Can you stand up straight? If you've ever been at a bus stop watching people standing and waiting for a bus you would be forgiven for thinking that we've all reverted into apes. Slumped shoudlers, forward heads, one hip pushed out to the side, sound familiar? Well here are some tips on how you can change all of that whilst you wait for that bus to comeor at your stand up desk. With the increase of stand up desks it has never been more important to have good standing posture.
Firstly take stock of how you are currently standing. The ideal posture has your ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankle bones all in alignment if looking at your posture from the side. Most people wont have this posture ever, even with lots of practice, but it is good to aim high.
How to do this? Stand a little way away from a wall and then back up to the wall so your back touches it. What hits the wall first? Do you feel you back, head and buttocks against the wall? This is the correct alignement. Your head, upper back and buttocks should be against the wall with your feet a few centimetres away. Now try to keep this postrue as you move away from the wall. This is your correct posture. See how long you can hold this until you end up slumped again.
Here's 5 ways you can improve your standing posture right now:
Stand evenly on your feet. The next time you are standing up notice where you are placing the weight in your feet. Is it more on the toes, more on the heels, more on the inside or outside of the foot? After you have noticed this try to place the weight evenly between the balls of your feet, the heels and the outside of the feet. Stand here for a minute or so and then notice again how you are standing. You will probably notice you have reverted back to the old way you were standing. Most postural changes take quite a bit of time to happen. You can't just stand up straight once and expect you will have amazing posture. Use this as an awareness technique whenever you have to stand for a bit of time, like waiting for a bus or standing at the pedestrian crossing.
Make sure you are standing on both feet and not shifting more weight onto either leg. Like most postural habits you may find that you always stand with your weight on one leg. This is the best way to cause a pelvic imbalance, one leg appearing shorter (chiros love this) or painful overused hip muscles and fascia. When you put all of your weight on one leg it pushes one hip out to the side putting most of the load onto the ligaments, tendons and fascia as the muscles won't have to work as hard to support the pelvis and spine. You may end up ligament or tendon sprains in the hip. It will be much harder than you think to try to stand with your weight evenly over both legs. Try it the next time you are standing up.
Tuck your tail under. When standing up for a period of time generally the core muscles will fatigue (that is if you are using your core muscles in the first place) leading to your lower back extending (duck bum or sticking your bum out) which will overuse the QL muscles and the erector spinae as well as jamming up the lower facet joints of the spine. To correct this you only need to tuck your tailbone under slightly. Don't overdo it, just a couple of centimetres. This will help to engage the “core” muscles and take some load off the lower back. To do this stand with your feet shoulder hip width apart with your weight evenly distributed onto your feet (see step 1). Now notice how your pelvic position is. Do you feel like it is tipping forward, like you are poking your bum out? If so slightly tuck your tail bone under. You should feel the lower back stretch slightly and the lower abdominal muscles kick in. Try to hold this position for a minute. If you drift off or can't hold it then take a break for 30 seconds and try again. You will be surprised at how hard this can be to do something so simple. A tip here is to practice this side on in front of a mirror, that way you can see if your pelvis is tipping forward or not. If your pelvis is tucked under too much then you will need to do the opposite and practice sticking your bum out a little more so that your lower spine isn't too flattened which can lead to spinal disc degeneration.
“Shoulders back and down and for goodness sake don't carry the backpack/handbag on one shoulder all the time”. Is that a familiar order you heard growing up. Well it is true. To stand up straight you need to imagine the body like plates being stacked one on top of the other. If a plate is crooked then the next plate on top will continue to move in that way. The shoulders in good alignment will mean the neck and head are aligned. If the shoulders are slumped forward then so will the neck and head.
Tuck that chin in. Unless you are listening to funk music your chin should stay reasonably tucked in. This means not poking your head forward as though you are about to peek around a corner. Look around you, most people have this unnatural posture and guess what? Most people have some form of neck or back pain. The thoracic spine plays a big part in this. If your chest is slumped then your neck will be too. Breathing in and arching your thoracic spine back slightly will help a lot. Once you feel like you are able to stand with the weight evenly on your feet and legs, your pelvis tucked under slightly, your knees soft, shoulders back and down, try to tuck the chin in slightly. Don't overdo this. Don't go for the double chin. The amount you need to tuck in varies between people. An easy way to find the right place is to tuck it in until you feel a stretch in the back of the head/neck and then relax slightly from there. Don't relax so much that you return to the old position.
As I mentioned if you stack the plates well from the ground up then the body will naturally find a better posture higher up. If you stand tall in your chest then the neck will naturally find its best posture.
The best way to do all of this is to have a professional assess your posture and also check where your normal is. This will make it much easier to correct on yourself when you are standing waiting for the bus.
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Thanks for reading,