As we've emphasized before, the importance of good posture remains unwavering—it's not a part-time endeavor but a constant commitment. In our modern age of incessant technology usage, succumbing to poor posture is all too easy. In a playful twist on the famous Will Durant quote, we can rephrase it as follows: "we are what we repeatedly do. [Bad posture], then, is not an act, but a habit."
However, just like any bad habit, we have the power to combat it and make corrections. This week, we'll explore five stretches and exercises aimed at enhancing your posture. While performing these, remember that none should induce pain or discomfort. Experiencing a stretching sensation is acceptable, but if any of these movements cause pain, it's crucial to stop immediately.
1. Pectoralis Stretch
Option 1 - Doorway Stretch
Stand in a doorway (or beside a park shelter post) with your arm and shoulder forming 90° angles. Place your hand and forearm against the door and gently move your body forward until you sense a stretch in your pectoral muscles. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds, then switch to the other side. Aim to perform this stretch 3-4 times throughout the day.
Option 2 - Foam Roller Assisted Stretches
This method is most effective when using a lengthy (36") foam roller. Place the foam roller on the ground and lie down on it, positioning your spine along the roller. Elevate your shoulders to create a 90° angle with your body, and bend your elbows to form a 90° angle as well. Allow gravity to work its magic and open up your chest. You can experiment with different shoulder and arm angles to find the ideal stretch for your needs. Maintain this position for 20-30 seconds and repeat it 3-4 times throughout the day.
2. Shoulder Blade Squeeze
While seated in a chair, allow your arms to hang naturally by your sides. From this relaxed stance, focus on gently squeezing your shoulder blades together, ensuring that your shoulders remain relaxed. Imagine pulling your shoulder blades backward and downward, as if you were attempting to hold a marker between them. Maintain this squeezed position for 8 seconds before releasing. Repeat this sequence 5 times and perform these sets 3-4 times throughout the day.
3. Upper Trapezius Stretch
Begin in a seated position. Gradually tilt your right ear toward your right shoulder. Place your right hand atop your head to apply gentle pressure, intensifying the stretch. For an even greater stretch, you can sit on the palm of your left hand. Hold this stretch for 20-30 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side. Aim to do this stretch 3-4 times throughout the day.
4. Levator Scapulae Stretch
This stretch closely resembles the one for your upper trapezius. Once more, begin in a seated position. Gently lower your chin towards the right, as though you're attempting to smell your right underarm (assuming it smells delightful, like spring flowers). Apply gentle pressure with your right hand on the top of your head to enhance the stretch. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds, then switch to the other side. Practice this stretch 3-4 times throughout the day.
5. Overhead Stretch
Whether you're standing or sitting, extend your arms forward. Interlock your fingers, turn your palms away from your body, and fully straighten your arms. Lift your arms overhead while maintaining a straight line. Maintain engagement in your core muscles to prevent arching your back. Breathe deeply through your belly (as discussed in last week's post) while holding this position for 20-30 seconds. Repeat this stretch 3-4 times throughout the day.
These exercises are quite manageable! You can perform them at home, in the office, or just about anywhere, even when you're out hiking with friends and convincing them to take photos for your blog! With these stretches, we can revise that quote to read, "we are what we repeatedly do. [Good posture], then, is not an act, but a habit." Let's make good posture a habitual part of your life!
Still not fully convinced about the importance of maintaining good posture? Well, research indicates that individuals with proper posture tend to experience more enthusiasm, excitement, and strength. Additionally, good posture is linked to higher self-esteem, reduced social anxiety, and fewer negative emotions. It's not just about looking better; it's about feeling better too!