Corrective movement patterns take awareness beyond a Pilates studio and into your everyday living. Here are ways that you can improve your posture from home and implement it into your daily living. Not only does good posture make you look better but it also makes you feel better.
A simple home program of stretches and strengthening exercises can help improve your posture as well as set you up for healthier movement patterns while sitting, standing, and or moving. These exercises can be added weekly to your regular exercise routine or performed on your own. Try to practice these three or four times a week.
Exercise 1: Pelvic curl
Strengthening the back body (especially the gluteus and hamstrings) will help correct a slouched or round-back posture and help you maintain a long spine while seated. Lie on your back with the knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and arms at your sides. Press into the feet and feel the shoulders wide. Lift or roll the pelvis off the floor. Don’t go so high that your lower back pinches; imagine a straight line from your knees to your hips to your shoulders. Roll down one vertebra at a time. Repeat three to five times.
Exercise 2: Bent knees Plank
This is a full-body strengthener that can help counteract a variety of postural imbalances including swayback, slouching, or favouring one side. From an all-fours (quadruped) position, extend one leg at a time straight back, keeping your toes tucked under. Wrists should line up under your shoulders. Keep the head in line with the spine. Pull the abdominal muscles in and up. Imagine a straight line extending from the top of the head to the hips to the heels. Hold the pose for a breath or two before returning to all fours. Repeat three to five times.
Exercise 3: Reaching arms backwards and opening up chest and shoulders
Stretching the pectoral muscles reverses our habitual forward rounding posture (think driving, texting, and gazing at a computer screen). If you sit or stand with rounded shoulders, this will feel great. Stand with your feet a comfortable distance apart. Hold a yoga strap or a belt (a bathrobe belt works perfectly!) behind your hips with palms facing away from you and thumbs facing one another. Raise the belt or strap towards the wall behind you and up. If you need to grasp the belt with a wider grip, do so. As you lift the belt away from you, your chest will feel a stretch. Lower the belt and repeat three to five times.
Exercise 4: Swimming
Think of this as a two-for-one: it stretches the chest as it strengthens the back body. Lie on your stomach with your arms at your sides, feet hip-width apart, and forehead or the tip of your nose resting lightly on the Mat. Pull the abdominal muscles in; imagine your navel lifting off the Mat. Lift your chest, shoulders, and head off the Mat. Lift the arms off the floor until they are in line with your back body, reaching your fingertips back towards your toes. Back off if you feel a pinch in your lower back. Keep your neck long and tuck the chin slightly. Lower everything back down to the Mat. Repeat three to five times. When you are done, push up to all fours and then bring your hips to your heels for child’s pose as a counter-stretch.
Another option to protect the lower back is doing seated upper back extension.
Always think about what your daily routines are and what habits you have created. Our habits can affect posture. If you carry a handbag use both shoulders. If you answer a phone often use both ears. If you stand regularly, stand on both your feet. If you sit for long hours, why not sit up straight. Your posture can make you look and feel your best and subtle changes can reap big rewards.