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Standing Tall: Why Posture Matters


By: Gaia Staff  |  March 1, 2013

Remember how your mom used to always lecture you to stand up straight? Well, she might have made some mistakes over the years (that outfit in your 5th grade school picture), but on this one, she’s right. Posture matters more than you may think.

First, let’s talk about your body, starting at the top. Each inch your head is forward of your shoulders doubles the amount of weight it puts on the rest of your body. Although the average head only weighs between 8-10 pounds, your upper back (and then lower back and hips) will become misaligned if your head “lives” in a forward position – all in an attempt to balance your now-too-heavy head.

And, unless you sit in an ergonomically perfect workstation, chances are you round forward over your keyboard or laptop like something straight out of the latest episode of the “Walking Dead.” Most of us, sadly, are in the process of developing this posture. Blame the Internet (we’re talking to you, Mark Zuckerberg) or your boss (for making you work too much).

What happens to our bodies? Back pain, neck pain, hip pain and knee pain. And, let’s not forget your breathing. Collapsing forward compresses your lungs, reducing their capacity by 30 percent or more. Your organs can’t function properly, and neither can your muscles, joints, or connective tissue.

Posture also matters for your mental health. Good posture allows you to breathe more fully, calming your nervous system, which can help with everything from good sleep to good moods. Plus, standing up tall makes you feel more confident. Slouching pulls your energy downward, even making walking and balance more difficult.

What to do? First, analyze your own posture. Do your shoulders slouch? Is your head forward? Do you have back or neck pain? When you walk do you have a tendency to lean forward and feel like you’re lifting your knees towards you?

Since it is vital to have extension in the upper torso in standing posture, the starting place is simply awareness of how you’re standing or sitting. Imagine lifting out of your pelvis, shoulders back, head looking slightly above the horizon.

Don’t spend too much time sitting at your desk, especially in bad posture. Take a walk. Inhale your arms overhead and slightly back. Regularly engage your lower trapezius to draw your shoulders away from your ears, and your rhomboids to draw your shoulders together.

And balance the forward posture with a lot of back bends. Stretch your pecs and anterior shoulder muscles with anahatasana pose (think child’s pose with your hips over your heels, reaching your tailbone and chest away from each other). Camel pose has been called the “antidote to sitting” because it stretches the entire front of your body.

If you have access to a Pilates reformer, you’re in luck. Do seated arm circles to take your shoulders through a weighted stretch, and turn around for chest expansion to, well, expand your chest and your lung capacity. Or just lie down on a mat, extending arms and legs long on the floor, and lift up, fluttering arms and legs in opposition while breathing deeply.

Most importantly, throughout your day, remember to stand up straight. Don’t slouch. Just listen to mom on this one. You can still argue about your clothes, your politics, and what’s for dinner. On posture, she’s right.


 

Mariska Breland

Mariska Breland is the founder of the Fuse Pilates Method and co-owner of the Fuse Pilates Playground in DC’s Dupont Circle.
Her fitness education includes comprehensive Pilates certification through Body Arts and Sciences, International (BASI), where she apprenticed with Karla Adams. As part of this training, she completed a research project on Pilates for multiple sclerosis patients, which she expanded into an in-depth “Pilates for MS” advanced teacher training, incorporating the latest research in neuroplasticity and neurorehabilitation into a Pilates program design.
Mariska also has mat certification through Power Pilates, additional apparatus, mat, and anatomy training through Balanced Body Pilates, Peak Pilates, and iM=X Pilates, and a certification in PureBarre. She was one of DC’s first barre instructors, trained under Lotte Berk disciple and PureBarre founder Carrie Rezabek. She taught barre classes at B.Fit Studio from 2006-2011.
Mariska is a certified Pre and Postnatal Pilates Specialist, trained through the Center for Women’s Fitness directly with its founder, Carolyne Anthony, who invited her to join the organization as faculty. She is also a Post Rehabilitative Breast Cancer Exercise Specialist, certified through the Pink Ribbon Program. Additionally, she has advanced certificate training in Pilates for Injuries and Pathologies and specialized training in Pilates for athletes and for men.
Since 2010, Mariska has been working in a one-on-one mentorship with renowned Pilates Master Julian Littleford, founding member of the Physical Mind Institute and one of the world’s most innovative and creative Pilates instructors. She also studies regularly with Jennifer Kries, 2nd Generation Master Instructor, who is credited with bringing Pilates to the masses.
Beyond fitness, Mariska received a 2006 holistic health coaching certification through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (part of Columbia University’s continuing education curriculum) where she studied with Drs. Andrew Weil, Deepak Chopra, Barry Sears, and dozens of other leaders in the alternative health field. A former award-winning writer and creative director, Mariska puts those skills to good use as a frequent guest writer for fitness and lifestyle blogs (as well as creative directing Fuse’s website, marketing materials, and photos).

Website: www.fusepilates.com
Facebook: Fuse Pilates
Twitter: @fusepilates
YouTube: www.youtube.com/fusepilates


 

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