Recently I went to see the movie “Black Panther” – a movie full of beautiful images and colorful impressions. But there was one specific thing that impressed me. There is a scene where King T’Challa enters a nightclub, accompanied by his two sidekicks Nakia and Okoye. Those two women simply beam pride and confidence, even though they are just seen from the back. I instantly thought “I want to feel and look like that!” and that know-it-all little voice in my head replied “Well, fix your posture!”
Confidence and posture are closely related
Everyone knows what a confident posture looks like. People who are confident seem to always have good posture. They stand straight and tall and keep their head high. And the same can be said the other way around. When you imagine someone shy and timid, what do they look like in your head? Hanging shoulders. The whole body kind of ducking, as if they expect something to come down on them.
What if I told you, that you don’t have to be super confident to have great posture? What if I told you that it can actually work the other way around? When you fix your posture, you actually get an instant confidence booster!
By now there are many studies about how how our posture influences our confidence and can even ease symptoms of depression. Improving your posture is basically the quick version of “fake it till you make it”.
For example, the next time you sit in the dentist waiting room, sit as if you were deeply relaxed. You will feel automatically feel less anxious. And the next time you feel insecure about something, stand as if you were wearing Superman’s cape.
Where does bad posture come from?
Unfortunately, poor posture does not only stem from low self esteem. In fact, our lifestyle today encourages us to slouch, round our shoulders and push our neck and head forward.
How do you usually look at your phone? You hold it down in front of you, right? Neck bent, your whole upper body curling down on that magic device.
Or how do you sit when you work on your computer? Most people I know pop their head forward. And the upper back and shoulders are rounded. A friend of mine calls this position lovingly “the turtle”.
So what does the perfect posture look like?
Everyone who has taken a Yoga class has heard the term “alignment”. Yoga teachers always want you to stack everything. Hips over ankles, shoulders over hips, ears aligned with the shoulders. Then they tell you to slightly pull the lower belly “in and up” and “point the tailbone downwards”. And just like that, they made you fix your posture. Well, for the moment. Unfortunately, this usually is a focused effort and the posture goes back to what it was as soon as we stop paying attention.
If you look at the graphic above, you can probably think of a person for any of these postures, right?
How can you fix your posture?
So if we can just listen to the instructions of our Yoga teacher to get into the right position, that means we just need to remind ourselves of those instructions regularly and we’re good, aren’t we?
Unfortunately, fixing your posture might not be quite that easy. While that approach could technically help a lot, I see two difficulties with it.
One: Let’s be honest. We are not gonna remind ourselves of our posture several times a day for a minimum of 30 days to make it a habit.
Two: Depending on what is off with our posture at the moment, we might need to strengthen or stretch some muscles first. This way, our body is actually able to get into perfect posture without strain.
The body is a very adaptable and sophisticated machine. It adapts to what you do all the time. Looking down on your phone for example. And it tries to avoid strain if possible. So if your hip flexors are super tight from sitting all day, your body is not gonna stretch those. It’s gonna give you anterior pelvic tilt instead. Congratulations! (By the way: If you feel insanely stressed – as crazy as it sounds, maybe you just have a tight hip flexor. You really want to stretch those!)
Exercises to improve posture
So we already determined that you might have to work on building or stretching some muscles. But which exercises are the best for straightening your posture? As usually, it depends.
Compare yourself to the posture graphic above and ask yourself: Which one are you? If a body part pushes forward more than it should, that means the muscles pulling it forward are too strong or the ones holding it back are too weak or tight or both.
Whichever seems to be your “biggest problem” regarding posture might be a good first step to work on. But be warned. The whole skeleton is interconnected. If you want to fix your posture, you need to get everything into balance.
Youtube Channels like FitnessBlender have whole playlists on building better posture. If you want to start smaller, have a look at the most common posture problems and an exercise for each.
correct forward head posture
“Forward head posture” looks exactly what it sounds like. A very easy exercise to improve this is to stand with your back to a wall. Make sure your butt and shoulders are firmly pressed against it. Then lengthen your neck and touch your head against the wall as well. (Just tilting the head back is cheating and will not help.) Assuming your wall is straight, this is correct posture. Just keep coming back to this position regularly. This way your muscles and your brain get trained for correct head position.
fix shoulder posture
If you happen to sit at the desk a lot, hunched over your computer, you might want to correct your shoulder posture as well. An easy way for which you don’t even have to get up is to clasp your hands behind your back and straighten your arms as much as possible.
Improve anterior pelvic tilt
“Anterior pelvic tilt” simply means that your hip tilts forward and your belly and butt stick out. Yes, that might make your butt look bigger and rounder. No, you do not want this posture. It puts a lot of strain on your body, especially your lower back. This is where the famous hip flexor comes into play. Yoga poses like that cobra stretch those.
So now that I told you all my findings about how you can fix your posture, let me tell you how I will proceed. I still want to stand tall and proud like Nakia and Okoye. And I want to feel confident all the time, not only when I accidentally remember to straighten up.
So putting this into action it is! Are you gonna do the same? Let me know in the comments!