Small Changes – Big Results
For all the exercise hype and fitness advertisement, very little information is available about developing and maintaining body’s proper alignment. When I go to the gym I cannot help but notice how many working with weights have rounded shoulders and a hunched posture. I go to a Zumba class and see women with pronated feet who complain about the foot, ankle, or knee pain. I see runners with flat back and rotated knees, tennis players with misaligned shoulders.
Am I against exercise? Absolutely not. It is the only thing that still holds us capable of moving.
I wish, however, that people were more educated about the importance of the proper alignment during the exercise. Upright posture does NOT mean sucked in belly and tucked under butt.
What it means is to have the bones, joints, spine, and muscles in proper alignment providing an optimal support for the whole body. Proper alignment allows us to move easily, to be strong, and live without injuries and pain.
What can each of us do to attain the naturally aligned body? Start with the following small changes:
- Educate yourself. There are a number of wonderful books written about the proper alignment with very detailed descriptions how to properly sit, stand, sleep, walk, and exercise.
Here is a list of only the few that are very helpful:
Pain Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain, by Pete Egoscue.
Posture Alignment, by Paul D’Arezzo.
8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back: Natural Posture Solutions for Pain in the Back, Neck, Shoulder, Hip, Knee, and Foot, by Esther Gokhale and Susan Adams.
Natural Posture for Pain-Free living: The practice of mindful Alignment, by Kathleen Porter.
2. Learn how to properly sit, stand, sleep, walk, and exercise. If you don’t have a posture alignment specialist to help you, the books above are the great manuals.
They all show how the modern sedentary lifestyle negatively affects our bodies. How it reduces the functional range of motion of our muscles and joints and negatively affects proper alignment.
The Pain Free and Posture Alignment books provide special exercises for those dealing with chronic musculoskeletal pain. These exercises are different from the physical therapy since they treat body as a unit, and not as combination of different parts. For example, if you have a chronic knee pain, these books explain how the incorrect pelvis position may be the cause of this pain.
The next two books, 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back and Natural Posture for Pain-Free Living, are based on the study of people who still have a natural proper alignment. They give very specific and detailed recommendation how to sit, stand, sleep, and walk properly. There are also some postural exercises available in both books.
3. Move. Gym is not enough. Incorporate silly things like jumping, bending, crawling, dancing, and playing into your daily routine. The variety of movement is more important than hours on a treadmill. Try to do your activities outside as much as you can. Fresh air is your ally.
If you make even a few changes recommended in these books, your ability to function will improve significantly. You will see big results in a very short time, guaranteed.
After reading this post, get out of the computer chair and do the following exercise from the Pete Egoscue method:
- Stand in a relaxed position, feet parallel and pointed straight ahead.
- Interlace your hands together and place them behind your head.
- Pull your elbows back, sliding your shoulder blades together. Watch for the proper alignment:
• Do not lean back which is often the tendency.
• Do not push out the chest. The bottom of the ribcage on your front should be flush with your torso. Otherwise, you may contract the low back muscles and go into a sway-back. Contract the upper abdominal muscles if you need to keep the ribcage anchored.
- In this position, walk forward for about 1-3 minutes.
If your shoulders get numb or you cannot walk in this position even a minute without pain, you are in dire need of posture improvement.
Be Upright. Be Happy. Live Pain Free.
Learn how you can restore proper alignment at my Upright Posture Fitness Studio in Hudson, MA