These VerticAlign blog posts contain information about different exercises and stretches that can assist with posture and alignment. These particular posts FEATURE Zeena Dhalla’s favorite blog entries. The exercises featured aim to help reduce back pain, neck pain, hip pain and knee pain. Each movement can be used to help build core strength, overcome an anterior pelvic tilt (arched back), posterior pelvic tilt (flat back) or kyphosis (hunchback) posture. Each exercise has a detailed description to help the reader understand exactly how to do it properly. Exact form is ideal for doing each of these movements. It’s important for the client to know exactly what to do, and how to do it. It’s also important to know what ORDER to do these movements in. Clients can use these descriptions to do workouts at home. Exercising at home is a powerful way to help overcome pain and feel better. Daily movement to improve posture will make you look slimmer, taller and leaner.
The alarm goes off and I groan. For me, it’s 5:30am and darkness is a reminder that it is FAR TOO EARLY. But alas my mother/wife/ business owner duty calls and it’s time to meditate, exercise and start the day.
I sit up and take inventory. How do I feel today? Is the back achy? Is my neck sore? Yes even posture specialists get stiff bodies from… well… life. It’s a large chance that anyone who has chosen this profession as a path, has done so as a result of experiencing some life changing pain that they solved through postural modification.
8 times out of 10, my body suffers from what I call “morning stiff back syndrome”. It takes an hour or so to get my body and back moving the way I would like. But what if we could do some exercises BEFORE we even get out of bed to combat this morning stiffness? In order to understand how these stretches can help, let’s think about what happens to your body while you sleep.
Your body is clearly very relaxed when you sleep, however the position you sleep in can have a great impact on how you feel when you wake. For example, when you sleep on your side your bottom shoulders will not only be scrunched up by your ear, but also that bottom shoulder is rounded forward and weight is placed on the joint. Remaining stationary in this position for hours on end can wreck havocs on your shoulder/chest alignment.
If you lying on your stomach, your situation is worse. This means you have your head turned to one side for hours at a time, which can place strain on the cervical spine. If you’re lying on your back you are better off than a side or stomach sleeper, but some back sleepers report soreness in the lumbar region (lower back) as a result of overarching their back in the face up position.
To combat these specific postural issues while sleeping, I would suggest the following 2 exercises to be done BEFORE YOU EVENT GET OUT OF BED. Pull off your sheets and be careful not to knock your bedside partner while doing the twisting stretch:
This is the feel good exercise of the century. Doing 10 of these simple pelvic tilting movements can help loosen up the stiffness you may be feeling when you wake. You can advance to a Pelvic Curl if you want more but exercise, but this exercise is a perfect way to wake up the glutes and calm down the lower back muscles.
Lie face up with the knees bent and the feet flat on the floor. Start with the pelvis relaxed into the “neutral” position. This means that there is a little space between the lower back and the floor. The pelvis is flat as if you can balance a coffee cup on it.
Engage the TVA muscle (stomach) and glutes and push the lower back into the floor. This means you are “tipping” the coffee cup towards your face. Be sure your TVA pushes down into the spine and does not “pouch” up. Be sure to exhale on this movement.
Release the position back to neutral.
Repeat for 10 to 15 repetitions making sure to hold the “tilt” position for at least 1 second.
Thoracic Spine Twist
This one is amazing and probably the BEST way to open up the shoulder you’ve been sleeping on. There is an important detail on this one… be sure not to let the KNEES come apart when twisting. It’s critical to the success of the stretch. And please, when you open your arm up to the side DO NOT hit your bed partner. That will get you kicked out of bed!
Lie on your side with the body in a fetal position. Keep the knees stacked on top of each other. This is super important!
Open up the top arm to the side and look at the top arms by rotating the head in the same direction. Be sure not to let those knees come apart!
Hold for 1 to 2 minutes.
This is an easy one to implement. 3 minutes and you’re DONE. BOOM! Comment below to let me know how these made you feel.
I had the extreme privilege of interviewing Esther Gokhale, a world renowned posture guru and founder of the Gokhale Method.
Esther is a mastermind at teaching people how to decrease daily pain, without taking time out of their busy schedules for countless hours of chiropractic appointments or massages. She teaches simple and effective techniques that can be integrated into your everyday life: how to sit, stand, bend, and sleep. Esther’s book, “The 8 Steps to a Pain Free Back” has sold over 150,000 copies and her posture workshops and classes can be taken worldwide.
I am a huge fan of her work and her philosophies , and I was excited that she chose to “geek out” with me and discuss all things posture.
Ever heard of the “Paleo Diet” that emphasize eating natural foods from prehistoric times? Similarly, Gokhale promotes a “primal” posture, where our spines are lengthened, the lumbar curve is emphasized heavily (she calls it an anteverted pelvis), and the glutes are strong and highly developed. Michaelangelo’s David is used as an example of what our spines should look like: straight at the top part of the spine, with a curve right above the buttocks.
Gokhale’s techniques have produced testimonials from clients who have gone from chronic daily pain, to a pain free life. It doesn’t take hours of exercise therapies, or loads of painkillers, but rather focused attention on how your body is positioned throughout your day. Her book does highlight a few exercises that can be done daily to build a stronger body and to maintain the new postural positioning.
Before speaking to Gokhale, I spent some time thinking about how the Gokhale method might integrate with a myriad of exercises classes available in in today’s fitness world. I was also curious what her thoughts would be on the explosion of mobile phone usage, and how this has contributed to the increase in back and neck pain. She addresses this, and much much more in our 30 minute talk.
This is a MUST WATCH video, especially if you have back or neck pain. It will change how you sit, how you work on your phone, and how you choose to exercise.
Here are some highlights of the interview that might interest you:
2:13 Esther describes the 2 most popular sitting positions and why they are detrimental to you body.
8:25: What is the proper way to hold your ce
ll phone and position your neck while working on your phone? She demonstrates this for us.
10:23: Esther does the Samba on camera!
12:45: What is the big issue with the popular Pilates “hundred” exercise? Listen and find out.
15:32: Esther tells us how she was a model in Mumbai, India and how it affected her back.
23:15: Are posture braces and posture shirts good for you? Should you invest in one?
25:48: Why parents should NOT be putting their children in an umbrella stroller.
The information in this video is invaluable… check it out, and comment on YOUR favorite part of the interview.
My favorite was the section on Pilates… I wanted to reach through the screen and hug her for her amazing insight!
If you prefer to READ the interview instead, visit HERE for the transcription.
Hope you enjoy watching this video as much as I enjoyed filming it.
Attention all parents! This post is geared towards moms who have recently had babies. Have you considered the impact of your pregnancy and baby on your posture?
I had the pleasure of sharing some tips on how to exercise with your new baby, work on your posture, and shed some baby weight, all the SAME time.
The site Work. Kids. Wine. (awesome name!) featured this article, and I’m sharing with you just in case any moms out there want to stand taller, and look leaner, in less time than it takes to drive to your Pilates class.
Check it out here. There are even pictures of me with a baby strapped to my chest demonstrating exercises. Here is a SNEAK PREVIEW!