How many times (a day) do you catch yourself sitting at your computer with worse posture than the Hunchback of Notre Dame? Without even being aware of it, your shoulders are up to your ears, your face two inches from your screen…I’m totally guilty of this (sorry, mom, all those ballet classes growing up apparently didn’t stick, as this is a look I find myself doing fairly frequently.) Without wanting to spend another day with poor posture, I asked Lindsay Lopez, founder of NYC’s Form Pilates Union Square, for tips on how to stand up a little straighter.
Here’s what she shared:
1. Find Your Core. “The first step to standing straighter is to find your center. Place your hand on your stomach and inhale and exhale. Notice how when you exhale, your abdominals naturally contract. Find a natural amount of ‘pulling in’ where you can still breathe and then try to maintain that. Then once you’ve mastered that, try lifting your belly button up towards your nose, so that you have a feeling of pulling your abs in AND up. Now every time you think of it, try to find that center connection. Just the sheer effort of pulling in and lifting will make you stand taller and support your spine,” Lopez says.
2. Combat Your Work Posture. “If you’re like most of us, you spend 70 percent of your day sitting at your desk and in front of a computer,” she continues. Combat the occupational slump by:
- Getting up! “Try not to spend more than three hours at a time sitting,” Lopez advises. “Get up. Walk around. Squat down to pick up something off the floor, anything to move your body and to combat the stuck computer posture.”
- Stretching your neck. “Sit at your desk, plant your feet on the floor, and sit towards the edge of your seat. Start to let one ear fall towards your shoulder, stretching the sides of your neck. Next turn your head right-to-left, pausing for a light stretch. Once you’ve stretched this way a couple of sets, pause to one side and tuck your chin down to your armpit, stretching the upper back of the opposite side,” she shares.
- Opening your chest. Lopez recommends: Standing in a doorway, make your arms into two 90-degree angles. Place your forearms against the door jam and lean into the open door. Sitting at the computer all day makes your chest tight. This stretch combats all the forward motion.
3. Do Pilates! “There’s a reason why Pilates is the number-one way to combat bad posture,” Lopez says. “Instead of just strengthening your arms or legs, Pilates works the body as a whole. It’s this approach to the body in its entirety that helps stack your bones correctly and create the space we lose from bad habits and gravity’s pull.” Here are three “easy ways to add some posture-changing Pilates into your life,” per Lopez:
- Count to 100. “The one hundred is the quintessential Pilates exercise. It’s core-strengthening, an awesome warm up for any other types of exercise, and will make you feel like a million bucks! Start lying on the floor, draw your knees into you, and curl your chin over your chest. Make your legs into a 90-degree angle, with your knees directly over your hips, and stretch your arms long by your sides. Begin to lift your straight arms up and down as if you’re an angry bird beating your wings. Inhale for five pumps, exhale for five pumps—the whole time pulling your abdominals in and up. Ten sets of in for five and out for five make 100, but if you need to work up to it, try to accomplish 50, then work your way up to the full 100,” Lopez tells us.
- Stretch your spine. “Sit with your back against a wall, legs outstretched in front of you wider than your hips. Bend your knees enough that you can feel your sits bones firmly in the floor, while still sitting tall. Take an inhale and grow taller up the wall, then on the exhale begin to peel your spine off the wall vertebrae by vertebrae, until just your lower back is on the wall. Then on your next inhale ‘paint’ your spine back up the wall using your abs articulating as you go. Keep your abdominals engaged throughout trying not to collapse when you are forward,” she goes on.
- Get in touch with your primitive self. “Our ancestors didn’t have desks and computers to wreck their spines. Go back to basics with this assisted squat. Stand against a wall, and walk your feet out placing them hip-width apart and parallel. Maintaining your back on the wall, bend your knees until your legs are 90-degree angles. Hold for at least three counts, then without letting your hips come off the wall, pull your abs in and press into your heels to slide back up the wall. Repeat holding longer and squatting deeper each time,” Lopez suggests.