No matter what you do for work, your posture feels the affects of extensive sitting, standing, exertion, and stress. Let us give you a few tips on how to find some relief and balance.
We asked a group of people how often they think of their posture throughout the day and the responses are intriguing. Some of the answers were:
"Yes, when I've been sitting all day at work."
"I think about it because I always slouch and then I try to correct it. I try to remember my yoga classes throughout the day but..."
"I remember more when I'm driving."
"I must think about it because I get the posture device ads on my social media."
"Yes, it's been one of my personal goals I've been working towards. Hopefully one day I'll have good posture without thinking of it."
Because the position of the spine is directly correlated to posture, it's important to strengthen the muscles that support the spine to maximize stability. The Glutes, Pelvic Floor, & Transverse Abdominals (underneath our surface abs) are some of the muscles that stabilize and support the lower half of your body. The Diaphragm, Scapulae, and Multifidus (Spinal muscle), Pec minor, and Latissimus Dorsi stabilize and support the upper half of you body.
For jobs that require a lot of sitting, standing, excursion, and stress can produce stiffness in the hips, back, shoulders, and neck, and feet. These few stretches and movements can help combat stiffness and stress.
SEATED NEUTRAL SPINE
(option to remove shoes)
Sit on your chair and find a neutral spine by placing your hands on the top of your thighs and gently rock forward and back. Notice your glutes traveling from flesh to bone to flesh. Stop the next time you feel the bones. These are your "sit bones." Work to stack your shoulders on top of your sit bones. Next, align the ears on top of the sit bones. You can release the hands to your side, place them in the lap, or keep them on your thighs. Take a few breaths, allowing the air to travel freely across the entire body, but maintaining your neutral spine.
SEATED FIGURE 4
(option to remove shoes)
Find your neutral spine on your chair. While seated, lift one ankle to the opposite thigh, just above the knee. Place one hand on the ankle and the other hand gently tracks against the bent knee in a forward motion. Other movements to explore are gently rocking side to side, or elevate your bottom leg towards the chest - propping them on a stack of books, or by interlacing your fingers around the bottom thigh and lifting the legs up. Try to maintain your neutral spine throughout moving.
SEATED SMALL BALL FOOT MASSAGE
A fan favorite! Remove your shoes and find your neutral spine. Take a few slow and deep breaths before you begin. Place a small or bouncy ball under one foot and ground through the earth with the other. Using circular, side to side, and/or back and forth motions, slowly massage the ball into the bottom of the foot. Start at the heel, then proceed to the outside of the foot (corner of the heel to the pinky toe), arch, ball, and lastly toes - each individually! Remove the ball and circle the ankle. Option to counter stretch by placing the top of the foot on the ground to the side and gently apply pressure. This often produces intense "sensations." If you can breath through it and maintain your neutral spine, keep going. If now, come out of it or lessen the pressure. Repeat on the other foot.
SEATED CAT/COW & TWISTS
(option to remove shoes, can also be done standing next to a counter)
Cat/Cow: Position yourself on the side of a chair with a full backrest, one hip next to the chair (or countertop). Find neutral spine. Take a few slow breaths before you begin. Bring the hands to the tops of the knees (side body if your standing). On your next inhale, activate your core and tilt the tailbone back, arch the spine, roll the shoulder blades towards each other, and bring your gaze upwards. Maintain stability by activating the core muscles and avoid flaring the ribcage. Press the feet into the ground and energetically pull the hands into the knees. On the exhale, activate the core to tilt the tailbone forward, rounding the spine, separating the shoulder blades away from each other, gaze drops. Feet are still pressing into the floor and the hands are energetically pushing the knees. Repeat the motions with your inhales and exhales. Follow up with a few barrel rolls of the spine to reset.
Twists: Stay seated or standing with the back of your chair or countertop against one hip. Find neutral spine and take a few deep breaths. On your next inhale, reach the hands forward and separate your shoulders apart from each other. As you exhale, twist gently towards the back of the chair or countertop. The twist comes from the mid spine (thoracic) and NOT the shoulders. Keep everyone in line with each other. Use your following exhales to deepen the twist. Option to hold onto the back of the chair or the countertop. Slowly come back to the center and repeat on the other side.
COUNTERTOP SHOULDER RELEASE
Stand in front of a countertop or something about hip height or higher. Position your body away from the edge enough that your fingertips just graze the edge of the countertop. Find your neutral spine and take a few deep breaths before you begin. Fold forward by hinging in the hips and knees, keeping your spine neutral, until your elbows come to the top of the counter. Bend in the elbows 90º and interlace your fingers. Place your head on the surface or shimmy your body back so your elbows are supported at the edge, allowing your head to lower further. Avoid flaring the ribcage. Drive your hips back and activate your glutes to support your posture. Energetically separate your shoulder blades away from each other, expanding the sides of your ribcage. Breathe through the sides of the body and enjoy the stretch in the shoulders, chest, and lats.
