We all want healthy posture. Although we live in an imperfect world,
nearly perfect posture can be achieved by methodically balancing our
body against gravity’s pull. Where the body leads, the mind goes.
Improving posture will lift your outlook on life as well as giving you
confidence and endurance against everyday stresses.
Stretching for healthy posture means fighting against the pull of gravity. If we do not work against gravity’s pull, then the longer we live, the more bent
and deformed we become. A typical gravitational pull creates a forward-jutting chin, a tight chest, and rounded shoulders. Carrying on down the body, the abdomen becomes lax and the lower back becomes tighter.
A domino effect continues on into the legs, shortening the front of the thighs and creating a loose area around the glutes. The end-result is an off-centre line, with tight calves causing the body weight to fall back into the heels (see p.16). It’s no wonder joints wear out before their time. We’re all living longer, so our joints – which are a key factor in our quality of life – are important to us. The value of healthy posture cannot be stressed too much.
Not only do we achieve a pleasing cosmetic effect by standing upright, we also increase our vitality, since standing well promotes optimal lung capacity, which provides more oxygen for the brain to function well.
The Posture stretch sequence follows a musclebalancing formula as well as reinforcing the neuro-developmental sequence – in other words, the basic movement patterns that get a baby from lying down to standing and walking. The Posture stretch sequence uses all the positions that babies must achieve on their journey to walking.
Starting with exercises lying on the back, trunk control is developed which enables optimum control of the limbs. Pay special attention to the various parts of the front of the trunk in the Elongations. Notice how the “W’s” exercise straightens and elongates you, combating the typical foetal curling position many adopt when 40 040-041_180899.indd 40 15/07/2016 10:19 Kneeling positions help lengthen the front of your body, counteracting hip tightness from prolonged sitting and the slump and fatigue associated with prolonged standing. asleep. Next, the Hurdler lat stretch balances both sides of the back of the waist. The Balance point stretch literally pushes the trunk and head up against gravity. Most of us don’t notice how our back is pulling us down because our legs compensate, taking up most of the slack in the system. The Sidelying waist stretch stretches the deep muscles we use to stand and walk; be sure to pull the abdomen strongly up and into the spine to get the most benefit from this intense twist. Progressing to kneeling on both knees usually shows us how tight the front of our thighs and hips can be. The Lunge opener prepares the body for full standing and evens out our walking pattern so that it is not lop-sided. Squatting and then alternating the motion by reaching the hips upwards in the Round back squat gives balance and leg strength as well as stretch. The rolling-back motion of the Hanging stretch lets the body register the weight of the trunk and head above the waist. These body parts are heavy, and need to be placed precisely above the firm foundation of the lower body. Ending with a Top-to-toe stretch coalesces the whole body, helping you to stand tall against the ever-present force of gravity.
1- Lie on your back, with your legs hip-width apart. Reach your arms beyond your head on the floor and clasp your hands. Inhale and stretch your hands and feet away from each other. Simultaneously press your low back and ribs against the floor.
2- Exhale as you relax, then inhale and stretch again. Finally, exhale and relax one more time.
3- Stay on your back. Reach your arms out to the sides and bend your elbows to 90° with the backs of your hands and forearms towards the floor. If they don’t touch the floor, don’t force them. Inhale, then press the
back of your head, forearms, shoulders, lower back, and thighs into the floor.
4- Exhale and relax, releasing all the tension. Repeat by inhaling and pressing, and exhaling and releasing.
5- Still lying on your back, reach your arms up beyond your head on the floor. Take one wrist and, keeping your shoulders against the floor, inhale and pull the wrist towards the opposite side, sliding your upper body slightly along the floor in the same direction.
6- At the same time, cross the leg opposite the held wrist over the other leg, and slide your legs in the same direction. This adds an extra stretch and helps to make a letter “C” with your body. Stay, inhale, and tense your abdominal muscles, then exhale and lengthen into the “C”. Hold for 4 breath cycles. Lengthen and release, move back to the centre, and repeat on the other side. Thump the thighs to release the lower back. Repeat on both sides, then thump the thighs one more time.
