by Sherry Steinman
It’s quite likely that many of you at this moment are in a slump. I’m referring to the posture kind of slump – we’ll have to deal with any social or financial slumps in another column!
Since slumping is unhealthy, unattractive, and nearly unavoidable at least once in a while, here’s a little information to help set you on the straight and tall path.
Whether you’re on your feet working all day or facing a computer monitor several hours per day, standing and sitting with upright yet relaxed posture is a choice you make – or fail to make – every minute of your life. Body Alert! Right now, as I am typing this, I inadvertently have slumped back down from my original square-shouldered position just minutes a go! It’s so easy to do.
Whether consciously controlled or not, your sitting position creates its own momentum. If gravity gets a grip on your tilted head or drooping shoulders, your whole body starts to feel like a slow wave moving downhill. A little innocent slouching gradually becomes slumping, and the unhealthy posture takes over your body.
How you sit and stand has major consequences for the health of your spine and back. It makes scientific sense when you realize that slouching or hunching over in your chair creates ten to fifteen times as much pressure on your lower back than as does sitting up straight! Why? Because the architecture for your back was designed with optimal posture alignment in mind. The engineering goes woefully out of whack when it’s not in correct alignment from the top down.
In addition, when you’re slumped in your seat, your breathing is restricted and your circulation is impeded. Not to mention what happens to your digestion and related elimination processes! It’s all rather disturbing, so you may as well concentrate on sitting and standing tall until it becomes your habit.
Five Second Head Lift
Great posture begins with your head and neck position, which strongly affects the placement of our shoulders, chest, neck, and back. Body Alert! I just noticed my shoulders have rounded and I have almost started slumping again!
OK — back to the spine. At the crest of your spine is a small muscle called the rectus capitus anterior. It flexes and rotates your head and is an often-overlooked key to maintaining good neck positioning and, therefore, good overall posture – since everything’s connected.
One of the simplest ways to tone this muscle is with a gentle ‘head nod’ exercise. Start in a comfortable sitting or standing position and place your hands on the base of your skull just behind and above your earlobes. Let your neck lengthen, gently extending upward, as if it’s being lifted by an imaginary cord attached to the top of your head. With your neck in this slightly-elevated position, nod your head as if in agreement and bring your forehead a little forward with your chin slightly tucked in. Repeat this nodding motion a few times each day to strengthen this area.
TIP: Use a pillow behind your lower back in your chair or car. See if it helps to support your improved posture all the way up your back.
Now you’re on your way to a stronger back and better posture. The rest of your body will thank you!