As a licensed massage therapist, Cindy Rowland, 42, had a good understanding of proper physical alignment—for her clients. Her own posture was another story. “I spent my days hunched over the massage table,” she recalls. Rowland was so focused on her clients, she didn’t notice she was slumping until headaches and back pain led her to an alignment specialist. Since following a stretching and strengthening course, she has less pain, sleeps better, and has improved digestion. “Now, my clients can see what good posture looks like and hear how it helped me,” Rowland says. Here’s how it can help you, too:
BETTER DIGESTION. Good posture tones core muscles, which support your digestive organs. “If your core musculature is slack, your body stabilizes abdominal organs by packing fat around them, which heats the organs and reduces their function,” says biomechanist Katy Santiago, director of the Restorative Exercise Institute in Ventura, Calif.
FEWER HEADACHES. In a 2008 study, Italian researchers found that office workers who were instructed to correct the position of their heads and necks every two to three hours reported having 40 percent fewer headaches each month.
ENHANCED DETOX. “Posture dictates how well blood and lymphatic fluid flow,” Santiago says. If you have fewer kinks, your body releases toxins efficiently.
STRONGER BONES. When properly aligned, your bones support your body mass—and weight bearing keeps them strong. (Poor posture? Muscles and connective tissue end up doing some of the supportive work.)
Benefits: Strengthens the rhomboids (the muscles that connect the shoulder blades to the spine), which corrects the tendency to round the upper spine forward. Opens the chest and promotes deeper breathing.
A | Stand up straight with your feet directly under your hips. Hold a broomstick under your buttocks with your arms straight, hands shoulder-width apart, palms facing forward, and thumbs facing out. To avoid puffi ng out your ribs, pull your rib cage toward your spine.
B | Slowly lift the bar as high as you can without moving your hands wider than shoulder- width apart. Don’t lift your shoulders up toward your ears; concentrate on opening your chest and bringing your shoulder blades together behind you. Hold for ten seconds, then release. Repeat for a total of six reps.
BONUS: To increase the challenge and the benefit, perform this exercise standing on one leg. Keep both legs straight and lift one out to the side several inches.