxygen flow, elevates our mood and increases confidence. While keeping muscles strong is essential, stretching throughout the day is equally important. The more often you can get up, move around and stretch, the better you will feel overall. Intentionally taking breaks every 1-2 hours to refill your water bottle and stretch is an easy way to work it into your day.
Are you satisfied with your posture? Have you taken any steps to improve it? I'd love to hear what has worked for you, share with us in the comments below. As always, if you like what you just read, please share it, pin it or tweet it forward! :)
Thanks for Reading!
*image credits: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5