We all know what it looks like to have poor posture. More than likely we can think of someone in our lives that has poor posture, and unless they were born with a musculoskeletal disorder like severe scoliosis, lordosis, or kyphosis, I would argue that their posture is a result of neglecting an important area of their body: the heart.
The muscles, cartilage, and other structures that make up the chest around the heart, that is. The chest is important because it is where the majority of the rib cage is located, which protects the heart and other vital organs. The chest can get tight over time, causing our shoulders to pull forward while our back gradually becomes more rounded. Generally, when this occurs it suggests that our core is not strong enough to keep us up straight, coupled with a major muscular imbalance between the chest and back. This poor posture combined with the natural compression of vertebrae can result in up to 2 inches lost from our height.
Because I love you and want you to avoid losing your height, consider these questions: do you have good posture? Have you ever seen a picture of yourself from behind? What about from the side? While carrying two heavy suitcases in each hand?
Posture is one of those characteristics that can say a lot about a person. Similar to having great hygiene, having great posture will make you look more confident, muscular, and poised. On the opposite side, similar to having bad hygiene, having bad posture could make you less confident, develop muscular disorders, and ultimately wish you started working on your posture long ago!
If you are someone who has a tight chest or knows that posture is something that you could work on, I can promise you this: the best way to get a jump on your better posture is to start opening up your chest.
I want to give you 3 stretches that you can start doing daily that will help open up your chest, draw your shoulders back, and take away tightness that may be built up in your chest, shoulders, and neck. If you are someone who spends the majority of the day behind a desk, there are also a couple of tips to begin strengthening your posture at work.
Three Stretches to Open Your Chest:
Behind the Back Chest Opener: Interlace your fingers behind your back and slowly pop your chest forward, trying to pinch your shoulder blades together. Raise the chin up slightly and enjoy the major stretch in your chest. Hold for 5 deep breathes.
Quadruped Thoracic Spine Rotation with Open Chest: Begin in a child’s pose position with your hips connected to your heels. Place one forearm on the ground in between the knees. Extend the opposite arm out and begin rotating it up so that you reach up for the ceiling. Keep the forearm grounded as you open as wide as possible. Complete 3 repetitions on each side, holding for 10 seconds each.
Prone Twist: Start by lying on your stomach with one arm extended out to the side. Keep that arm in the same position as you bring the opposite leg up and over, trying to make contact with the ground. You will feel a major chest stretch on the same side as the extended arm. Hold for 5-10 seconds and then switch.
Practice these postural tips from the convenience of your desk (your co-workers will be jealous of your outstanding posture):
Sit with a tennis ball between your back and chair: Avoid the mid-day slump by placing a tennis ball between your back and your chair. The tennis ball is small enough to require you to pull your shoulders back and lightly press into it so that it doesn’t fall. Do this when you notice yourself starting to slouch!
Use a stability ball intermittently throughout the day as your chair: Using a stability ball instead of a standard chair eliminates the dependency of a back rest and stabile surface. With a stability ball, you will have to use your core and back muscles to keep you up. Note: you should only use a stability ball as a chair if you can keep your shoulders back! Try this for 15-20 minutes chunks during your day until you’re able to use it all day!