By Lucy Wyndham-Read published
Long to be taller, slimmer and more confident? Improving your posture can give you all three...
What's the secret? It's all in the way you hold yourself, as fitness expert Lucy Wyndham-Read explains:
For me there is nothing more gracious and elegant than perfect posture; I reckon it can cause heads to turn just as fast as a great dress. I will always remember once being at a fitness convention full of young instructors leaping on and off the stage in neon leotards and all super toned, but then one lady walked on stage and made the whole conference go quiet... none of us had ever seen such a striking woman and it was all down to her posture! She was in her late 50's, must have easily been a beautiful curvaceous size 16 but she oozed confidence from every pore and every movement she took from walking onto the stage to being seated was like watching a ballet. From that day on I have always taught my clients about posture - it not only makes us look taller, slimmer and instantly more elegant and but also shouts out that we have more confidence than Madonna (who incidentally always has amazing posture). Try these easy tricks and feel yourself become instantly taller and slimmer!
Time to belt up
One of the most important muscles that is responsible for giving us perfect posture is called the transverse abominus, a large fibrous band that wraps around our middle and is often referred to as our "core". This acts like a corset and the stronger it is, the better posture you have (plus the flatter your abs are). A great way to strengthen this muscle is using a piece of string. All you do is stand tall and with good posture, then pull in your tummy muscles really tight. Now tie a piece of string around your waist, keeping those tummy pulled in; as soon as you relax your tummy muscles the string will feel tight so it prompts you to pull back in. This is a good drill to do every day and you only need spend a couple of minutes doing this, so it is great to do if you are chopping or cooking in the kitchen as you can be toning your abs at the same time.
Declutter your handbag
Every time you sling your handbag over your shoulder you could be sabotaging your posture; the heavier your bag is, the more weight you're applying to one side of your body which will have an effect on your posture. If you must carry a heavy load, then a backpack is the optimum choice, or decant into two bags and carry one either side of your body.
The importance of great posture
Make sure you stand up from your desk or seat every 20 minutes even if it is just to get a glass of water, stretch or walk around, this will help you limber up and prevent slouching. When we sit for long periods we apply more compression to our spine and our shoulders can become rounded. Try setting a reminder on your phone.
Be a tilt girl
One on the main reasons for poor posture or an in ability to hold good posture is down to having tight hip flexors - these are tiny ligaments situated on the front of your hips, and when we sit for long periods these can become shortened and pull on our pelvis which the effects posture. Doing pelvic tilts every day is a great way to prevent this. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, with your arms by your sides and palms facing down. Keep your spine in neutral , meaning in line with your hips and shoulders and not arched. Take a big breath in through your nose and then gently exhale through your mouth as you pull your navel towards your spine. Tilting your pelvis so your pubic bone lifts and you lower your back to the floor. Hold for a few seconds then return to the start, repeat 10 times.
Stretch to the stars
Re-engage your posture first thing in the morning to quickly readjust your muscles and pull everything back into place: Stand with your feet hip width distance apart and arms by your sides. Imagine you have a piece of string from the top of your head pulling you up to the ceiling, so you lift your entire body, making it as tall as possible but still keeping your feet firmly placed on the floor. Keep your tummy muscles pulled in tight and take a deep breath in; as you inhale, raise both your arms directly above your head and gently clasp your hands, then very slightly bend your upper body to the right, hold for a couple of seconds then return to the other side, whilst taking deep breaths in and out. Be sure to not lean forwards or backwards as you do this. Repeat these alternating side stretches 10 times every morning.
Training yourself to sit up straight
'Sitting up straight wakes up your brain stem, giving you an awakening feeling all over,' says nutritionist Charlotte Watts, author of the De-Stress Effect(Hay House) out on in March. The easiest way to practice holding the correct posture when sitting is to practices poses set out in the the Feldenkrais method. Developed in the 30's, its range of gentle techniques aim to help correct poor posture habits which can cause stress and tension. 'It doesn't matter what shape you're in or how old you are anyone can do it,' says Jeff Bell of Spectrum Wellness in New York. 'Each move is performed slowly without pulling or pushing, it's one of the safest forms of stretching' he explains.
How to practice the Feldenkrais method at home
For an easy intro, why not try and run through these easy steps each time you sit down at home. 1) Sit upright in a chair (without leaning on the backrest) and face straight ahead. 2) Slouch by slowly rounding your back, tilting your pelis towards your bottom. 3) Straighten, then slowly tilt your pelvis forward towards your legs, as if trying to improve your posture. 4) Tilt your pelvis back and repeat, slouching and straightening several times, noticing the difference in how your body feels.
How to maintain your new shape
If you think you'll struggle to retrain your alignment and maintain your new slimmer silhoutte, there are gadgets on the market that can help. We love the new Lumo Lift, you clip it onto your bra strap and vibrates to alert you if you start slouching, it costs £79.99 from amazon.co.uk and teams up with a free app that tracks your posture - search for Lumo Lift in iTunes store.
Exercise to make it easier
Along with correctly aligining your body, experts reckon Iyengar yoga can help lower blood pressure, ease back pain and reduce stress. This triangle pose stretches arms legs and sides, try it at home: 1) Spread your legs three to four feet apart, with your left foot pointed slightly inward and your right foot out at 90 degrees. Extend your arms out from your sides and look straight ahead. 2) Slowly bend your upper body from the tip to the right. Reach out with your right arm to create space in the right side of your torso. 3) Bend until your right hand touches your shin. Gently twist your torso to the left, turning your head to look up at your left hand. Hold for five deep breaths.
A strong core is the key
Pilates aims to strengthen core muscles for a longer, leaner and more toned body. and is ideal for those that want a longer shape or stronger back as it strengthen the mid-section muscles. Try this relatively gentle move to get you started at home. 1) Lie on your back with your knee drawn to to your chest. 2) Slowly roll your head neck and shoulders off the floor. 3) Extend legs off the floor at a 45 degree angle, while raising your arms overhead. 4) Slowly sweep arms out to the side, then bend knees and grasp your ankles. Repeat entire movement five times.
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