By Mathieu Ganado
We are living in a world where sitting has taken over the daily norm. We sit for long hours at work, we sit in the car, we sit to eat and after a busy day, we get home to sit on the couch.
What’s wrong with that? Well, not much at first. But fail to factor in the hours you spend sitting and you may quickly start to discover some problems with your back and posture.
Neck and back issues, in fact, are the most common complaints people have that trigger them to seek how to fix a bad posture. Luckily, whether you sit for long hours at a stretch or not, becoming mindful of how you sit can heal, prevent, and provide you with the tools to sustain a strong, pain-free back and alignment.
How to Fix a Bad Posture
Below are four simple ways to fix a bad posture. These techniques can help you remain on top of your posture only if you allow yourself to dedicate a few minutes a day of awareness and self-care.
1. Supine Hamstring Stretch
Most lower back pains, believe it or not, originate from your hamstrings. You see, when you sit down for long hours at a stretch, your hamstrings start to become shorter over time, becoming tighter in the process.
As this happens, tighter hamstrings cause the natural arch in your lower back to flatten, as they pull on the ischial tuberosity, otherwise known as your sitting bones. This can cause a posterior tilt of your pelvis and lead to curvature and rounding of your spine. You will often feel the outcome of this process as lower back pain.
To fix this and re-establish the arch in your lower back, you’re going to want to loosen and elongate the hamstrings regularly to release the pull on your lower hips. As you do so, you will begin to reverse the posterior tilt in your pelvis (as the hamstrings lengthen) and improve your posture and any tensions in the lower back.
- You may want to grab yourself a yoga strap or a small towel to assist you in the stretch.
- Lie flat and straight on your back with both legs firmly on the ground.
- Bring your right knee in towards your chest and secure the towel or strap around the ball of your right foot.
- As you lay back on the ground, grab both ends of your towel or strap with your right hand and gently pull to a gentle point of resistance.
- Next, extend the bent leg straight and upright while keeping the other firmly on the ground and ensure your right foot is flexed pointing down towards you.
- Inhale deeply through your nose and with each exhale, pull gently to your resistance point. You may opt to place your left hand onto your right knee to prevent the upright leg from bending.
- Hold for a minimum of ten deep breaths and repeat the process on the other side.
Bonus Tip: Don’t worry if you cannot extend your leg upright to 90 degrees. If your hamstrings are very tight, it’s absolutely normal. Just take yourself to your resistance point every time and keep your leg straight.
2. Side Bend
Any postural imbalance you develop over the years can build up as stress in your lateral back muscles and hips. If you’re one to sit crouched at a desk all day, then your bad posture is likely causing your lateral back muscles to shorten and feel tighter. As a result, you may sometimes feel like your upper torso is merging deeper into your hips.
Aside from back pain from postural imbalance, tight lateral back muscles can also constrict your lungs’ full breathing capacity. Incorporating a side bend in your daily routine, therefore, will not only relieve your posture and the flexibility of your spine but can also give you many other benefits from improved breathing down to relieving constipation.
- Stand tall with your feet slightly apart and your arms relaxed by your side.
- Keep your palms facing down and bring your right arm straight up in line with your shoulder.
- Turn your palm facing upwards and bring your right arm vertically overhead.
- As you exhale, bend your upper body to the left and slide your left arm down the leg as you do so.
- Hold the stretch for a count of 30 seconds.
- As you inhale come back into a neutral position and repeat the process on the other side.
Bonus Tip: Here’s some added motivation for you. This pose can also contribute towards toning your abdominal muscles and can reduce accumulated fat at the waist!
3. Thoracic Rotation
Improve your mobility and movement by releasing stiffness in your upper back area, especially if you’re in a hunched-over position for most of the day (such as when using a laptop). By engaging in a thoracic rotation, you will be creating an extension and rotation in the upper spine, releasing any built-up tension.
- Lay flat on your back with your knees bent and palms of your feet on the ground
- Turn onto your left side, ensuring your left hip and left shoulder are pinned to the ground
- Once on your side and on your left shoulder, outstretch your left arm in front of you, keeping the palm of your hand facing upwards.
- Keeping your left hip and shoulder pinned to the ground, bring your right hand on top of your left and engage in an opening movement of the upper spine, reaching as far back as you can.
- Make sure you’re only opening and twisting the upper spine. If you feel any pins and needles, gently come out of the position, it means you went too far. Listen to your body.
- Come out of position, turn on your back and repeat all the above steps on the other side.
Bonus Tip: Make sure your knees are glued and closed together for a more effective spinal twist!
4. Chin Tuck
If you’re going to slouch on the couch and hunch over your smartphone after a long day, at least do it wisely.
Text neck has become the latest complaint of the 21st century. You see, as smartphones become ever more sophisticated, our time spent using them is also ever-increasing.
As a result, prolonged use of a smartphone (or laptop) can cause your head to lean forward, placing excessive stress on the neck, leading to neck pain, headaches, and upper back issues.
To fix this, simply tucking your chin inwards regularly can do wonders to realign your head in a central position, reducing that excessive stress you created.
- Become aware of your hunched forward head position.
- Tuck your chin down and inwards, to feel a lengthening in the back of the neck.
- Hold the position for a minimum of 10 seconds.
- Repeat whenever you catch yourself hunched over.
Bonus Tip: If you remember, pull your shoulders back as you chin tuck to reposition yourself in a good neutral posture
Bonus Recommendation: Keep Moving
Sitting is the new disease. Get up and walk frequently to keep your muscles engaged and tensions at bay. The more you walk, the less your muscles will tighten, and the more you will elongate your back muscles. By adopting a good posture, you’ll also improve your balance in the long run.
Be mindful of how you walk, however.
- Keep a forward gaze.
- Elongate the back and avoid slouching or leaning forward.
- Pull your shoulders back in line with your ears.
- Get up and walk for every 45 minutes you spend sitting.
There you have it, four effective ways how to fix a bad posture. Incorporating these into your daily routine won’t take much of your time. Just ten minutes a day to become mindful of correcting your posture can add years of increased mobility in your later years.
Remember, the whole body is interconnected. Just like the hamstrings can impact the lower back, other areas of your neck and back can impact other areas of your body from your head, arms down to your hips. All this can arise simply from neglecting your daily posture.
So sit up, tuck that chin in and remember to walk and do your stretches every so often. You’ll thank yourself down the road.
*Through his Wellness brand Soul Habits, Mathieu undertakes various wellness initiatives in helping others find their freedom from mental suffering.
*This article first appeared on the lifehack.org website