You’re really dedicated to looking after your health which is even more of an achievement when the weather is grim. You make sure you do enough exercise, eat right and get out and get some fresh air. How you look and feel is a priority in your life and you’ve worked hard to make sure you’re looking good and are in tip top condition.
But in all this hard work and effort, there’s a missing element that often gets overlooked. It’s your posture.
I’m not talking about the “stand up straight, stiffen your body, throw back your shoulders” variety. I’m talking about standing and moving lightly, elegantly. I’m thinking graceful dancer here rather than parade-ground soldier.
Great posture isn’t just about maintaining a stiff pose. It’s about moving and using our bodies well, with a sense of ease, one movement flowing into the next. It’s about using exactly the right amount of muscular effort to live our lives.
Improving your posture can help you look great. It will help you look as if you’ve been on an instant diet, look slimmer and younger. It can change how you feel as well. Let’s face it we probably all have days when we could do with feeling a little more confident, healthier and more cheerful.
Standing up tall to your full height instantly makes you look a couple pounds slimmer and that’s with no extra fitness regime, self-deprivation diet or fancy corsetry required. When we slump down, our middles expand.
When you start to think about gently lengthening your body, without strain, when you remember all that wonderful space above your head that you can grow into, you’re instantly slimmer.
it's pretty telling isn’t it that the typical image of an elderly person is of someone stooped and hunched. But my 89 year old Alexander Technique teacher was sprightly and light on her feet. She stood tall and she bounced up and down stairs in a way that put me, a woman in her thirties at the time, to shame.
Bad posture is not inevitable as we get older and for many, it’s the result of a lifetime of using our body poorly rather than a rite of old age.
Feel more self-confident
We all make judgements about people within seconds of meeting them. Confident people don’t tend to enter a room shuffling and looking at their feet.
They glide, stand tall, lift up their heads and look the world in the eye. Their body language oozes self-acceptance. I mean, can you imagine Superman (or Superwoman) slouching around? So use your body to look confident and self-assured.
Lift your mood
I seem to be telling everyone I meet about Amy Cuddy’s wonderful TED talk at the moment. This powerful talk outlines her research on how adopting powerful posture can make you feel more confident (even when you don’t necessarily feel like it).
This stance reduces levels of cortisol (the anxiety-inducing hormone) and increase levels of testosterone (making us feel more confident). So how we use our body can affect how we feel. We can literally use our bodies to help us change our mood.
Improve your health
As if all these weren’t reasons enough to do something about our posture, it’s also healthier too. If you’re slumped, you can’t breathe as deeply.
Our bodies and minds need oxygen to function. Sit up straight and notice how much easier it is to breathe if your lungs have got room to expand.
When we stand up properly, our internal organs aren’t getting squashed and so digestion and all those other bodily processes can work better.
Our bones and joints are in the alignment that thousands of years of evolution have determined the healthiest for us. Then we can use our muscles properly, we’re less likely to suffer aches and pains, back problems and neck issues.
Improving your posture is not going to cost you any money, you’re not going to be asked to do any exercises and it’s not going to take up much time in your busy schedule.
So stand taller, think about your posture and you’re looking after that final piece of the jigsaw in your health and fitness regime.