Here is one example of a posture exercise:
1. Start with feet slightly out from the wall.
2. Bend knees and push low back, shoulders, and head against the wall (or as close as possible). Keep chin parallel to the floor.
3. Slowly straighten knees while trying to keep low back, shoulders, and head pressed against the wall.
4. Hold this position while breathing normally.
While holding the position, feel for a stretch of these areas:
- Low back
- Front of hips
- Front of chest
- Back of neck
While continuing to hold, feel for contraction of:
- Buttocks and hamstrings
- Upper back
Sense the earlobes directly over the shoulders.
5. When you have a good feeling of this posture, gently push away from the wall and try to keep this alignment as you walk and resume your daily activities. It may require concentration and feel stiff and unnatural at first, but with repeated practice, it can become a habit.
What about strengthening and stretching exercises of muscles that control posture? Ideally, an individualized program would be established tailored to the specific needs of each individual. Exercise classes that strengthen and stretch the various muscle groups of the body are another option.
Remember the stretch for the calves in the section on the foot? This is an important stretch for posture as well. If the ankles are tight and lack the forward bend called dorsiflexion, the weight of the body will be centered back toward the heel. To compensate and maintain balance, the body will have to bend forward.
Ballet master and kinesiotherapist, R. Gelabert, Ph.D., who is my mentor, always says: “Posture is awareness.” He explains that even though we strengthen and stretch the appropriate muscles, we must remember to practice standing, sitting, and moving in correct alignment in order to eventually form a new habit of effortless good posture.
Some other tips and ideas:
Watch your daily habits:
Do you repeatedly favor one side of the body when sitting, lying, or moving (for example, reaching to one side, propping on one arm, carrying a shoulder bag on one shoulder, carrying a child on one hip)?
Do you use a backpack that may cause you to incline forward to counterbalance its weight?
Do you sleep with your head on a high stack of pillows (when it is medically not necessary)?
Do you “carry the weight of the world on your shoulders” and “cave in your chest” under the pressure?
Do you bend forward to see the computer screen? These habits, and any others we may have picked up, can throw our muscles out of balance.
Tight areas of the body that can pull us out of alignment might be myofascial restrictions, as seen in the drawing.
You will be interested in the excellent book Myofascial Stretching: A guide to Self-Treatment by Jill Stedronsky, MS, OTR and Brenda Pardy, OTR. This book is founded on the principles of Myofascial Release of John F. Barnes, PT.
As it states in the Introduction: “Myofascial Strething is a self-treatment technique that results in permanent lengthening of the body’s connective tissue and has the capacity to dramatically improve health and quality of life.”
Consider the possible presence of trigger points if you have tight muscles.
From The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief by Clair Davies, NCTMB with Amber Davies, NCTMB (Second Edition).
Trigger points are sometimes described as small contraction knots in the muscles (“B” in the drawing). They can cause pain, as well as weakness and tightness (“C” in the drawing) in the muscles. An excellent reference book for every home is The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief by Clair Davies, NCTMB with Amber Davies, NCTMB (Second Edition). This book will help you track down and deactivate trigger points that may be causing tight muscles and posture distortions.
- I integrate myofascial release and trigger point self-treatment into my work and would be happy to schedule individual sessions in order to get you started.
- An excellent NYC exercise class to strengthen and stretch the various muscle groups of the body, including the feet, is that of R. Gelabert, Ph.D. This class is based on the movement sciences and is characterized by individual attention and meticulous execution of the exercises (call 212-874-7188 for further information).
- Since posture is fundamental to balance, the FallProof™ classes stress correct alignment during each exercise. For those with a ballet background, R. Gelabert has an adult ballet class that also stresses correct alignment during all the ballet exercises (call 212-874-7188 for further information). Working in classes such as these can begin to form a good posture habit under supervision.