Four Areas of Postural Conditioning
There are 4 areas in your body that you need to condition for good posture.
- Hip Flexors/Quads
- Abs and Kegels
- Upper Back/Shoulders
Exercises in the Series
- Foot/Calf Rolling–Myofascial Release Techniques
- Chest and Shoulder Stretches
- Hip Flexor/Quad Stretches
- Gentle-Traction Relaxation Techniques™
- The Key to Firm, Flat Abs–Kegels are Key!
- Upper Back and Shoulder Strengtheners™
- The SECRET to Good Posture
This SERIES is designed to first STRETCH–Chest and Hip Flexors/Quads, and then STRENGTHEN–Kegels/Abs and Upper Back/Shoulders. It includes a unique spinal alignment and stretch technique called Gentle-Traction Relaxation. And the series culminates with The Secret to Good Posture. This series takes 20 minutes to do. Yet the exercises can be done anywhere, anytime, during the day. Conditioning good posture takes constant awareness and reminding yourself to improve how you are sitting and standing…especially since we are always looking at our IT devices.
Be sure to use the 4 Body-Mind Exercises Techniques through out your workout
- Reciprocating Influences
- Mind in the Muscle
- Form and Technique
- Stretch and Strengthen
- Breathe and Smile
1. Chest and Shoulder Stretches
Our tight chest muscles and inner shoulder joint muscles are culprits of our bad posture. Working at computers a good part of our day, commuting long distances and always texting causes these muscles to tighten and shorten. Our shoulders round forward and our chest drops. We end up hunched over in our posture. Upper back and shoulder joint stretching exercises are effective at opening our chest which opens our hearts and improves our outlook and personality for the day.
The Exercise: Stand in your best good posture and reach up to lengthen our whole body. Stretch and release as much tension and tightness as we can. Reaching up, particularly focus on stretching the muscles on the sides of your torso and back (lats). When these are tight they cause some inner rotation of your arm which makes you round in your shoulders.
Reach your hands behind your head and press your elbows backward–this stretches your lower chest muscles. Reach your hands low behind your back and interlace your fingers to stretch your upper chest muscles.
There are muscles that connect from our back under your armpit and into the top of your upper arm bone. They are responsible for inner rotation. When these are tight they cause your arms to rotate inward, your shoulders to round and your chest to drop. The final stretch is to expand the whole chest and to extend the stretch sensation further into our shoulder joints. Release your hands and rotate your arms outward ( thumbs away from your body).
2. Hip Flexor/Quad Stretches
Our hip flexors are the primary culprits of our bad posture. They are very powerful muscles responsible for flexing our hip joint and raising our leg/thigh. They become very short and tight as a result of so much sitting…at our computers and commuting. They pull our hips forward causing our low back to over-arch (low back pain). This results in an unhealthy ripple up our spine that forces our upper spine to round forward in compensation.
The Exercise: Holding on to the back of a chair, place your right leg in a lunge position and let the knee relax. Tighten your Kegels and your Abs, lengthening your torso and then tuck your hips (your tailbone) under. Holding this pelvic tuck, slowing straighten your right leg until you feel a stretching sensation come up the front of your thigh and most particularly into the front of your hip. As in the second picture, you can turn your right leg out to get more of a stretch in your upper inner thigh and groin. A final advanced stretch is to take your right foot in your right hand and reach your knee toward the ground–feel a lengthening sensation in your right thigh. Repeat with the other leg.
3. Gentle-Traction Relaxation Techniques™
Stretching and strengthening our muscles certainly helps improve your posture. Yet these exercises are not as effective if you do not also lengthen the anterior ligaments of our upper spine. Your skeleton is your scaffolding, your muscles are your clothes and thus if the scaffolding is misaligned, then your clothes will not hang as beautifully as you want them to. These exercises are simply relaxation techniques that allow your spine to drape over a prop and rest in gentle-traction–this helps to lengthen your anterior spinal ligaments of your thoracic spine. With these ligaments lengthened and your spine aligned then when you do upper back exercises your muscles can more easily hold your spine erect. Also the muscles go through a more full range of motion, so better conditioning.
Ligaments take a bit of time to lengthen and thus you need to do this regularly (each day is best) and for several minutes. When you are first starting out, simply lie down on the floor on your back. Place a folder towel under your head to give your head about an inch support off the floor. Since we are hunched most of the day, just lying on the floor without anything under your spine will provide the traction. You will feel the floor press into your upper spine just behind your breast bone and your chest and shoulders will open. Take several deep breathes and let your body relax…your spine will flatten and lengthen. Only do a few minutes at the beginning until you condition and gradually add more time. Working up to 5-10 minutes a day is great. It should feel good and is a super relaxation meditation at the end of your day (see Empress Evening Surrender in Body-Meditations). For a bit more advanced traction, roll up one of your hand towels and place it across your spine under your sternum…make sure of this positioning.