7- Remain on your back. Exhale, press your back against the floor, and slowly slide your feet towards your hips. Lift your feet, one at a time, and hold onto them from outside your legs, keeping your knees bent. If you can’t reach your feet, hold onto your shins.
8- Inhale, pull one knee down towards the floor, and rock towards that side. Then, exhale and release to return to centre. Repeat, rocking on the other side, then repeat for 2 more sets.
9- Come to a sitting position with both legs comfortably out to the sides. Tuck one foot in towards the groin and reach both hands over towards the extended leg. Sit evenly on your sitting bones. Hold wherever it feels comfortable, either at the knee or lower down if you can. Bring both shoulders parallel to the floor. Breathe in, round into your back, and lower your head. Resist the stretch by holding firmly with the hands, on the outside of the leg.
10- Exhale, pull forward with your hands, round the back even more, and look towards your navel. Repeat 2 more times, then release your hands, roll your shoulders, and repeat on the other side.
11- Remain sitting. Bend your knees, slide a hand underneath each thigh, and lift your feet off the floor, finding your point of balance. You will probably need to lean back a little. Use padding underneath your bottom if you need it. Roll your shoulder blades down the back and pull with your arms to hold yourself up. Inhale and bow your head, rounding your back.
12- Squeeze your sitting bones together and pull down on your arms. Sit tall and lift your groin muscles towards your head (see p.19). Repeat 5 more times, breathing in as you round, and exhaling as you sit tall.
13- Lie on your side with your torso and legs in a straight line, feet pointed. Prop yourself up on your hands, one hand a little behind you. Lift your groin muscles towards your head, and lift your ears towards the ceiling. Inhale, lifting your abs as you rotate the hips forward. Look towards your feet.
14- Exhale. Tighten and firm the hips as you roll them backwards. Repeat 2 more times, inhaling as you rotate the hips forward, and exhaling as you roll them back. Turn onto the other side and repeat.
15- Kneel up, with your knees under your pelvis. Use padding underneath your knees if you need it. Tuck your pelvis under and press the hips forward. Find your smile lines (see p.18). Reach your arms behind you and clasp your hands behind your back, without over-arching the back. Inhale, press your hips together, and squeeze your glutes. Lift your chest and stretch your hands behind you.
16- Exhale, relax your hands and come back to centre. Repeat another 2 times.
17- Come onto your hands and knees. Reach one foot forward, take the other leg back, and lean onto the front leg. Lift the groin muscles towards the head and tuck the pelvis under. Clasp the hands and reach them behind your head, holding onto your skull with the heels of the hands. Inhale, open the elbows, and lift the chest.
18- Exhale. Bring the elbows to point to the front and down. Repeat, then take the other foot forward and repeat.
19- Come into a squatting position on the balls of your feet. Let your knees open and allow your heels to touch slightly and come off the floor. Bring your hips down towards your heels, then lean more into your hands, place your palms on the floor, and inhale as you lift the hips upwards as far as you can. Keep your head down, heels up, and your knees slightly bent.
20- Take a long, slow exhalation as you round your back, tuck your hips in, and lower them towards the heels again, still keeping your head down. Repeat 2 more times.
21- Roll up to standing and place one foot ahead of the other, about your foot’s distance and a handwidth apart. Hold onto something if you cannot keep your balance, otherwise fold your arms in front of you and hold onto your elbows. Firm the hips and pull your navel to your spine (see p.19). Inhale, then tuck your chin under and round your upper back, allowing your head to hang.
22- Exhale, scoop deeper into your spine, and lower your head to hipheight as if you were going over an imaginary fence. Repeat 2 more times, then change legs and repeat on the other side.
23- Roll up to standing. Bring your legs completely together, press the inner thighs together, and lift your groin muscles towards your head. Reach your arms sideways, then take them overhead. Clasp the thumbs and press the palms together. Keep reaching up through your arms, squeezing the head, and pressing down into your feet for 4 breath cycles.
24- Lower your arms and shake them gently to release the tension. Repeat, then gently move your body to release any tension.