When a muscle is shorter than the optimal length, it not only effects the opposing muscle but can have repercussions on the entire [body]…If you continue to exercise with poor posture you will recruit the wrong muscles and build your body disproportionately…If you do not correct your muscular imbalances the cycle will repeat over and over again and get progressively worse. – askthetrainer.com
The above statement is a difficult lesson to learn, yet it is the most crucial. People ponder why it is they have done exercise for years and yet their body is still riddled with aches and pains. The answer is never simple, but a few simple answers are often missed.
The simpler the concept, the harder it is to master. Walk tall. Breathe. Lengthen muscles and release tension. All of this translates to proper muscular support of the joints and spine. Although a good cardio regime is important for the body and mind, so too is understanding posture.
We all fight gravity and posture issues. Think of how much time we spend sitting. The damage cannot be completely reversed by three hours of weekly fitness. The in-between moments matter most. You could be a daily runner, or someone who sits all day, if there is no postural awareness there is a more rapid deterioration of the body structure.
In a recent lesson a client had a personal break-through, and in her own words, she found that by stretching a muscle, you are “canceling it out” of the exercise. In other words, when stretching a muscle long, it can’t be tensed inward. This is a simple way to think of how lengthened muscles will create less stress and tension in both the body and mind.
Here are some ideas designed to create postural awareness.
– Work on your breath.
Take a moment at your desk, in the kitchen, wherever you might be, and focus on your breath to allow tension to melt away and bring your body and mind back into focus. My favorite breathing cues come from Mary Bond and her book “The New Rules of Posture. #1. Inhale beauty: as if you are smelling something wonderful, like fresh-baked cookies or roses. #2. Exhale surrender: Exhale and focus on one part of your body releasing, letting go, and becoming heavy. Don’t over-breathe or force the breath. Just let it happen lightly and without strain.
– Most importantly. Go back to basics.
Even if you are an advanced fitness person, consider going back to the basics. People often know how a movement should look, but are doing it with the wrong muscles. The most common example is overuse of the hip flexors which take over for the abdominals, making it impossible to get any benefit from certain core exercises.
Take a basic pilates class, yoga class, tai-chi, or dance. Any movement practice that focuses on fundamentals. A strong understanding of basic movements and how they relate to your body is what makes someone truly advanced.