3 Moves For Better Posture
Has prolonged sitting and habitual slouching resulted in imbalance, stress on your body, and pain? Strengthen your postural muscles with these simple Pilates exercises
Whether it’s the result of slouching or lounging on the couch, looking down at your smart phone for extended durations, or sitting at the desk all day, poor posture is a problem that many of us can relate to. Over time, it may lead to posture-related problems such as headaches, back and neck pain, poor spinal health, and even heartburn or incontinence.
One of the best ways to improve your posture is by focusing on exercises that strengthen your core – and that’s why Pilates is great for alleviating postural issues. There are numerous health benefits to doing Pilates regularly. “Pilates is most famous for improving posture and eliminating back pains,” says Pilates instructor, Zoya Holland, who teaches at The Yoga School. “As we work on the strengthening of the muscles around the torso, shoulders, and backs of the legs, our spine becomes better supported,” she continues.
“Pilates improves posture as it focuses on better alignment for all the joints and body parts – you could never walk out of a class slouching!” Zoya says with a laugh. “We spend a lot of time on spatial awareness and body part positioning, which participants always remember even after they leave the class.”
Zoya, who’s also a specialist in Mat Based, Orthopaedic, and Pre and Post-natal Pilates, goes on to explain, “All of these factors contribute to better body awareness, stronger, longer and leaner muscles, and more stable joints, which are all contributors to reducing back pain and eventually getting rid of it for good. In time, muscle memory and repetition work do the trick. We become naturally stronger, better aligned, and more aware of our posture and body movements.”
Keen to give it a go? Here’re Zoya’s recommendations to help you reap the core-strengthening benefits of Pilates:
Exercise 1: Swimming
Benefits: Improved posture, shoulder and hip stability, and strength.
Execution: Come to all fours in neutral spine, keeping your hands under your shoulders, and your knees under your hips. Take a deep breath in, and on exhale, lengthen and lift your opposite arm and leg until they are levelled with the shoulder and hip. Breathe in, and on exhale, return to the original position. Repeat on the other side.
Tip: Focus on moving simultaneously and breathing, while keeping the hips and shoulders stable.
Exercise 2: The Dart
Benefits: Reduced back pain, stronger glutes and lower back, and improved spinal and shoulder flexibility.
Execution: Come to a prone position with your arms down the sides of your body. Keep your palms facing up, relax your whole body, and keep the belly button drawn towards the spine. Breathe in, and on exhale, squeeze your glutes and draw the shoulder blades towards the spine. Lengthen and lift your head, chest, arms, and legs, while rotating the palms towards your hips. Breathe in, and on exhale, lower your body and relax.
Tip: Keep your neck long, with your eyes focused downwards. Keep drawing your belly button towards your spine (this will protect the lower back) as you focus on shoulder rotation (you may choose to use a strap or a band behind your back). When you’re ready to touch down, relax the whole body.
Exercise 3: Shoulder Bridge
Benefits: Strengthens and mobilises the spine, along with the whole back of the body. Reduces back pain, improves knee and ankle stability, calms down nervous system, and improves quality of sleep.
Execution: From supine neutral (on your back with knees bent, feet hip-width apart and kept close to your body), take a breath in as you press your lower back into the floor. On exhale, start peeling the spine bit by bit towards the top of the shoulders. Now breathe in again as you peel down, articulating vertebrae by vertebrae. Once you are comfortable with this exercise, you may choose to hold the pose by keeping your hips high, or even lifting one leg while clasping your hands behind you.
Tips: If you have pain in your lower back, practice pressing the bottom of your spine into the floor before coming up. Focus on articulation and breathing. And when you’re holding the pose, focus on keeping your hips from dropping. Always make sure that your feet are hip-width apart and planted firmly down on the ground.