By Megha Bajaj November 2007 A good posture indicates not just a well-balanced body but also a sound mind and stable emotional state. Learn how to improve your posture and stand tall Get Posture Perfect• Be a penguin. While you wait for a webpage to load, toast to pop, or the microwave to beep, place your elbows at your side, and touch your shoulders with your hands. Keeping your hands on your shoulders, and your ears aligned, raise both elbows (count one, two) and lower them back to your waist (count one, two). Do as many reps as your wait allows. You’ll be surprised how much exercise fits into 30 seconds. • If you do computer-intensive work, ensure that every half an hour you get up, walk around, and stretch: this minute break will save hours of severe pain. Also ensure that the back is aligned against the back of the office chair. Avoid slouching or leaning forward, especially when tired from sitting in the office chair for long periods. • Sleeping on the side or back is usually better for your posture than sleeping on the stomach. Consider putting a rolled-up towel under the neck and a pillow under the knees to better support the spine.• While standing, be sure the head is square on top of the neck and spine, not pushed out forward. Also distribute the weight evenly on both feet and let there be shoulder-width distance between both feet.• When carrying a backpack or purse, keep it as light as possible, and balance the weight on both sides as much as possible, or alternate from side to side. Also when you lift heavy weights from the floor, ensure you bend from your knees to pick it up rather than your waist. Don’t we all have a head of the house? Someone who supports the entire family, ensures life goes smoothly and offers strength to the members who cannot help themselves? Well, our spinal cord is the head of our body, and it offers the body tremendous support and ensures that the body functions against gravity for the entire lifetime. The spine is in an S shape. Correct posture is when your shoulders are in line with the hip, the neck is rested comfortably on the shoulder and not jutting forward. However, in our endeavour to gain a correct posture some people straighten so much that not only do their shoulders go beyond the hip but they develop stiffness. Others hold their shoulders in a leaning position, very much away from the hips, and this gives rise to tremendous pain. Holding the spine in a correct posture is very important; however this cannot be done consciously, it is to be done subconsciously. This can be achieved by strengthening the postural muscle surrounding the spine. But first become aware of just how important a good posture is, and how it affects almost every part of our body. The benefits of good posture make it a desirable factor to focus on. Consider the following advantages: • Optimal organ and muscle function for maximum energy, endurance, and vigour.• Optimal biomechanics for the best possible muscle performance.• A neck, shoulders, and upper back that are not more painful or fatigued than the rest of the body at the end of the day or at the end of a long drive.• Greater concentration and mental ability (as a result of this reduced pain and fatigue).• Fewer upper and lower back problems.• A flatter and stronger stomach – in fact, without proper posture you can never achieve the flattest stomach and smallest waist possible.• A more respect-producing, confident, competent, vigorous, youthful appearance. With so many benefits it would be a pity not to improve your posture immediately. Try any of the following therapies: Physiotherapy to the rescueNehal Vora is a renowned Mumbai-based physiotherapist. She says to correct posture one needs to understand at what point the posture is going wrong. This can be done by a device called Plumbline which is a rope attached with a top-like weight below. When this is held against the patient’s ears or spinal cord, it pinpoints the exact position of the deviation. Once the diagnosis is made, the treatment is relatively simple. Nehal identifies whether the postural fault is at the neck level, thorax level, or lower back level, and strengthens the respective muscles consequently. Two important equipment that most physiotherapists use to improve posture are, one, Swiss ball and two, thera band. Swiss ball is a huge ball which is unstable to sit on. When one is made to sit over it and do exercises, the body’s core balancing muscles involuntarily start working to prevent one from falling off the ball. This strengthens the required muscles. Thera band is a long band made of rubber, available in different colours varying in intensity. For instance, green thera is relatively easier than black thera. When one holds this band in one’s hands and does certain workouts, the core muscles get strengthened. One of the most important points that physiotherapists want to draw home is that when we voluntarily try to correct our posture and hold it, we often fatigue them out. Correct posture should be an involuntary, subconscious act. In achieving this, visualisation plays a key role. For example, patients who slouch are made to imagine that there is a string attached to the crown of their head, and it is holding them straight. This simple exercise works wonders and I stand testimony to it. My entire left side was weaker than the right, leading to an imbalanced posture. When I did this string technique, I gradually straightened out, and today it’s become a subconscious act. I don’t even need to remind myself. Exercising helpsParikshit Somani, health and fitness instructor, says, “Exercise helps prevent injury and promote good posture.” However, he adds, these need to be done correctly and at least initially under professional guidance. The benefits of exercise promote good posture, which will, in turn, further help to condition muscles and prevent injury. There are also specific exercises that will help maintain good posture, which should be learnt from a fitness trainer. In particular, a balance of trunk strength with back muscles about 30 per cent stronger than abdominal muscles is essential to help support the upper body and maintain good posture. The Pilates wonder Marazban Doctor, a fitness professional certified by the Pilates Institute of UK. in fundamental matwork believes he has found a panacea for most posture-related problems through this wonder workout. Pilates works on a very interesting understanding. We all have within us something called proprioception, which is the unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself. Pilates primarily increases one’s proprioception. That is, awareness of one’s body and how its muscles work, and being aware of whether the body parts are working in the right way. For instance, if you work on the computer and your head juts forward leading to chronic neck pain, Pilates will help you to subconsciously train your mind to keep your head relaxed. Pilates helps an individual to de-stress and at the same time it builds strength and helps to improve posture, and Marazban has several case studies of professionals who have benefitted immensely from this. Yoga offers reliefRavi Dixit, senior teacher at Kaivalyadham has helped thousands of people ‘straighten up’ and enjoy the benefits of a good posture. He says, “From yogic point of view posture is very important and can be corrected by practising yoga sincerely daily.” Ideally, one has to meet a teacher or doctor for a balanced programme but a few asanas that could really help are: Brahmamudra: Sit erect. Turn your head to extreme right. Bring back to centre. Turn to extreme left. Bring back to centre. Turn up. Bring back to centre. And turn down. In each position hold for 10 seconds and repeat eight times. This asana will do a world of good to your neck and shoulders. Bhujangasana: Lie down on the stomach. Place palms under your shoulders near the chest. Put your chin on floor and slowly raise head and chest. Hold for ten seconds and come back. Repeat eight times. This asana is excellent for upper spine. Ardha shalabhasana: Lie down on your stomach with your arms by your side, palms facing upwards. Both your legs should be together with your toes pointing outwards. Now lift right leg. Hold for ten seconds. Put down. And repeat with left. Do eight repetitions with each leg. This asana will do wonders for your lower spine. Tadasana: Stand erect with feet together and hands by the side of the body. Slowly start raising your hands over your head, palms facing each other. Simultaneously raise your heels and stand on your toes. Hold this position for ten seconds and repeat eight times. This asana will improve your overall body posture and alignment. In addition, pranayama and meditation can also help improve posture by way of pure air and more oxygen. It helps in relaxing tense muscles too, besides providing proper nutrition to all tissues. Anulom-vilom is very good pranayama for this purpose and 15 minutes daily can give you huge postural benefits. Try t’ai chiT’ai chi ch’uan is a slow-moving choreography that asks its practitioners to sense each minute shift of weight while paying attention to the principles. The first principle “Lift the head” suggests we delicately lift the head as if we were supporting a light object on top of it. There is a specific spot on the crown of the head that should extend towards heaven. This idea keeps the practitioner lengthening the spine and consciously improving posture. There are two ways to enhance the benefits of t’ai chi as a postural exercise, though it must be practised under guidance. The first is doing the t’ai chi form practice lower and slower. Slow and low transitions ar
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