Go look in the mirror. Take a good long look. Not at your face or your makeup or the clothes that you’re wearing (who would have thought I would ever say that). Don’t look at your chest or your legs or contemplate how flat your stomach is or how big your biceps are.
Check out your posture. Look at yourself in the way that everyone else sees you. Do you carry yourself with your head up, shoulders back, or are you hunched in on yourself? Be honest. Perfect posture is hard, especially if you haven’t ever thought about it before. Believe me, I know. I grew up slumped. I hunched over Harry Potter, I bent over homework, my back stooped against the weight of my backpack. I watched the sidewalk when I walked. I had terrible posture.
Really, the only thing that put me on the right track away from my posture woes was horse back riding. Before I rode, I constantly had people telling me “Sit up straight! Roll your shoulders back! Look up!” It was mostly just annoying. After I started riding, I realized that all of the above commands really helped ensure that I wouldn’t eat dirt. Ah, motivation. The first time I won an equitation class, I almost cried tears of joy. [For those who don’t ride horses: equitation is a class judged on the rider–how well you sit the saddle, your posture, how you handle your horse.] It took a lot of hard work to get there, and that only eliminated the worst of the problem.
An enlightening X-ray at the age of 15 showed that I have scoliosis, lordosis, and kyphosis. In other words, my spine is curvy. It was kind of nice to know that my terrible posture was not entirely my fault, but it didn’t relieve me of any pressure to fix it. I just have to work a little harder than others to keep my spine in line.
What helps the most, you might ask? Core workouts. Strengthen your core, and the rest will fall in line. Core isn’t just your abs. It’s your butt, obliques, back, shoulders, abs, everything that can be considered the middle of your body. These are all the muscles that keep you standing tall and protect your back. In addition, once you start working your core, you become so much more aware of what muscles you should be using on a daily basis. Personally, I have found that yoga is an excellent addition to any workout, and really places emphasis on all these muscles.
So where am I now? I’ve stopped locking my knees (for the most part), I keep my pelvis in line, and I work on keeping my head above my shoulders and my shoulders pulled down and back. The benefit? So much less lower back discomfort. Of course, holding this posture is something that takes almost constant reminders on my part to my muscles, but over time, it will become second nature. And it’s worth it. It’s worth not having the low back pain, the neck pain, and general stiffness associated with poor posture.
Please remember: I am not a licensed professional. If you are experiencing pain or have a lot of difficulty with your posture, you should be evaluated by a professional–a doctor, physical therapist, or chiropractor. Someday you’ll be able to see me for advice, but not yet 🙂
So roll your shoulders back, tuck your chin, and take on your day a little bit taller. Believe me, once you start doing it this way, you’ll never go back.