The Exercise: Lie down on the floor with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips up off the floor and contract your Kegels/ABS to lengthen your lower back and then put your hips back down. Make sure your neck is long and your chin is tucked slightly toward your chest. You may want to put your head on a low prop (folded-towel) so that your neck does not over-arch. Let your arms relax on the floor and externally rotate your arms so your palms are facing the ceiling. Feel your shoulders gently stretch. Once you are in position it should feel very comfortable–very gentle. Let your spine drape over the towel and if you feel your chest stretching, opening and your spine flattening then stay in this position. If you want more stretching sensation, then place a small roll (towel) across your spine under your breastbone. The roll with help your spine flatten and slightly arch. Simply lie still and breathe deeply and relax.
a. After a few minutes raise your arms out at your sides about shoulder length and relax. Draw your scapula or wings toward your spine…hug your spine with your wings a few times and relax. This gives a bit more stretch to your chest and shoulders muscles as well as helps you become aware of the feeling of how your scapula work. Becoming more familiar with your scapula is key to being able to know how to engage your upper back muscles for good posture…they are key in how you “carry” yourself.
b. Next raise your arms up over your chest so your arms are straight and your palms face each other and your finger tips are stretching for the ceiling. Hold your Kegels and ABS tight and begin to lower your arms toward your head…overhead. See if you can touch the floor with your finger tips. As you lower your arms toward the floor notice how your scapula or wings are gliding down your back. Help them work a bit harder by squeezing them toward your spine as you lower your arms. Again this helps you become more familiar with how your scapula work to hold good posture. Hold your arms over head for a few minutes to feel the stretch in your spine and chest and under your arm pits. And be sure to hold your Kegels and ABS tight to help keep your lower back supported and your hips stable. If you feel tension in your lower back with your arms overhead…then this is a good chance to practice conditioning exercises for your Kegels and ABS…squeeze them tighter till you feel the tension in your lower back release. Move your arms to the floor and back up overhead several times and then lower back to the beginning position. Now just relax and meditate.
4. The Key to Firm, Flat Abs™
Activated Position is KEY to firm, flat Abs and Kegels are Key to Activated Position…and Kegels are key to Activated Position.
Strong, firm, flat Abs are essential to a strong core and carrying yourself well. The most important muscle group to good posture is the Kegels–our pelvic floor muscles. They are connected to the inner most wall of our Abs. When the Kegels contract it pulls gently on these muscles helping them to pull in and create a firm, flatness to our abdomen—from our low belly up to our ribs (the Abs Wall). The best way to experience this is to stand tall and do a Kegel contraction…and imagine you are connecting the bottom of a zipper when you contract the muscles and are zipping is up as you lift up through your torso from your pelvic floor.
The Activated position (AP) is simply compressing your ABS Wall (from your pubic bone, sides of your torso and bottom of your ribs) toward your navel and compressing your navel toward your spine. This flattens and firms your ABS.Performing a Kegel contraction while doing Abs Curls is key to conditioning your Abs so they are firm AND flat. The Kegel contraction is part of a unique and powerful concept of this program–“Activated Position©.” Activated position (AP) is simply compressing your Abs Wall (from your ribs, sides of your waist, and lower pelvic region) toward your spine and holding this compression while doing every curl and especially in between the curls. The second key is to focus on curling up as a result of trying to compress the Abs Wall more–ribs and pubic bone come toward your navel and your navel presses more toward your spine. The goal is not to come up high in the curl but rather compress the wall down more. In other words if you start and end your curl in AP then the curl itself shall be rather small–this in unlike what mainstream training for Abs conditioning teaches. The power of this understanding and practice is that you avoid developing firm rounded Abs. AP is the key to flat Abs.
This is the key to conditioning firm flat ABS–when you ABS exercises such as ABS Curls you want to activate your ABS Wall and hold this contraction and compression while doing your set of curls. Do not release the compression until you have finished the curls. It done correctly–holding the compression in your ABS Wall–you should become fatigued by the end of your 8th rep. The goal is not to come up high in the curl but rather to press your ABS Wall further toward the floor in each rep. When you are in the Activated Position
The Exercise: Lie down on the floor with your knees bent and your hands behind your head and elbows opened wide. Then contract your Abs Wall for AP. This will bring your head and shoulders slightly off the floor. Hold AP–pressing your Abs Wall toward your spine–while you do your series of curls–3 sets of 8 is recommended. If you are holding AP, you should be very tired before you finish the sets. Important training tip: do not keep doing the curls after your muscles have fatigued. You will lose form and technique…and your Abs will push out.
