Enhance your life. Build your posture.
“Get yourself out of the way and let joy have more space” Rumi
If there was ever a genetic or biological blueprint of the body, it was written around one core concept: Mobility. In part 1 of Beautiful, Tall, Proud we laid the foundation for changing posture through Awareness, Breathing and the priming of neural and muscle memories with PERFECT POSTURE. Now is the perfect time to add mobility to the mix. Time to ease tension through your body, especially your upper back, neck and shoulders. Provide much needed movement and lubrication to stiff joints and improve neural pathways. Awaken critical postural muscles previously thought extinct, buried under layers of scar tissue and tension. Below is a series of mobility exercises, although written in a sequential order please feel free to chop, change, vary and play around with each.
Exploring and playing with mobility is essential to gaining the most from your health care practice. Ease the proverbial handbrake of neural and muscle tension that has been holding you back, it’s time to go full throttle.
- Start standing. Imagine you’re holding a pen with a usual pen grip.
- Draw the biggest circle possible rotating your arm backwards.
- Allow your body to twist, feel for your shoulder blade unlocking from it’s stuck position on the rib cage.
- Try to keep your eyes locked on the position of the rotating arm or pen.
Although this may seem like a silly trick, watching where you are drawing enhances brain activity (specifically cerebellar coordination). Doing this makes the movement a brain training and postural training exercise all at the same time.
- Aim for 10x each arm, 3x per day.
- Standing tall, tuck your chin right to your chest.
- Let your shoulders roll in and literally hunch as you go rolling one vertebrae forward at a time.
- Then one vertebrae at a time, slowly begin to extend.
- Look up to the roof and really open your shoulders or reach overhead to help promote even more movement. Extend as far as your body will allow. (this is an old Tai Chi position for balance, breathing and coordination).
- Aim for 10x, 3x per day.
Body twists are another movement incorporating eye and body movement.
- Start standing with your hands out in front and arms straight.
- Reach arm behind you as much as possible and let your head swivel at the same time.
- Try to keep the hand above shoulder height and let your eyes follow your hand.
- Return your hand to the middle after each repetition.
- Aim for 10x each side, 3x per day.
Seated Floor Extension
This is an exercise I got from coach Chris Somer, founder of Gymnastic Bodies, and it’s possibly the best stretch I never knew.
- Start sitting on the floor, legs out straight and arms behind you. Ideally with elbows locked straight, palms flat on the floor, fingers pointing straight back and pinky fingers touching together.
- While keeping your hands still, slowly shuffle your legs and bottom further from your hands.
- Feel for a stretch through the upper shoulders and chest. Once the stretch is engaged, look up to the roof to deepen the stretch.
- Imagine a string on your chest pulling your chest towards the ceiling. Remember to breathe and in this position try either a) holding this for 30″ or b) extending and relaxing as you breathe through 10 full breath cycles.
Mobility with a Challenge.
These next three movements may really challenge and push you. A dowel or broomstick is required however, please make sure you are comfortable with the above before venturing too far into mobility with a dowel.
Overhead Dowel Squats
Dowel squats are fantastic whole body movement.
- Holding the dowel with arms outstretched overhead, lower yourself into as deep a squat. Go as far as possible without letting the dowel drop forwards.
- Be careful not to bend the elbows.
- Keep your feet flat on the floor.
- Try and imagine driving your body weight through your heels and trying to lower yourself into a chair positioned behind you.
- For mobility, aim for 5 repetitions of this keeping the arms locked overhead.
- If wanting strength challenge through posture, see how long you can hold the deep squat position.
Dowel Shoulder Dislocates
This looks so much simpler than it is. Aim for 5, 3x per day
- Using the dowel, keep your hands as wide as you need to with elbows locked out straight.
- Lift the dowel overhead and all the way behind you as far as you can.
- Ideally, once the dowel is flat against your back, bring it back over head.
The final mobility exercise combines it all: Movement, Coordination and Strength. So every aspect of the nervous system is firing here.
Lying Dowel Twists
- Lay on your belly holding onto the dowel with arms outstretched overhead.
- Firmly plant one hand into the floor, then twist your body and other arm away from the floor.
- Rotate and lengthen your torso as you go trying to keep your hips anchored to the floor.
- Arms straight and eyes fixed to the top rotating hand. You’ll feel this everywhere!!!
- Aim to hold for 15 seconds on both sides.
Mobility is the framework of the genetic blueprint we were built on. If you can do this you’ve got just about enough mobility to handle and adapt to any challenges along the journey of life.
“Everything you need you already have” Wayne Oates
Strength is the final pillar we are focusing on when it comes to changing and improving posture. Yes, we missed the critical piece of the puzzle that is Chiropractic. Checking and adjusting the spine provides the best start for change. Chiropractic maximises nervous system integrity, improves brain body connectivity and opens up the pathways of improved joint and muscle activity. It is the foundation for postural improvement. Yet for now let’s focus on what you can do from your end in the safety and comfort of home. If you did want to maximise your postural transition please call or email us at Transitions Chiropractic.
Why strength not length?
