Changing Habits starting with Posture.
There is a physical crisis in today’s world and we need to change our habits! It’s hardly surprising more and more people are turning to Yoga to ease pain and stretch out. Modern day habits of sitting for long periods coupled with slouching over screens is literally rounding us down. This leads to our organs functioning sub optimally (how can we digest our food properly with squished down intestines, or pump blood around our body effectively with arteries half closed?!) nasty headaches and of course, spine, hip and knee problems. This is only good news for chiropractors, osteopaths and physiotherapists.
So many of us are oblivious to this happening to our bodies. Our minds have become so disconnected from our bodies, often even doing battle by pushing too hard- think back to back boot camps and marathons- or we ignore our bodies altogether. But first we need to aware of our postural habits in order to change them. Going to Hatha Yoga classes and being attentive to how we move and place our bodies is obviously an excellent idea. But a once or twice a week tune up isn’t quite enough. If we can cultivate more awareness of how we move and hold ourselves throughout the day, we can turn slouchiness into healthy, light posture without much effort.
1) You hang heavy bags on your shoulder, often the same one. Carry bags in your hands, a back back with a hip belt is a great idea. Ask yourself if you really need all that stuff right now? (Shopping for heavy groceries online and getting them delivered is an excellent habit!).
2) Hunch your shoulders up by your ears. Consciously hunch them 2 or 3 times then let them naturally drop gently peeling them slightly back.
3) Stand with more weight on one leg, often the same leg waiting in queues, when cooking etc? Stand evenly. Check your knees and toes are facing forward. Lift the top of your head to the ceiling and lengthen your spine.
4) You fold your arms the same way. Try folding your arms with the other arm in front now, awkward, right? Even better, try not folding your arms at all!
5) Sit crossed legged with the same leg in front. Sit with the other leg in front half the time. Try and sit crossed legged more often, it’s good for your hips and legs and on a chair is fine.
6) Hold the phone to the same ear. Even better, use the speaker phone, when appropriate.
7) Twist and bend forward from your waist to pick things up- often with the same leg forward. Never bend forward from the waist. Watch this when brushing your teeth, laying the table, picking up washing, shopping, shoes, toys etc. Bend from your hips and knees. Adding a twist in the waist is even more risky for the lower back. Try and stay symmetrical.
8) Always put the same leg in your trouser leg first/ first shoe on same foot/ arm in shirt on same side when getting dressed. Change sides half the time.
9) Do you scooter? Make sure you change the standing leg on the journey back.
10) Brush our teeth with the same hand. Tricky, but give it a few tries. It gets easier surprisingly quickly. Good for your brain elasticity too.
Pause for a moment from reading this and notice how you’re now sitting or standing right now. Are you leaning to one side- the habitual side? Are you rounding your lower back sitting on the back edge of your sitting bones? Jutting your chin forward? Now change this. Sit tall. Draw your shoulders and chin gently back. Gently tone your abdominal muscles. Gently adjust yourself. And then readjust each time when you notice old habits creeping back throughout the day. The trick is to notice and readjust. As those once sleeping muscles become stronger and your joints more open and supported, maintaining better posture becomes easier. It’s hard at first but all bad habits are hard to change at first. Once the bad habits are replaced by good ones, the good ones become natural and no longer require concious effort. This physical awareness and shaping new postural habits is then easily transitioned into new mental habits. Our mental state is all too easily ignored and we’ll be talking about this in the second half of this blog. Until then, I invite you to practice on being aware of how you hold yourself, adjusting and practicing better postural habits every day. Oh, and keep coming to Yoga class! In my next post we’ll have a look inside the mind and on how become aware of two particularly unhelpful mental habits- and simple strategies on how to change them.