How’s your posture?
As you read this, are you sitting up straight? I’ll bet you are now! As soon as someone mentions it I find myself adjusting my posture. We all do it. The longer the period of time we sit, the easier it is to slump lower and lower as we read a book, sit at a desk or stare at our computer for long periods of time. We begin to tire and relax a bit too much. Before we know it our entire body is out of alignment in one big slumped-over mess. No wonder our bodies feel sore!
What is It?
What exactly is “posture?” Posture is defined in several ways, but today let’s talk about the physiological position of our bodies when seated. In plain English, let’s discuss the proper way to sit. The goal of good posture is to stand or sit in a way that puts the least amount of strain on the neck and spine. That seems easy enough. Putting it into practice may be a bit more difficult.
Growing up I was often told to sit up straight. How about you? If you’re like me your sitting position was described as slouched over, back rounded, head down and jaw jutting forward slightly. Kids don’t naturally think of supporting their bodies by sitting correctly. If we’re tired, our bodies easily assume that slouched position as our muscles fatigue and relax. Forgetting for a moment how unattractive that looks (it looks awful), what is that doing to our bodies?
First, our shoulders round forward, our abdominal muscles protrude and the front of our rib cage collapses, making it a little more difficult to breathe. To feel the contrast, slump over and breathe deeply. Now sit up straight and breathe again. Do you feel the difference? Chances are you can take in a deeper breath, and do so more easily.
A Quick Description
Let’s do a quick analysis of good sitting posture. In a seated position, think of a string gently pulling from the crown of your head to the ceiling, aligning your head over your hips and tailbone. Take a deep breath and as you exhale, relax your shoulders down and slightly back. This isn’t an exaggerated move, but you should be helping your bra lift “the girls.” Rolling your shoulders forward drops that whole situation into a sad sag. Isn’t gravity doing enough of that on its own?
Now make a fist, and place it under your chin. If your fist also touches the spot where your clavicals joing the sternum (where the collarbones join the breast bone), raise your chin a bit. Your gaze should rest on a spot directly in front of you.
How is your jaw? Even now it’s easy for your jaw to push forward, which places stress on your neck, shoulders and upper back. Take a moment to slightly lower your chin as you gently apply pressure to coaxe your head back a bit. This will help release the muscles of your neck, easing some of the stiffness. In correct posture, your jaw should not protrude more than an inch or so past your collarbone.
Finally, pull in your abdominal muscles slightly. This will support your lower back. For added measure you can tighten your buns, which helps both with posture and with tightening your buns. That’s a two-fer I’ll take any day!
All this is great, but how do we remember to keep it up? A visual reminder is probably the best method. A friend of mine used to put a little sticker on his watch. When he checked the time it reminded him to check his posture. If you sit in front of a computer, a sticky note at the side of your monitor with a sweet little reminder message (Sit up, Sweetheart!) could do the same thing. Whatever works for you.
As I’m sitting here typing, I see the challenge with my laptop setup. If the keyboard is properly aligned so I can type without putting my wrists in an awkward position, my screen is so low I’m looking down to see it. Hmmm. It’s harder to sit up straight and I certainly can’t look straight ahead and see my screen. The wall, maybe, but not the screen.
As a short-term solution I’ve connected an old keyboard to my laptop so I can raise my screen without raising my arms to type. I’ve ordered a new wireless keyboard which will arrive later this week. Right now I’ve used several magazines to raise my computer to face height, which is so much easier on my neck! It’s ugly as sin, so I’m looking for a more elegant permanent solution.
Using my touch screen is inconvenient, which is unfortunate, but I my neck and shoulders already feel better. I’ve had a sore upper body for the last several days and I hope this will be the cure. Even using a foam roller wasn’t offering much relief.
Now it’s your turn. Neck and shoulders sore? Maybe your posture needs to be revamped. Try the adjustments above and see how you feel. I hope it helps you the way it helps me!
Thanks so much for visiting!