In our humble opinion, your genetic blueprint wants you to move and be able to move in a stable, strong position throughout the day. If you can do most of the movements in the prior mobility section, chances are you have as much mobility and length as you need. Strength develops the neural and muscular integrity that allows you to hold these postural positions under the stress and strain of everyday life in a variety of dynamic positions.
Almost as simple as it sounds. Pretend you are holding onto a heavy juice bottle, keep your arms straight and hands low. Remember your shoulders aren’t permanently attached to your ears so relax your shoulders and breathe.
- Slowly rotate your arms out, squeezing between your lower shoulder blades as you go.
- Aim for 10. It is easier to do the movement as you exhale.
- For something different try holding the retracted position for 30-60” straight and maintain an even breath.
These next two movements are known as primitive movements. Meaning that every child performs these movements to help them grow and develop through life. The Original Strength guys really explained the need for these primitive movements beautifully in their Becoming Bulletproof book.
- Start on all fours in a “cat position.”
- Keep your chest out proud, head and eyes up, arms locked out and positioned directly under the shoulders.
- Rock back onto your heels.
Changing posture is more than just changing the curve of your upper or lower back. It’s about adding tone, strength and support to your entire spine.
- 10-20 reps of this movement will start to integrate strength throughout your entire spine. If too easy by all means get up on your toes.
This is the second primitive movement from the Original Strength crew. As with the rocking this is body strength which we all did before we knew how to walk!
- Starting in the same cat position literally offset so the left hand is slightly in front of the right while the right knee is slightly in front of the left.
- Literally, crawl 20 paces forward and back moving your left hand synchronously with the right leg and then the right hand synchronously with the left leg.
- Make sure your chest is out and head is up nice and proud again. Bodies and brains thrive on coordination.
Just like there is a left and right side of our bodies, there is a left and right side of our brains too. Crawling deeply wires our bodies muscular connections and our brains deep neuronal connections. A powerful exercise with so many variations.
- Once this gets easy feel free to up the game, get off the knees onto toes, bear crawl, lizard crawl or army crawl. The choice is yours and all crawling is fantastic for your body and BRAIN!
Forget the YMCA, try YTWL’s the movement. This is a great way to move and strengthen your shoulders. It can be done standing, lying on your back or even leaning against a wall.
- With both arms together, raise them overhead into a “Y” position, to a “T, ” “W,” then “L.”
- Come back to the start between each letter. Let your body build some momentum and really have a play with this either on the floor or standing.
For a variation, slow the YTWL dance down.
- Hold the end position of each letter in the YTWL dance for 30″.
- This slower YTWL dance is best done lying on your back or leaning against the wall. Press into the surface with each letter of the “Y, T, W, L.”
Dowel Ceiling Pulls
Back again with our super cheap gym equipment: the dowel or broomstick.
- For dowel ceiling pulls, lie face down grab the dowel behind you and lock your elbows straight.
- Keep the elbows straight and ideally lift your chin just off the floor.
- Lift the dowel towards the ceiling.
- Try this with two opposite grips. First with palms towards the ceiling, then with palms towards the floor. They both feel incredibly different.
- Aim for 10 repetitions at a nice slow speed and don’t forget to breathe. This will stretch your abdominals and diaphragm as you lift ever so slightly toward the ceiling.
You’ve heard of snow angels and sand angels. What about floor angels? This is best done with elbows bent and there are a few variations. You may try lying on your stomach with your head slightly elevated to really engage your lower back, you can lie on your back or you can add a dowel.
- Once in position, rhythmically pull your elbows back towards your side, squeezing through your shoulder blades as you go.
- Try each position, I believe you’ll be surprised just how different they feel.
- If not using the dowel, play around and your hands and always try to pull both arms through as evenly as possible. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.
The ultimate floor angel variation is floor angels with bridge.
- Lie on your back and keep your knees bent.
- Lift your pelvis towards the sky holding your torso in a “bridge” position.
- While maintaining the bridge, pull your arms down again in the angel position. Try to control the movement as much as possible and don’t forget to breathe.
Single Leg Balance
Balance. Really? Is balance going to change my neck posture? Absolutely! To balance you must stand tall and every part of your active muscle structure from left to right, front to back all has to work.
- Stand on one leg like a wind up toy.
- Lock your body upright feeling for the muscle contraction from your foot through to your head.
- Keep your non supportive leg bent and away from the other. Don’t let it lean against. A long strong spine is a super supportive spine.
To complicate balance just a bit try single leg balance with a twist. This is all about play and the strongest, most protective muscles of the spine work best when trained with side to side and rotation movements.
- Start with the single leg balance and try the YTWL’s.
- Start with single leg balance and raise your arms in different positions.
This rotation styled support is a great way to bulletproof your entire body.
Tying Posture Into Life.
“Be the stream” Frank Sovinksy
Even the simple stream can carve through the mightiest boulder. Let your postural transformation shine through till it waters reach every aspect of your life. It’s our belief that Part 1 and Part 2 of Beautiful, Tall and Proud will provide some keys to helping you change.
If I can leave you with one thing. Don’t worry about being perfect 24/7. Just take that one small step. What’s one thing you can remember today or do differently from yesterday? It may seem small, but postural change will happen if you allow it to drip feed slowly through every facet of your life.
Together, we can create the change today…..