Improving posture and fixing slouched shoulders are important in today’s digital world. With many of us glued to our computers and cellphones, bad posture has become a major issue.

Poor posture can develop from slouching, tight muscles, stress, improper sleeping positions, being over weight or having weak muscles. The longer you get into the habit of poor posture, the harder it is to break, and the more damage you’ll be doing to your muscles and joints (which can later manifest as chronic back, neck and shoulder pain).

So What If I Slouch?

Slouching isn’t good for your body, or your self-esteem. If you slouch, it is also likely that you have poor abdominal muscle strength, and a belly that tends to “pooch” out in the lower abdominal area.

Slouching can also lead to:
– Headaches
– Stiffness
– Fatigue
– Foot, knee, hip, and back injuries
– Muscle atrophy and weakness
– Digestion issues
– Difficulty breathing
– Sciatica
– Nerve compression
– Muscle strain
– Poor circulation
– Higher risk of joint discomfort

Improving Posture

When trying to get into the routine of good posture, people often complain that their back hurts too much. This is not uncommon. Your back will hurt when you first start to change your posture, because it activates muscles that might be fatigued. Over time, it’ll be easier, because your muscles will get stronger and will be able to hold you up better. Patience is key.

Aside from the exercises and stretches below, visualizing yourself standing tall is almost just as important. When you find yourself slouching, stand up and close your eyes. Imagine that a string is coming from the top of your head, and is pulling you gently up towards the ceiling. This will help you stand tall with your abs tight.

1. Back Extension

This exercise helps strengthen the muscles on your back, and protects your spine from injury. When practiced regularly, this exercise can help you get rid of round back and improve your posture. It is especially good for office workers who do a lot of prolonged sitting

1. Lie on your stomach and put your forehead on the floor.
2. Place your arms at your side, and press your palms on the thighs.
3. Straighten your elbows, and put your legs together, drawing out the toes slightly.
4. Exhale, and gradually lift the head, chest and upper abdomen from the mat, keeping the feet and hands in the initial position.
5. Inhale, and slowly lower to the initial position. Repeat 10 times.

2. Doorway Stretch

This stretch is perfect for counteracting a sunken chest from years of slouching.

1. Stand inside a doorway and bend your right arm at a 90 degree angle, and place your forearm against the doorframe.
2. Position the bent elbow at about shoulder height. Alternatively, you can just grab the doorframe with your hand as shown in the picture above.
3. Rotate your chest to the left until you feel a nice stretch in the chest and front shoulder.
4. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat with the opposite arm.

3. Thoracic Extension

Proper thoracic extension is needed for good posture, and also to prevent neck, shoulder, upper back, lower back and even hip pain.

1. Lay a foam roller on the ground horizontally and lay down on your back so that the foam roller is perpendicular to your spine, or going across your shoulders.
2. Lift your glutes off the floor, and use your heels to move you back and forth.
3. Keep rolling until you hit a point of discomfort, and once you do, hold on that spot for 20-30 seconds.

4. Cat/Cow Pose

This pose develops flexibility in the spine, and is highly recommended for back pain. It will help you get movement in the upper back area where most slouching problems begin.

1. Start with your hands and knees on the floor, palms directly under the shoulder rand knees directly below the hips.
2. Breathe in and pull your abdominal muscles in as you arch your back up like a stretching cat. Let your head and tailbone drop down toward the floor.
3. Return to the initial position, and then extend the upper part of the spine upwards, supporting it with your abdominal muscles and not letting your neck sink into your shoulders, or your shoulders crunch up into your neck. Make sure your neck is a long extension of your spine, and don’t let the head fall back.
4. Return to starting position and repeat 5 times.