So you've been strutting around like a peacock, shoulders back, breasts out, though admittedly more for the male attention it garners than the health benefits it bestows. The good news is that, where posture is concerned, what makes you look good is also good for you. Standing up straight not only imparts a look of self-confidence, but good posture also keeps you from those all-too-familiar knots in your neck and back. Plus, keeping yourself slouched over and scrunched up creates more serious problems, like muscle imbalance, joint dysfunction and negative emotional state -- not to mention a serious lack of dates. Keep yourself standing tall and looking good with these tips on how to align that spine from six posture-perfect experts:
Terry Eagle, Chiropractor, Long Island, New York
Oftentimes, posture cannot be improved if there are spinal misalignments preventing you from standing correctly. Parents usually attribute poor posture to laziness, but this is not the case 99 percent of the time. Exercises, in conjunction with spinal manipulation can help. A good one is to stand with your back and heels against a wall. Lift your shoulders up and roll them back and down to touch the wall, with your head against the wall all the while. I recommend doing this one during television commercials. Large exercise balls are also wonderful to stretch both forward and backward on. Hanging from a chinning bar is also good. If you slouch, you must concentrate on holding in your abs. Try it. Slouch a bit and then hold in your belly -- it automatically causes the spine to elevate and helps you stand up straighter.
Joyce Spindel, Massage Therapist and Colon Hydrotherapist, Chakra 17, New York City
Yoga. Yoga. Yoga. And stretching! I find that various forms of bodywork -- aside from massage -- are extremely complementary to posture health. Rolfing is phenomenal. If you are unable to afford it, you can purchase a mini body bridge, which provides a perfect means of stretching the spine and encouraging circulation. Just lie down on this arch-shaped support, and you will immediately feel the elongating effects.
Also, I cannot speak highly enough of expertly designed footwear like MBT shoes. In addition, exercising on a trampoline is one of the easiest ways to improve overall body strength, which supports healthy posture. It does more than just work our muscles; it stimulates cellular activity and also tones and cleanses the cells. All organs, veins, capillaries, connective tissue and bones are strengthened. Plus, it requires only 10 minutes a day to receive benefits.
Posture is often underrated. These various suggestions are all investments in improving and maintaining posture, which can be a barometer for our overall health.
Liliya Aronov, Ballerina, New York City
Good posture comes from a sense of your inner self and realizing where your center is. You're supposed to be able to draw a straight line from your head to your toes, meaning that if you stand in profile, it will be straight up and down with no bends anywhere. The torso is supposed to be directly above the hipbones so the shoulders are in line with them. Your head should be in the same line, not tilted back. Usually, people arch their backs too much, which can lead to back and knee problems, so hold your stomach in so that your back is as flat as possible. Also, you should keep your body weight on the toes, not the heels. As dancers, we set it up a little tighter, so we also hold our butts in with our tailbones down, but I don't think that's necessary for a regular person.