Stand Up Straight! 5 Ways to Improve Posture

Photo: quinnanya/Flickr.

For anyone who has spent a day in front of the computer, good posture can feel as unobtainable as a day not spent in front of the computer. Many of us dream of straight shoulders, relaxed backs, and a posture not seen since Jane Austen took quill to paper. But the reality is that most of the western world is slumped in back pain, largely caused by the fact that we slump. It can be a cycle of pain that seems like it will never end.

Luckily, there are some easy, quick ways to improve our posture that can be done right next to our desk chairs. However, not all severe back pain stems from bad posture. Be sure to consult a medical professional for advice and treatment.

1. Use a mirror to align yourself.

When we slouch, our back muscles struggle to keep us balanced. This can contribute to spine deterioration and a multitude of painful issues. The back has three natural curves: an inward curve at the neck, an outward curve at the upper back, and an inward curve at the lower back. This means the spine curves in a slight “s.” In front of a mirror, take a moment to place your ears above your shoulders and your shoulders above your hips. This is your proper posture.

2. Get up and move around.

The longer your muscles stay in one position, the more tired they will get. This puts extra stress and pressure on your neck and back. Set a timer to remind yourself to get up from your chair every 15 minutes, even if just for a moment. (And don’t do it just because your foot has fallen asleep because you are sitting on it.) The act of changing positions will shift your weight around and cut your back a break.

3. Practice mountain pose.

So you’re out of your office chair. Align your body into mountain pose, otherwise known as Tadasana in yoga practice. Take off your shoes and stand with your big toes touching. Lift your toes and spread them out so it feels like your weight is evenly distributed on your feet. Make sure your shoulders are parallel to your pelvis. Stay in the pose for 30 seconds to one minute as you make sure to breathe easily. (Click here for more yoga tips.)

4. Be a penguin.

One tipster suggests playing penguin when you are at your seat or even waiting for bread to toast. With your elbows at your side, touch your hands to your shoulders. With your hands on your shoulders, lift and lower your elbows for two counts. So this for as long as your mini-break allows. You will be surprised at how good it feels on your tight shoulders.

5. If you must sit, sit well.

While some of us dream of a job that puts us on our feet, it’s better to just learn how to sit properly. Sit up straight and think of your spine aligned in one vertical line. Make a conscious effort to place and keep both feet on the floor. Position your back so it is being properly supported in your chair. And lastly, use your trusty timer to check in with your posture every 15 minutes.