How to Stand up Straight and Why You Want to Know How

If the three rules of real estate are” location, location, location”, the three rules of health should be posture, posture, posture! It’s estimated that 80% of the U.S. population will experience back pain at some point in their life. Understanding proper alignment and practicing it is crucial if you don’t want that eventuality. Additional side effects of poor posture and alignment include:

  • Shoulder, neck and back pain (it’s all connected baby)
  • Kyphosis (forward curvature of the thoracic or upper spine)
  • Tension headaches
  • Depression – a collapsed chest literally weights the heart, pushes the head forward then dropping it downward. The classic depressive incarnation.
  • Restricted breathing
  • Cardiovascular irregularities
  • Increased stress
  • Decreased energy
  • Decreased libido

Hopefully that list is unappealing enough to get your attention and prompt an immediate self assessment. Stop – right now. Are you slouching your chair with your shoulders rounded and head pushed forward? Are you standing with a similar silhouette and/or weight shifted to one side and/or arms crossed in front of your chest? If so, recalibrate by finding an empty wall to stand against, heels at the baseboard, hip width apart. Weight each foot evenly, bend knees slightly, keeping buttocks, back of chest, shoulders and head against the wall. The chin should be parallel to the floor and not upward tilting and arms should be extended downward in line with the hips. Now tilt the pelvis until the tip of the tailbone points straight down toward the floor and the navel is lifting upward and backward toward spine. Slowly lift and tighten the kneecaps until legs are straight. Keep chest lifting upwards toward chin without lifting chin.

That’s proper alignment!

It should feel much more open and supported though not necessarily familiar or easy to maintain as very few folks are practiced in this posture and most lack the awareness and musculature for maintenance. Great news is that it’s a completely accessible and free fix, just not super quick. All that is required is sustained motivation, (see above list as often as necessary, or have a family member take a quick photo of you when you aren’t paying attention, revealing!) awareness and practice. I encourage clients to post visual reminders in places they inhabit most frequently, e.g. car, office, kitchen etc.. They can be as simple as sticky notes with written cues, codewords or a photograph. The more often the old, bad posture is interrupted and corrected, the more likely it is to be sustained increasingly over time. Conditioning ones core, legs and back is also helpful as is habituating the standing practice of holding one arm behind the back, with hand encircling opposite upper arm above the elbow. Just remember to alternate sides!