Your posture affects everything you do in life, work and sport. The way we move, or don’t move, through our day has lasting effects on our body. Here are the 5 main areas of which you should be mindful, to minimize the chances of poor posture impeding your day and your ability to be active.
Rounded shoulders are usually one of the first indications of poor posture and some muscular imbalance in that area. Oftentimes, this will suggest that the chest, or pectoral muscles, and the biceps are tight. Shoulders that are rounded forward towards the front of the body shorten these muscles, causing tightness. Daily activities that may cause this include typing at a computer while sitting at a desk or carrying a backpack heavier than it should be. Great stretches to help lengthen these muscles include the doorway stretch pictured below, and child’s pose.
The hip flexor muscles play a vital role in posture, as they connect the torso to the legs, aiding in spine stabilization. Tight hip flexors often reveal an anterior pelvic tilt, meaning the pelvis is rotated forward and the spine exhibits added curvature. The shortening of these muscles, as well as an excessively curved spine, will cause the upper body to be shifted forward. A sedentary lifestyle or sitting for prolonged amounts of time may cause this tightness. To help decrease tension in the hip flexors, make sure to get up and walk around if you find yourself sitting for an extended period of time.
Quadratus Lumborum (QL)
A tight quadratus lumborum, or QL, is often the source of low back pain and an anterior pelvic tilt. The Q Lis located in your lower back on either side of the lumbar spine. It starts at your lowest rib and ends at the top of your pelvis. Much like the hip flexors, a tight QL can be the result of sitting for long periods of time, sedentary behavior, and weak core muscles. Strengthening the core muscles and stretching the QL through back rotations will help correct this imbalance by bringing the pelvis and spine back to a more neutral position.
Latissimus Dorsi (Lats)
Are tight lats affecting your posture? Tight latissimus dorsi, or “lats”, can be easily observed during a postural assessment. Look at yourself in the mirror: Is one shoulder higher than the other? If one side of the torso appears shorter than the other, the side that appears shorter is tighter. This imbalance can be caused by carrying a bag on only one side of the body. By carrying a bag on one side, the lats on the other side will start to compensate and shorten for the unilateral added weight. Favoring leaning to one side more when sitting will also cause tension on that side’s lats. Make sure to properly stretch both side lats during the day. If a shoulder bag is being used, make a conscious effort to not overstuff it so that the spine can stay aligned, and alternate carrying on your left and right side. The stretch pictured below is one of many to target this area, and is a fan favorite amongst our clients.
Stiffness in the neck muscles will also cause a shift in posture. In today’s technology-based society, it is easy to find ourselves looking down at some sort of screen, whether it be at a monitor in the office, or a phone on the commute home. This repetitive stance of looking down causes the muscles in the front of the neck to tighten and the head to protrude forward, placing it out of line with the spine. Bringing any electronics in use to eye level, as well as making a conscious effort to sit up straight, will aim to prevent this imbalance.
Good posture takes practice and mindfulness of how you carry yourself throughout your day. Better posture leads to a better, more comfortable life.
Written by, Emma Younghans and Ariel Scheintaub, Stretch Therapists in Tribeca.