5. Upper Back and Shoulder Strengtheners–Prone
Now that we have opened our chest and lengthened our spine, we strengthen our upper back/shoulder muscles in order to hold this alignment when we stand. This is what we mean by “carrying ourselves well”. Dancers have beautiful carriage because their arms and upper back are very strong. It is what gives us gracefulness.
The Exercise: Lying face down, flex your feet and straighten your legs to provide a strong foundation in your lower body. Be sure to do Kegel contractions and “activated position™ so that you are in good form and also to protect your low back from over-arching in these exercises. The movement is to rotate your arms and palms outward while contracting your upper back muscles toward your spine. This will lift your shoulders backward and up arching your upper back. The focus is not so much to bring your upper body high off the floor as it is to use you upper back and external rotation muscles of your shoulders to rotate your arms and shoulders outward. As you do this contraction let your neck come up as high as is comfortable and keep your gauze down and forward. This will strengthen your upper back to hold your chest open and your upper spine long. A good tip of how high to come is to arch your back as much as you can while keeping your sternum on the floor and your gaze forward rather than upward.
Practice Holding Your CORE–Pubic-Navel-Apex Connection Doing these upper back exercises in a prone position is a perfect time to experience the The Secret of Good Posture–feel the power of your core and how it actually works and feels when you engage it. The floor provides a guide to feel the proper alignment. It also gives you something to push against so you make your contractions strong–a source of resistance to build strength while maintaining good posture.
As you lay down, engage AP and feel your pubic bone press into the floor. And as you rotate your arms outward and begin to arch your upper back feel your scapula glide inward toward your spine and down toward your navel. Imagine a bungee cord connected to the apex or inner lower corners of your shoulder blades transversing through your torso and hooking on to your pubic bone. Then compress your navel.
Upper Back and Shoulder Strengtheners–Standing
A strong upper back and shoulders help us “carry” our upper body. We have all noticed the great posture and presence of dancers. They have a strong core yet what many don’t realize is that while the core is very important, good posture would not be possible without the “carriage of the upper body—open chest and shoulders relaxed and down) or in other words without the strength in the shoulders and arms.
Arm Series #1
Make these one smooth movement. Bring your arms up, rotate out, draw them back behind you as far as you can—hold your core. Then bring them back down. Repeat this as many times as you can till fatigue.
Arm Series #2
Bring your arms to your shoulders and do a push up. Bring the arms down and draw the elbows toward your low back and contract your upper back muscles to bring your scapula down and toward your navel—be sure not to arch your low back, only your upper back. As you feel the scapula draw down toward your navel, feel your Kegels and Abs draw up and in toward your navel.
6. The SECRET to GOOD POSTURE–KEGELS are KEY!!!
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
The secret to looking our best is to carry ourselves with grace. This means making sure our Abs are flat and pulled in, our shoulders are back and down, our sternum is lifted, our neck is long and our chin is horizontal to the floor and we are smiling–in a BIG way. We look confident, kind, intelligent and beautiful.
In exercise terminology many people think good posture is having a strong core and that is true. Yet the Secret to Good Posture to know what your CORE really is! Many personal trainers focus primarily on Abs conditioning exercises when helping clients develop a strong core, but that is not all there is. Kegels are Key to good core strength, Key to good posture!
The Core is supported by an open chest and strong upper back muscles working together to provide “good carriage” of the upper body; and open hip joints and strong Kegels and Abs working together to provide hip stability supporting a long spine. The Secret to core strength is putting these together—is integrating the strength of the shoulder blades keeping the chest open and drawing down the back toward your navel with your Kegel and Abs pulling in and up toward your navel and then pulling your navel in toward your spine. All of these need to be in effect to have our best posture. This is the unique offering of QisYou Exercise Program.
The Exercise: This last exercise of the series integrates all the sensations into a full-body experience of alignment and strength. You will see how all your muscles work together to align you in good posture.
I call this concept the The SECRET to Good Posture:”Pubic–Apex–Navel Connection™.
The Pubic refers to your Kegels and pelvic floor muscles. As a result of contracting them our pubic bone draws slightly forward and our Abs lift up toward our navel; the Apex refers to our shoulder blades pulling in toward our spine and even slightly under to lift our sternum and down toward our navel; and the Navel refers the hub of our Abs Wall (muscle fibers extending from your pubic to ribs to sides of waist) pressing toward our spine. Your Abs are flat, your back is long and your upper back slightly arched. This is your CORE.
The Exercise: Take the time to make the body/mind/spirit connection–becoming conscious of how you feel standing in good posture. Pay attention to how balance feels–what are the sensations in your body? How do these sensations make you feel? For example; how does your open chest make you feel? How does your strong core make you feel? How does your tall body and your BIG smile make you feel? Feel it all……who are you in this moment. This sensation will become your reference point of realignment during a stressful day—it will re-center and re-focus and calm you in an instant.