Your posture has a far more powerful impact on both your physiology and your psychology than most people have any idea of. The way you sit and the way you stand can not only affect the condition of your spine and your general health and comfort, but it can also change the image you project to the world and the way people see you, and even the way you feel about yourself. Sitting up straight will make you healthier, make you look more confident and make you feel better about yourself.
The problem is that most of us develop our natural posture over years of sitting at a computer or crouching through doorways. This is a habit then that is formed over many years and not something you’re going to immediately correct overnight. So how do you go about fixing it?
Well, you’re not the first to have this problem and the good news is that there is already a whole lot of literature out there that can help you. Here I will distil that advice into a few simple points you can follow to fix the way you sit, stand and walk.
Learn How to Stand: The first thing you need to do before you can begin to improve your posture is to learn what a good posture should look like – otherwise you won’t know what your objective is. Essentially, a good posture should mean keeping your body in alignment so that you could draw a straight line from your feet through your head. Your back should be slightly curved at the bottom, but should come out again at your shoulder blades meaning that a single centre of gravity runs through it.
This also means you need to avoid ‘hunching’ or ‘stooping’ your upper back. Make sure that you puff out your chest, roll back your shoulders and generally make an effort to ‘unfold’ to keep yourself in the correct alignment. Lifting your chin to look straight forward can also help. There should also be a slight curve from the base of your head to your shoulders to achieve what is known as the ‘double C’ or ‘S’ curve of the spine. Finally, your weight should be evenly distributed so that your shoulders are level and your feet have an even amount of pressure on the floor.
Check Your Stance in Mirror: Now that you know what your stance should be, check out the way that you actually stand by taking a look in the mirror. Don’t lie to yourself here, just stand the way you normally stand and ask yourself whether you are fully in alignment and where your problem areas are. Likewise you can get someone to take a photo of you sitting at your desk, here you should be maintaining the same stance from your buttocks upwards – so that means a straight line from your coccyx to your head with your back straight and shoulders back.
Set a Reminder: Now that you know how you’re meant to be sitting and how you are sitting, it should be relatively simple to fix your posture when you remember. The problem of course is actually thinking about it often enough to make sure that you are upright.
There are a number of ways you can do this, one of which is to wear a band around one wrist that will remind you when you see it. Another is to set reminders on your phone, and if you have a smartphone you can even set it to send you messages with instructions to ‘straighten up’. Do so every time you see the message, and eventually it will become natural.
Train Your Muscles: What can also help is to train your muscles to make sure that they are exerting equal force across your body. This is an important point, as if you have pecs stronger than your traps for instance, it will pull your shoulders forward and force you into a hunched position. You don’t need to get into insane shape, just make sure that you do some physical exercise a few times a week and try to ensure that you target your whole body evenly. Stretching can also help so include this at the start and end of your training as a warm-up and cool-down.
Use Tools: If you need a little more help, then there are a number of tools you can use to help you maintain correct posture even more easily. For instance, if you sit on a wedge shaped cushion you will find this forces your back upright (as can simply tucking your feet right under the chair). Similarly there are some shoes and insoles designed to help correct poor postures.
Follow these tips and try to remain vigilant. It might seem like a lot of work right now, but you’d be surprised what a huge effect it can have on multiple aspects of your life.