Despite the fact that my teenager wants me to massage his neck constantly, he doesn’t believe that poor posture has anything to do with his neck tension and pain. Sadly, he is sorely mistaken. He needs to stand up straight.
Having good posture has everything to do with how our body feels. If you slouch one time for a minute, it’s no big deal, your body will recover. But if you slouch, every day, for 30 years, you body will protest. Here’s why:
When you stand up straight, there is a plumb line from your head to your feet so gravity affects your muscles less. Slouching is different. Imagine a spring with a weight on the end: the longer the weight stays on the spring stretching it out, the harder it is for the spring to go back to its original shape when you remove the weight. When you slouch, your neck and upper back muscles stretch like the spring. They feel tight, but in reality they are over-stretched. Many people make the mistake of trying to stretch their neck to feel better, but what you really need is to contract them.
Same principle applies to sitting, both at a desk or while driving a car. When you work at a computer, your head moves like a magnet toward the screen. This causes the same neck and upper back strain as described above. Chances are, if your upper back is rounded forward, so is your lower back. Ideally you should sit upright on your sit bones so that your pelvis and spine are vertical , your head stacked over your hips. Slouching while sitting strains both the upper and lower back and is the cause of many people’s lower back and neck pain.
What you do with your body throughout the day and throughout your life matters. As we age, our body tolerates poor posture less and less, and we recover from it more slowly. Most adults over 50 have disc degeneration in their lumbar spine (lower back) and poor posture creates more lasting damage than if you were to sit up straight.
4 Helpful Hints for Your Posture
1. When you sit in a car, sit with your head against the headrest then adjust your rear-view mirror. While driving, if you don’t have the correct view in your mirror, that is a reminder to sit up again.
2. Set an alarm on your phone to go off periodically throughout the day. When you hear the alarm, that’s your reminder to sit up straight.
3. Every 45-60 minutes, shrug and squeeze your shoulder blades together to contract your neck and upper back muscles. This relieves the neck and upper back discomfort and allows the muscles to shorten again.
4. Get up and walk around periodically through the day, keeping the spine vertical. If your lower back is bothering you, do some cat/cow stretching. Make sure to activate the abdominals in Cat pose and the erector spinae muscles along the spine in Cow pose. Click the link to the video below for more yoga moves for the lower back.
If you are interested in starting a yoga practice to support your aging body and feel good every day, click here to see my full schedule of Online and On Demand classes. If you are new to yoga, I have live beginner classes every Wednesday morning, or you can take one of dozens of my beginner yoga classes On Demand.
Click here to stay up to date with all the goings on at Purple Room Yoga! Classes, retreats, online courses, and more!
Coming in May, 2023: Strength and Mobility for Your Active Life: Core and Lower Back! This 4 week online course gives you the knowledge you need to ease your lower back pain and strengthen your core. This step-by-step guide helps you build strength and mobility over time, while understanding why your back hurts to begin with. Click here to learn more!