Remember your mother saying, “Stand up straight”? Poor posture does more than diminish the appearance of self confidence and grace. It hampers proper breathing, strains muscles and ligaments, and can adversely effect the joints of the back. These joints are prone to arthritis, sciatica and general back pain. In all my years of teaching, the complaints of my students have been about their stance, and not having the knowledge of how to realign their spines. So I am going to share with you the basic fundamentals to attain correct posture.
Let us cultivate an awareness of the three natural curves of the spine, without being too technical: 1) slight concave curve of the neck (cervical); 2) curve of the upper back; and 3) the concave curve of the lower back.
Using an exercise ball, now we can begin a few postural exercises. Sitting tall on the ball aligns the body safely and places the least strain on the body. The erector spinae are bands of muscles that run alongside your spine and are designed to work constantly to keep your spine erect.
Sit on the center of your ball, knees aligned with ankles, legs parallel and just wider than hip distance aprat. Feet are fimly planted, toes are long and relaxed and chin is level. Think of pulling the navel up and into the back of the spine.
Action of Movement
Relax the shoulders. As the fingertips relax towards the floor, let the weight of the body drop into the ball. Lengthen through the top of your ears. This phrase is constantly used in the pilates system. We want a long neck, not a forced neck. Think of opening the discs in the cervical spine and rolling the ears away from the shoulders.
Engaging the Postural Muscles
Lock your hand over your head. Inhale and gently extend your head upward. Exhale and resist the movement with your hands. This small movement helps activate the deep muscles which are close to the vertebral column. These small, deep postural muscles maintain an erect spine.
What makes the pilates method so unique is that you can practice these particular exercises while seated watching television or at your desk. Once you have the awareness, you are on your way to sitting up so straight that Mom would be proud!