Our posture tells us so much about our bodies. As a certified Pilates instructor, paying attention to people’s posture tells me a lot about movement patterns in the body.
What’s the best way to improve your posture? In my opinion, it’s doing exercises that use your body’s weight appropriately. We’ll get into why this is so important in just a minute, but first, let’s talk about the different types of postures.
Here are 3 common posture types and their causes:
- Kyphotic Lordotic: Head sits forward of body therefore chin pokes forward, hump back, shoulders rounded in, large space in lumbar curve of spine when up against a wall, belly that juts forward or pelvic tilts forward. This is common for gymnasts, pregnant women and seniors.
- Sway Back: Head sits very forward of body, lower back is flat, shoulders rounded forward, plantar fasciitis can be present, tight or painful lower back, hyper-extended knees. This is common for runners, ballerinas and those that sit most of the day or lead a sedentary lifestyle.
- Flat Back: Spine straight, no bum, hyper-extended knees, chin and head forward, pelvic and hips forward or seemed “tucked” forward, hip flexors long and weak, breathing can be shallow. This is common for people with muscle imbalances, previous back surgeries or degenerative disc disease.
Above image courtesy of Verywellhealth.com
Here are a few exercises for better posture. These will help you on your way to standing taller:
#1 – Chest Expansion
A simple exercise that helps to condition the upper back and shoulders.
How to perform:
- Standing tall with your arms at your sides, palms facing behind you, collarbone wide and shoulder blades pulling down your back.
- Keeping your arms in at your sides slowly press your arms behind you. Think of a string pulling you up from the crown of your head.
Try 8 to 10 reps.
#2 – Spine Extension
As we sit hunched at our desks all day it is important to counter that movement with a spine extension. This exercise feels yummy on the spine and opens up through the front of our bodies.
How to perform:
- Lie on your stomach with your forehead hovering above the mat. Arms bent, hands just above your shoulders on the mat.
- Pull your belly button to the spine. Draw your shoulder blades down your back. Take an inhale and slowly start to lift your nose. Think of an imaginary marble underneath your nose and start to roll it to the top of your mat. Continue to lift the chest. Slowly exhale as you lower your forehead down.
Think more of length through the crown of your head not necessarily height when lifting the chest.
Try 5 reps.
#3 – Arm/Leg Reach
The arm/leg reach exercise is excellent to build strength through the back of the body while activating the deep muscles of the abdominals. It is important to get our back muscles strong and aligned to keep us standing tall.
How to perform:
- On all fours, engage core and keep hip bones level. Keep the back of your neck in line with your spine.
- Slowly start to reach one hand with the opposite leg out to shoulder and hip height.
Try 8 to 10 reps on each side.
Better posture improves sleep, shoulder, neck and back pain. It also helps to keep our feet, knees and hips conditioned.
While it’s always a good idea to check in with your doctor before starting any new exercise routine, these exercises are especially useful for people who have poor posture or suffer from chronic pain. The benefits of improving your posture include being able to stand taller and walk with more confidence, reducing tiredness and fatigue by taking pressure off the spine, and reducing the risk of injury when performing other activities.
These exercises use your body’s weight appropriately, helping correct any imbalances and strengthen any weak areas that could be contributing to poor posture. Whether you’re trying to improve your backache or just get rid of those kinks that come from sitting at a desk all day long, these movements are sure to help!
With a consistent Pilates program you will start to notice (but more importantly) feel the positive changes in your body.
Christine Kirkland is a Certified Pilates Instructor offering Live and On Demand Pilates classes. She specializes in helping adults to increase their balance, strength, mobility and feel their best every day.
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