Posture Alert: A Simple Trick to Remind You How to Sit Down & Sit Up Properly
If you struggle with slumping, know that we all do. I love sitting at my computer and working and I’m always on slump-alert. I’ve been catching myself slumping since the 8th grade (decades ago) when the teacher interrupted her lecture to ask me if I was the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I was slumping and leaning!
Slumping is an effect of weak untrained muscles, long or short all in the wrong places. Using our arms (if you still have them) for basically everything we do usually means the arms extend forward. If you aren’t paying attention, your shoulders round and so does your mid-to-upper back. Your chest caves in as a result and you relax your abs. If you let your head follow your chin would lower towards your chest and you wouldn’t be able to see in front of you, but you need to see what you’re doing, so you look forward. Now your jutting your chin forward.
Major slumping, slouching, bad posture, whatever you want to call it, IS NOT GOOD FOR YOU.
I’m going to walk you through a simple shortcut as your first step to quit the slumping habit so you can sit down and sit up!
What Bad Posture Can Do to Your Body
Overdone, bad posture can lead to unbearable pain and health issues.
Compromises the natural curves in your spine, which creates poor circulation and starves your spongy disks between the vertebrae from blood and nutrients
Increases your risk for injury and leads to chronic neck, shoulder, back and hip pain
Tightens and shortens front body muscles in the neck & chest, at the same time jutting out your chin compresses the neck and puts pressure on nerves and blood vessels in the arms. (Stuff like carpal tunnel can happen. Nasty.)
Lengthens and weakens back body muscles which can't hold the shoulder blades down, so they rise up towards the ears and round forward. Weak neck. Weak back makes it tough to keep the shoulders back so the shoulders and chest muscles get tighter and tighter.
Weakens abdominal muscles, tight hips, curve in lower back offsets the neck more, neck pain worsens. Blah.
Internally the lungs and internal organs get compressed and interefer with proper breathing, circulationa and digestion.
Since there's less room for your diaphragm to move, it's harder to breath from there so you start breathing shallowly from the chest which is more natural when youslouching. WHEN WE BREATH SHALLOWLY WE GET STRESSED OUT! BREATHING FROM THE DIAPHRAGM CALMS THE NERVOUS SYSTEM.
It’s a vicious cycle and IT'S YOUR JOB TO STOP IT!
Focus on working to consciously lengthen and shorten the right muscles with stretching and building strength, I'M PRETTY SURE YOGA DOES THE TRICK HERE. IT'S BEEN MY ONLY THERAPY FOR SCOLIOSIS AND THE LEANING TOWER OF PIZA.
In the meantime, here's a shortcut to get you sitting and standing with better posture.
Take Note of How You’re Sitting
FIRST BECOME AWARE. Check in with your body right now.
How are you sitting? Do not change your posture right now, freeze your body but keep breathing as you were.
You need to know how you typically sit to know how to change it. You need to become aware of the comfortably uncomfortable place you go to when you work at your desk and probably on your computer. And take notes if needed.
Where are your feet? Are they planted on the ground? Where are your knees? Is one crossed over the other? What are your hips doing? Are you leaning into one hip? Is one hip higher than the other from crossing your legs?
How are your hips feeling right now?
Let’s move up. What’s your belly doing? Is it relaxed or engaged? Lower back? Rounded or slightly curving inward? How does your lower back feel right now?
What’s going on with your mid-back? Is it making contact with the back of your chair? Is it rounded and relaxed or upright and active? How does it feel?
Where are your arms? Are they extended and resting on your keyboard? One hand at the mouse? How are your fingers and wrists feeling, anyway?
Shoulder blades? Where are they? Where are your shoulders in relation to your chest? If I placed a yard stick in front of your shoulders, would your shoulders touch the yardstick or would your chest obstruct the yardstick from reaching your shoulders?
WHAT'S UP WITH YOUR BREATH?
How are you breathing? Is your belly moving when you breathe or your chest? Is your breath short or long, shallow or deep?
How’s your upper back and neck feeling? Where are your shoulders in relation to your ears? Where is your chin? If you could draw a line with your finger in the air, how would you draw that line to represent the current shape of your neck.
The Simple Trick To Sit Up Properly
Okay. Now. Change your posture according to the following simple visualization[ii].
IMAGINE…. Imagine the person you admire most in the world, THE MOST AMAZING WONDERFUL MAGICAL HUMAN BEING, the one that would make you freeze and drop your jaw if you saw them ANYWHERE because you still haven’t met this person.
Imagine what this person looks like.
Maybe this person is a spiritual figure or leader, an amazing businessperson that you read about, an Olympian, a public figure, a literal inspiration to every cell in your being.
Imagine the all the details that make this person’s face unique. Focus on the facial features, the wrinkles, the gaze in the eyes, the body language this person embodies.
Imagine this person, at this very moment, walks through the door and into the room you are in RIGHT NOW.
You can’t speak to this person except through your body language. Even if you spoke they wouldn’t understand you because right now, they only understand you through the way you are sitting in your chair.
How would you sit?
Go ahead and sit that way now.
What adjustments did you make?
Write the adjustments down. For example, “I lengthened my spine, I got a sparkle in my eye, I brought my shoulders back and sat up tall. I uncrossed my legs. I sat at the edge of my chair. I unstuck out my chin to a neutral position.”
Write the name of this person on a post-it note, or type it out (you can use the person’s initials if you want to keep this top secret) and post it in a place you can see it. Post it in other places where you often find yourself slumping, in a desk drawer you open repeatedly, in front of the kitchen sink, on your laptop, on the back of your phone.
If you want, you can post the adjustments you made, too.
Here are some examples which are all key components of proper sitting, which you can print out and post as well.
Sits bones drop down into seat
Knees lower than hips (sit at edge of chair or on a pillow)
Chest shining forward
Shoulders soft and away from ears
Shoulders back and down
Head over shoulder girdle
Chin parallel to ground and at a neutral position
Crown of head reaching toward sky
Ear over shoulder, shoulder over hip
Soft relaxed face, soft gaze, smiling eyes
Visualize headrest supporting the head
Aware of every breath as it originates from the belly/diaphragm
Use this quick-start guide to un-slumping so that you can sit and stand properly. Your activities and your working life do not have to negatively impact your posture and therefore, your health.
Also, who was that amazing person that had you sitting up? Share in the comments if you’d like!
And remember, the goal is to increase self-awareness to catch yourself slumping so you can correct and prevent it.
Wishing you a happy, healthy, and long spine to support all of your creative energy!
P.S. If you got something out of this post, I would love if you could share with your pals
[i] Adapted from Carol Krucoff, “Free Your Neck,” Yoga International, Winter 2010-11, Issue 112. Himalayan Institute.
[ii] Adapted from Michael J. Gelb, “Creativity on Demand,” (Boulder, CO: Sounds True, 2014).