SEATED NECK STRETCH
(option to remove your shoes)
Sit on a chair and find your neutral spine. Take a few relaxing breaths before you begin. Shift your weight to one side and place your hand underneath your sit bones, palms facing up. Return to your center. Slowly begin to drop the opposite ear to the shoulder, breathing through the movement. The opposite hand's fingers can massage the side of the neck, starting from just below the ear to the top of the shoulder. If the stretch is too intense, remove the hand under the sit bones and energetically drive the fingertips towards the floor, pulling the shoulder down. Option to use your opposite hand's fingers to locate the collar bone. Take your first and middle fingers together and gently massage the muscles below and above the collar bone. Release and repeat the other side.
SUPPORTED BRIDGE PSOAS RELEASE
(option to remove your shoes)
Before beginning, grab a thick book, a sofa cushion or something you can place in between your body and the floor. Laying on the floor, with the surrounding area cleared safety, bend the knees and plant the soles of the feet on the ground - ankles slightly further away than your knees. Find neutral spine and take a few relaxing breaths before you begin. Inhale to prep the body for movement, press the feet into the earth and engage the glutes. Exhale, lift the hips up and slide your "prop" under your sacrum (the base of your spine). A part of your glutes will be off your prop. Actively lengthen the spine and draw the tailbone towards the ankles. Place the weight onto one foot and gently slide the other foot away from the torso. Only slide out as much as you can while keeping the heel on the ground. Alternate one leg out at a time and avoid flaring the ribcage. Option to extend both legs out. Use your fingers to massage the hip flexors and breathe gently.
STANDING HIP CARs
(option to remove your shoes)
CARs stands for Controlled Articular Rotations, and are very slow and concentrated movement of the joints. A hip CAR involves rotating the femur inside the hip joint in all directions and is really nice for those who often feel tightness in this area. Find a place where you can stand, move, and support yourself with your opposite hand (table, wall, etc). Find a neutral spine and take a few relaxing breaths before beginning. Shift the weight onto one leg and lift the opposite knee toward the chest. Support your knee with you hand and your body with you other hand. Use the hand to drive the knee closer to chest, flexing in the hip. Slowly swing the ankle back and forth like a pendulum - tick, tock, tick, tock... keeping the knee stable. This externally and internally rotates the hips.
Next, open the hip to the side with your hand still supporting the knee. Energetically drive the leg into the hip socket and move the knee in large circular motions, clockwise and counterclockwise. Option to grab the ankle with your hand behind the glute and work into a quad stretch, driving the knee towards the floor and activating the glutes to neutralize the spine. Repeat the other side.
If you have a desk job, consider these following tips:
place a pillow between your back and the chair to support your lumbar spine and avoid rounding the back.
avoid crossing your legs and place both feet on the earth with equal distribution of weight in each foot.
set an fixed time reminder to get up and move. Adjust where necessary.
elevate your electronic screens to eye level to avoid forward head and neck strain.
position the keyboard away from the body to where the elbows are slightly in front of your ribs and you can rest your forearms on the desk comfortably.
if you work from home, think about investing in a standing desk and a walking pad.
If you are driving a lot, consider these following tips:
position the seat to accommodate a neutral spine instead of adjusting your body to your steering wheel.
avoid shifting your weight to the right. With the accelerator on the right foot, shift your weight to the left glute to balance yourself out.
point the knees forward instead of out to the side.
adjust your head rest to the back of the head to prevent forward neck.
If you're on your feet for extended periods of time, consider these following tips:
invest in foot insoles to support the natural arch of your feet.
set a fixed reminder to remove your shoes and stretch your feet and toes.
drink plenty of water and stay hydrated.
form a stretching squad and take regular stretching breaks together.
lay on your belly and bend your knees. Rest your head on your hands. Slowly windshield wipe your feet side to side.
To combat stress...
Close your eyes and do a quick full body assessment. Start at the toes and work your way to your head, right side first. Breathe and observe. No judgements. Simply observe.
Breathwork is one of the most effective ways to balance the nervous system. Sit down and take 3 LARGE breaths, holding at the top of the inhale and holding at the bottom of the exhale.
See if you can focus 10-15 minutes on your breath as you work. A dedicated count breath (same count in and out) can help calm your mind and let the fresh air circulate throughout the whole body, allowing you to multitask effectively.