Exercises for Great Posture
“Stand up straight!” You’ve heard the command more times than you’d care to count. Well, take heart — mom does know best. There’s a lot to be said for having good posture.
Good posture means standing up, or sitting upright, with muscles tight around your stomach and buttocks, and this can make you look instantly slimmer, but to maintain a good posture, you need a strong body core, which is best achieved through exercise.
Posture exercises work to strengthen weak muscles, which are the main cause of poor posture. When core muscles are strong, they are stable when they contract, and your posture is better. Doing a few posture exercises every day will ensure the best results, and you should soon see great improvement.
Any form of stretching exercise can help to improve posture. These are exercises that stretch muscles to the point where it begins to hurt. You need to hold the stretch for a minimum of 10 seconds, up to 30 seconds, while breathing regularly and rhythmically, then relax and repeat.
One of the best-known stretching exercises is the cobra. Start by lying face down on the floor with legs together, toes pointing backwards, and one hand placed each side of your head with palms down. Slowly raise your shoulders, looking ahead or slightly upwards, until you feel the stretch in your lower back. Hold the pose for 20 seconds, relax and then repeat.
Pilates exercises are also effective in improving posture and build abdominal strength. These are exercises, designed by Joseph Pilates, to develop the body’s core strength by stretching muscles, mobilizing the spine and building flexibility.
Pilates is particularly good for posture, because it doesn’t only involve exercise, it also teaches body awareness and encourages you to pull your stomach in and pull your shoulders down. Once you have mastered the Pilates standing posture, you can extend it into a walking or running routine.
Frederick Matthias Alexander developed other ways of correcting bad posture. The Alexander Technique teaches people to order the body, so it responds to what it’s told. It teaches new ways of sitting, standing, breathing and moving. All of these will affect the balance of the body and result in better posture.
The best piece of gym equipment to use for increasing core stability, and particularly for improving sitting posture, is the exercise ball, or Swiss ball. Exercising with a gym ball can be simple and fun for people of all ages and at any fitness level. It will work core muscles and improve balance, resulting in better posture.
Yoga exercise often involves movements which can make a big difference to posture, by strengthening core muscles in the abdomen and in the lower back around the spine. Some Yoga exercises effectively stretch the spine, taking pressure off the vertebrae, and reduce tension in the neck or shoulders, resulting in better body posture.
A simple meditation practice can work well for anyone who struggles to stand up straight. This involves sitting down and aligning the body by imagining a line anchoring you from the base of the spine and running straight down to the center of the earth. Imagine this same line rises upwards through the body, along the spine, rising up into infinity.
It is not necessary to sit bolt upright to do this, the thought process itself is enough to makes the spine align and straighten. After using this technique, it is easier to maintain good posture when walking or sitting.