An interesting trend I’ve noticed as a yoga instructor is that I get asked the same question in waves. Lately I’ve been asked a lot about how to improve posture. I imagine this has to do with the fact that everyone is working from home right now and the set-ups that they have might not be the best or most optimal for their posture and comfort. SO here are a few exercises you can do throughout your workday while sitting on that Zoom meeting that will help you build better posture for yourself.
Most of the time we hear about cat/cow we hear about the position of our spine. While this is important, in order to have this pose affect posture I actually want you to focus more on your pelvis position. I wrote an entire blog post about how posture is really affected by the position of your pelvis and not the hunch of your upper back (if you haven’t read it yet, head over here to check it out).
So when you’re doing your cat/cow, don’t think of moving your spine. Think of moving your pelvis/hips, and letting your spine FOLLOW the action of your pelvis. In other words, initiate your movements from your pelvis and let your spine be moved because of your pelvis is the thing moving first. It will feel more like your spine is moving in a wave. It probably won’t look much different, but when you shift the focus of cat cow to your pelvis it will most likely feel different. Here’s a visual if you want one:
Land yourself somewhere where you can feel the natural backbending curve of your low back. Again let your spine follow and you’ll feel like you’re sitting with better posture and able to sit more upright and over your hips.
Shoulder Blade Pinches
A lot of our ability to sit up straight without that achy feeling in our back has to do with the strength of the muscles of your back. While I would suggest lifting weights to really strengthen this area, there are a few bodyweight, seated exercises you can do to kind of wake that area of your body up more. These shoulder blade pinches are a great exercise to do throughout your workday so you can bring more attention to the muscles of your back.
Keep your arms in a 90 degree angle. Keep your elbows in towards your ribcage and your palms facing straight up like you’re about to serve something to someone. From here you’ll start to move your hands and forearms away from the center of your body, but I want you to do this very intentionally. Here’s how:
Move your shoulder blades together like you could hold a pencil in between them. This will start to rotate your arms outward. As you move your arms back in towards the center of your body, think of letting that pencil between your shoulder blades go, so that you feel your shoulder blades spread away from each other.
So it’s actually the shoulder blade starting the movement, not your arms. Just like the seated cat/cows, we’re trying to affect the movement of the arms by initiating it from the shoulder blades. It looks like this:
Seated Spine Circles
This is something that seems like it’s going to feel very easy but once you start to do it you’ll feel your core – both the front around your stomach and your back muscles – start to engage. Cross your arms over your chest and think of rotating your ribcage around your spine, making a circle. You’ll pass through a rounded spine like a crunch, and a backbend. Try to engage your core here (think of bracing as if you were about to take a punch in the gut) and move slow enough that you’re controlling the movement and feel your muscles working to bring you through these circles.
Just like in a car, the faster you go the less control you have. You can do this super fast and you’ll feel nothing – that’s not the point. Move slow and you will feel muscles beginning to engage. It looks like this:
And then think of those muscles holding you up as you sit at your desk. I’m not suggesting you brace your core while you’re seated, but a gentle, almost non-existent, activation of your back and stomach muscles helps to hold your spine upright. This exercise will basically teach you the extreme so you can find more of a middle ground for yourself.
Give these exercises a try throughout your workday – feel free to do them as frequently as you want as long as there’s no pain. And then let me know in the comments or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know how it affected your posture by the end of the day.
Till next time,