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.

5. Pectoral Ball Smash

If you want to loosen up tight muscles in the front of the chest (the ones that are weak and sore from slouching all day), you may want to integrate some trigger point release with any kind of ball (a tennis ball or lacrosse ball work very well).

1. Place the ball between your chest and the wall.
2. Roll the ball around on your chest until you find a spot with discomfort, and rest there for 10 to 20 seconds.The pressure in this trigger point will help release tight, knotty muscles, and smooth fascia.
3. Continue rolling to find more trigger spots. You can do this for as long as you please.

6. Shoulder Dislocations

An excellent move for loosening up the shoulders that have become tight from years of turning inward while slouching. Although the name is intimidating, the stretch itself actually feels really good (aka. you’re not actually going to dislocate your shoulders by doing this stretch). You’ll need a resistance band, broomstick or PVC pipe that is around 5 feet in length.

1. Hold the band, broomstick or pipe in front of you with an overhand grip. Start off with a wide grip if your shoulders are really inflexible (but keep your grip narrow if your shoulders are more flexible).
2. Slowly lift the band, broomstick or pipe in front of you, then over your head, until it hits you in the back/butt area, then come back to starting position.
3. Repeat this motion slowly for 10 reps.

7. Cobra Stretch

The cobra stretches your chest and abdomen, while opening the ribs and lungs to improve breathing. It also stretches the muscles that are necessary in keeping your shoulders back and your spine nice and straight.

1. Place your hands, palms facing down, on the ground beneath your shoulders.
2. Inhale as you lift your chest up off the ground by straightening your arms, abdominals engaged.
3. Keep your lower ribs on the floor, draw your shoulders back, and your heart forward. Do NOT crunch your neck. Keep shoulders dropped away from the ears.
4. Hold for 30 seconds, then release, and slowly lower your chest and forehead to the mat.

8. Wall Angels

This stretch works the thoracic spine and can help counteract the formation of a hunchback.

1. Start with knees slightly bent, and your lower back, upper back and head pressed against the wall.
2. Press the back of your arms against the wall, with the back of your your fingers pushed against it.
3. Move your arms up above your head, like a snow angel, all the while keeping your fingers, entire back, butt, and head pushing into the wall. If your backside loses contact with the wall, you aren’t doing it right.
4. Repeat 10 times.

9. Plank

When it comes to having good posture, you need a strong core. The plank strengthens several abdominal muscles while also working the shoulders and back.

1. Get into a press-up position, and bend your elbows, resting your weight onto your forearms instead of your hands. Your body should form a straight line from shoulders to ankles.
2. Engage your core by sucking your belly button in toward your spine.
3. Hold this position for 60 seconds, or as long as possible.

10. Bow Pose

This stretch helps to correct bad posture by stretching out the muscles in the front of the shoulder and lengthen them. Over time, slouching shortens these muscles, and so what we want to do is lengthen and strengthen them to prevent an immediate spring back into slouched positions.

1. Lie on your stomach, and bend your knees, bringing them on your hip (or as close as you can get).
2. Grab your feet with your hands (as shown above) and lift the head, chest, and knees on the mat.
3. Breathing in, kick your legs so that your arms naturally go with them, and roll forward onto your belly.
4. Breathing out, go back into the original position. Repeat 5 times.