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Perfect Posture and your Health
People with good posture are less likely to suffer from arthritis, inflammation of, and pain in and around, the joints than those with a stiff and inflexible posture
Good posture is key to well-being. People with well-aligned postures have excellent gait, balance, rhythm and reflexes; they look good because they walk tall, are graceful, agile, and can breeze through any obstacles in the course of daily living. Hopping in and out of cars, buses and jostling crowds, negotiating stairs or potholed paths is easy for those with good posture because the symmetrical biomechanics of good posture make it easier to apply reflexes at split-second notice. Even better, people with good posture can exercise with consistency, and are less likely to sustain injuries. And if they do get injured, they recover faster. They are also less likely to suffer from arthritis, inflammation of, and pain in and around, the joints than those with a stiff and inflexible posture, where simple activities like bending and reaching become challenging.
Get it right: Bad posture can affect the health of joints and vertebrae
Bad posture breaks the fluidity and flow of movement, making it jerky. Such movement affects the health of the joints and vertebrae, and drains them of lubricating synovial fluid, setting off degenerative processes that cause joint stiffness and inflammation. This, in turn, affects tendons and ligaments around the joint, causing muscle ache and fatigue.
So a healthy posture is important for everybody, irrespective of age, sex, skill or occupation. Skilled labourers, ultra-busy executives, schoolchildren, all need as correct a posture as haute couture models or competitive athletes do.
Stand tall—the correct postural alignment
• Check how you look in the mirror—is your head positioned directly over the body, with your chin parallel to the floor so that the head is not strained forward or tilting to either side, or flexed towards the chest?
• Are your shoulders level and in line with your ears?
• Place both hands on your hips at the top of the pelvic girdle, check if both hands are at the same level and the pelvis is not tilting to one side.
• Is your back in a soft “S” shape when viewed from the side (laterally). Check that the two lordotic (forward) curves in your neck and lower back are curved just a little bit; and not too much, as is the case if the chin juts out or the hip tilts backwards. Check to see that the mid-back is not rounded or humped.
• Are your toes marginally pointed outwards and not turned inwards or too far out?
Exercises for your posture
These basic Pilates movements can be done on a daily basis, and without a trainer, equipment or any other preparation at home. For all these exercises, elongate the spine, keep the shoulders level, pelvis stable, gently suck in your navel into the low back to activate your core, and keep the low back in neutral position, without rounding or arching. Start slow and then increase the intensity.
The Hundred: This helps to strengthen the muscles of the lower back (lumbar spine). Lie down on a mat with your legs bent at the knees and feet on the floor. Raise the right leg up till the shin is parallel to the floor and the knee is just above the hip. Do the same with the left leg. If your lower back hurts when you raise both legs at the same time, press the lower back on to the mat and lift the left leg. When both your knees are raised, get your back to neutral by maintaining a space between your lower back and the mat, then hold this position for up to 100 counts. Start by holding this position for 20 counts and progress gradually to 100.
Shoulder Bridge: Shoulder Bridge increases the flexibility of the lower back. Lie in the same position as for The Hundred. Place the heels closer to your hips. Tilt the pelvis by pressing the low back into the mat. Then raise your hips gradually till they are in line with your knees and shoulders in a ski slope position. Slowly, making sure the back lifts off the mat one vertebra at a time and your hands are on the floor on either side. Come down towards the mat one vertebra at a time, in a slow, controlled movement. Repeat the sequence 8-10 times.
Spine Twist: Spine Twist helps to increase the mobility of the mid-back. Sit cross-legged, or with your back resting against a wall if you cannot maintain a neutral posture. Join your fingertips in a namaste ( joining both palms together ) position, place your thumbs on the breastbone or sternum, gently twist the ribcage from side to side. Make sure you don’t move your head—you can do this by ensuring that the nose remains over the breastbone at all times and your gaze is fixed on your fingers.
Swimming: This is good for elongating the entire spine. Lie on your stomach. Contract your abdominals, stretch and raise hands and legs alternately, keeping your shoulders and hips stable. Do 10-15 repetitions.
Dr Darius H Umrigar MD(AM)