When I started my writing career, I found myself sitting at my desk on my laptop for hours every day. Having been a dancer for most of my life, I wasn’t used to being sedentary for such long periods. After a couple months, my neck and my lower back were hurting so badly I could barely sleep. I was the least active I had been in years and thought that the lack of strenuous dance training would make my body happy. Boy was I wrong!
After going to my chiropractor, I realized that my new aches and pains were from the long periods of sitting and typing. When we are looking at a screen, we tend to project our chins forward and round our shoulders.
Habitually doing this creates tightness in the front of the body and weakness in the back, leaving one with terrible posture. Bad posture creates a domino effect of ailments down the entire spine and body.
I had to do something about this if I wanted to continue writing. Here is a back strengthening and chest opening routine I did to correct my posture:
5 Exercises for Excellent Posture
1. Single Straight Leg Lifts
Lying on your stomach, prop yourself up onto your elbows. Make sure you remain strong in your upper body, pulling your navel to your spine and keeping your lats down. Imagine you are a sphinx made out of stone, staying very still from the hips up. Reach your legs long, sending the energy out through your toes. Lift one leg at a time squeezing your glutes and making sure your hips stay square. Lift and hold each leg up for three seconds ten times each. For people with scoliosis, this is a great one for you! Lift the leg of the side that has the greater spinal curve for more reps. This strengthens the part of the back that is overstretched and can help pull the spine back into alignment.
This strengthens all the muscles along your backside. Lying on your stomach with your arms and legs long, lift your upper body off the ground as high as possible without crunching the lower back. As always, you must keep your abs pulled in to protect that vulnerable low back area. Your arms shouldn’t raise higher than your ears and your shoulders should be pulled down using your lats.
Trying your best to keep the feet anchored down, slowly swim your arms to the side to make a T shape and then return them forward before you lower your upper body down. Repeat as many as ten times. This is also a great one for scoliosis as one arm can remain down as you work the side that needs more strengthening.
3. Arm circles with Knees to Chest
This is a major strengthening exercise for the erector spinae, the muscles that run along either side of your spine. Sit upright with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Hug your knees in as tight as possible while sticking your chest out, not allowing your back to round. Having your back straight with your feet as close to your butt as possible is the challenge in this exercise.
Reach your arms out in front of you, trying your best not to change the shape of your back or separate the knees. Circle your arms 5 times in each direction and then bring your arms out to a “T” and do another set of circles.
4. Shoulder Stretch
Stretching the front of the chest and shoulders along with strengthening our back is mandatory for better posture. Lying face down, bring your arms out to a “T” shape. Place one hand on the floor next to your chest and push your body off to the side as you bend the top leg for support.
This stretch exposes the front of the shoulder muscle, lengthening it to correct the rounded shoulders. You can play around with the placement of your straight arm to reach different areas, but make sure not to bring your arm higher than the height of your shoulder to prevent injury.
5. Chest Opening Arm Circles
A great chest and shoulder opener when done lying down with an elevated chest. You can use a rolled up towel or an exercise ball in between your shoulder blades. Just make sure the back of your neck isn’t too crunched. Slowly raise your arms over your head trying to get the back of the hands to touch the ground. Circle your arms around letting the gravity stretch your chest and shoulders. As you move your arms around, you will reach various angles of the stretch. Hold it where you feel the tightest. For a deeper stretch you can hold 1 or 2 lb. weights in either hand. Do 5 slow circles in each direction.
Having good posture not only makes us look better, but it makes us feel better. Good posture allows for deeper breathing and reflects confidence–so why not try these exercises for excellent posture at home, and let me know how it makes you feel!
Also by Crystal: 4 Best Thigh Slimming Pilates Exercises
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Photos: Crystal Chin