Your mother was right.
Well, my mother was right 🙂
She liked to remind me to sit up straight, stand straight, look up. It’s what a young man is supposed to do!
Yeah, well, older men should do it too.
Sit on the edge of a chair as you would normally sit.
Now, imagine a string is anchored in your upper chest right about the level of your heart. Now take the other end of that string and pull it up and away from you and let the string pull your chest along.
Your chest should rise and your head will naturally align itself with the “upright” position. Now all you have to do is practice keeping it there.
You’ve seen this, right?
A young woman is introduced to learning how a young woman should walk gracefully with proper posture and appearance by practicing walking with a book balanced on her head.
Well, guess what? It works.
It’s very hard to walk with a book on your head without aligning your body properly. The book will fall off quickly.
You can pick any book but I like to use Gray’s Anatomy. Just seems like the right kind of book to put on your head.
Start with standing still then progress to a few steps. Before long, you’ll be walking your dogs no problem.
Perturbation forces your body to react and correct itself. It’s a natural reflex to keep your yourself upright. So, take advantage of this and try using an inflatable Zafu in your chair for a few minutes each day while visualizing the “use a string” trick.
Inside the Zafu is a large beach ball. Inflate the beach ball (don’t worry – the cover of the Zafu provides enough support to sit on it).
Place the Zafu on your chair and then sit on it. While doing this, use the “string” idea I mentioned above.
The combination of the less stable sitting surface with the movement of the trunk (connected to an imaginary string) creates a natural alignment of your body.
The unwitting victim of the sedentary lifestyle is the upper back: the region from the shoulder blades to the base of the neck.
Sitting, looking ahead or even worse, down, at a computer screen hours on end, your upper back must resist the load of you head which at about 10% of your body weight is like a teetering bowling ball on your shoulders. Over the years, you’ll lose mobility and look years beyond your age.
Maintaining mobility in this area of your body lends itself to less neck and shoulder trouble.
Try this to see what I mean.
You probably had at least less motion and maybe felt some tightness, discomfort, pinching in the shoulder or neck are or both. It’s common to see much less motion in the shoulder with the more slumped or shoulder forward position of the thoracic spine1
Now, let’s do one more thing.
You had less motion turning to the right and left. As with the shoulder, the thoracic spine has a strong influence on the motion of the head and neck.2
Optimal loading of joints occurs when the joint can move through its optimal range of motion easily. With a less flexible / mobile thoracic spine, the amount of motion available to you in the shoulder and neck is reduced. This increases the workload the joint(s) experience and the increased joint loads translate into a greater chance of symptoms.
Developing mobility in your upper back and maintaining it is a great investment. And the good news is that in most cases you can change your mobility. One other thing to consider is the kind of exercise you perform. You want a variety of motions to challenge the upper body and thoracic region while minimizing unnecessary spinal stress.
How’s your posture these days? What are you doing to improve or maintain it?