‘Stand up straight’. ‘Stop slouching’. Many of us have grown up with those words ringing in our ears from concerned parents wanting us to have good posture. But why is our posture so important? And how does that importance translate across to the way we train our clients?
Some of us might have taken our parent’s words of advice on board and become aware of how our body is positioned when we sit, stand, walk or move. They became aware of postural issues and made the correct adjustments when needed. The rest of us may have chosen to let the comments slide and continue along the road to bad posture. Throw in the added effects of a sedentary lifestyle – or ‘sitting disease’ – and you have a multitude of bodies with aches and pains that can be blamed on alignment issues.
Take a moment to indulge in some people watching. Observe those with good posture versus bad. You’ll see that those that sit, stand or walk straight and tall not only appear more confident, they also move with greater ease and grace.
This is thanks to the body feeling less strain and stress when it is in proper alignment. By stacking our joints and distributing our weight evenly throughout the body we create a stance that takes less muscular effort to maintain. It also reduces stress on our connective tissues surrounding the joints.
Holding poor posture leads to unnecessary force on parts of the body that are pressured to hold more weight. It is a domino effect. For example, if you are standing with your head tilted forward, the rest of your body compensates to keep you upright by rounding the shoulders, arching the lower back and tilting the pelvis. One body part out of alignment can negatively affect multiple sites of the body. This is where aches and pains start to appear.
Back pain, headaches, muscle spasms and ligament strains are just a few ailments that can be linked to poor posture. If your clients are performing exercise of any description with poor body alignment they are putting themselves at risk of injury. As good teachers, coaches and trainers we need to be able to assist with the proper cues to ensure they are performing movements safely and with efficiency.
So what are some of the basic alignment cues to share with your clients? We can use the yoga pose ‘Tadasana’ or ‘Mountain Pose’ as a great example of good posture. Share this pose with your clients to help them feel the steadiness that comes from correct body alignment. They can carry the principles of Tadasana into their daily activities.
We will start from the ground up.
– Stand with your feet together, knuckles of the big toes touching and a little space between your heels so that the outside edges of your feet are parallel.
– Spread your toes nice and wide. Plant all four corners of your feet – big toe mound, little toe mound, inner heel and outer heel – into the ground.
– Keep a softness, a micro-bend, behind your knees to ensure your ankle, knee and hip joints are stacked directly on top of each other.
– Engage your quadriceps and lift the kneecaps. Start to feel the balance and stability you are creating.
– Draw the lower belly in as you tuck the tailbone under slightly. Lift up out of the waist, soften your lower ribs down and inwards.
– Pull the belly button back towards the spine. Maintain the natural curves of the spine then elongate it as you raise the crown of the head up towards the sky.
– Create lots of space to breathe. It is easier to utilise your full lung capacity when your diaphragm has room to fully expand and retract.
– Roll the shoulders down and back to broaden the collarbones. Keep the head and neck in line with the rest of the spine. The chin is level with the ground.
When you have followed each of the cues you should find yourself standing tall and proud. A side profile should show your ears directly over your shoulders, which are stacked over your hips, which in turn are over your knees and ankles.
How does it feel? Does the body feel lighter and more balanced? Can you feel your joints stacked on top of each other to create optimal alignment?
The same alignment cues can be used across a range of activities and exercises. If your clients were part of the crowd that didn’t listen to their parent’s hassling them to stand up straight, they might need some reminding in their adult life. They might actually listen this time if it’s paired with some sound advice on the physical benefits from their trusted trainer.
This article was published in the launch edition of AusFitPro – a new magazine tailored to professionals in the fitness industry. Kula Yoga Director Kacey Bennett has been appointed as the Mind, Body & Soul contributor for the magazine.
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Stretch and smile,
Kula Corporate Yoga provides Melbourne workplaces with group yoga programs to build employee health, fitness and wellbeing. Kula Yoga offers staff a unique yoga experience to strengthen their minds and bodies. Find out more about our beneficial group yoga programs on our website www.kulayoga.com.au.