Take note of your posture as you are reading this article. Are you slouching? You are not alone in your slouchy existence – it’s everywhere! Many of us have really poor posture these days and we can pin most of the blame on technology; our devices are changing our posture! We wreak havoc on our bodies as we hunch over our iPhones and laptops.
Get this: when you allow your head (a ten-pound weight) to pitch forward, you put stress on your spine. For every inch that we lean forward, we add an additional 10 pounds of weight to our spine. During a really intense round of Candy Crush, you might lean forward five inches – that’s 50 extra pounds added to your poor neck, shoulders and back! No wonder we have neck aches (AKA “text neck”), sore shoulders and back pain! In addition to the obvious neck aches and backaches, this tech-induced slouch causes headaches, gastrointestinal issues, pinched nerves, metabolic problems, decreased energy and even changes in our cognitive states ranging from memory loss to depression! The reason for this is simple when you think about it: when we are sad or scared, we hunch in the exact same way as we hunch over our devices. Our body perceives this position to be a reaction to sadness and therefore produces the same biochemical and emotional reactions. That biochemical effect makes us feel down in the dumps! Pretty heavy stuff, eh? Posture affects our mood and thoughts so much that cognitive scientists think that the combined increase of sedentary behavior and poor posture may explain the rise of depression in recent years. Are you sitting up any straighter yet?
But wait, that’s not all, folks! What’s even worse is that the more you hunch over, the more you train your body to stay this way! The more you slouch, the more engrained it becomes in your body’s permanent posture.
Luckily, this is a two-way street. You can improve your posture with the strength-training and good-posture effects of the Bar Method. Work hard to carry your beautiful Bar Method posture with you ALL DAY LONG! During our hour-long classes, good posture is alway a focus. Most of our exercises strengthen your postural muscles and teach heightened body awareness. Make sure that you are keeping your head up and pulling your shoulders back even as you use your laptops and iPhones (keep your phone at eye level as much as you can!). Use your Bar Method-induced body awareness and strong postural muscles to stand taller, look slimmer AND to increase your self-confidence and happiness! Think of your good posture as that amazing little black dress that makes you feel great and look thinner!
Last but not least, your body language (i.e., how you hold your body in space) affects the way people view you. Your body language tells others who you are and how you are feeling. A Harvard psychologist, Amy Cuddy, noted that powerful and important people tend to stand taller and take up more space (even if they are petite). Women, on the other hand, often shrink and make themselves as small as possible, especially in public settings. In her experiment, she had her subjects stand in a “power stance” (see Beyonce below) for two minutes a day. This stance directly influenced their biochemistry in a good way by increasing testosterone and decreasing cortisol (stress hormone) which is the classic hormone profile of effective leaders! Just by standing in a powerful stance for two minutes a day (yup, just two minutes a day!), her subjects were able to change their biochemistry, regardless of gender!
This stance doesn’t just tell people that we are powerful, it actually makes us more powerful! Power to the posture, baby! The next time that you need a little confidence booster, take two minutes to do your best Beyonce stance (minus the wind in the hair) for two minutes. After feeling slightly silly for the first ten seconds, you will find that at the end of the two-minute stance, you feel less stressed and ready to take on that stressful situation.
For 2016, make perfect posture one of your Bar Method goals. In class, pay extra attention to the work on your postural muscles and core-work. All of our core-work helps to strengthen your back (strong abs lead to a strong back and vice versa!). Ramp up the attention you pay to your posture in thigh work and standing seatwork and then keep that posture-focus after you leave the studio! Do your very best to stand up tall, with your head up and your shoulders back, and take on 2016 in a powerful way!