Your posture says a lot about you. It’s one of the trademarks of body language and speaks volumes about your power and authority. New research now shows that your posture even influences how confident you are in your own thoughts. That’s right—your brain interprets what your body is saying whether you realize it or not. Pretty nuts, huh? Physiologically, your posture can be a symptom of ill health; it can influence your decision-making; or put you on the road to long term pain and joint strain. If you’ve been stepping out too often in high heels and your spine is showing it, check out this course on Posture to Prevent Pain.
What is Swayback Posture?
Everyone has a natural mild curve of the spine. When you lie flat on the floor, you should still have a gentle arch from the top of your pelvis to your middle back. A swayback (technically called hyperlordosis) exaggerates this curve. When standing, even if you’re slender, a person with swayback posture will have a pooching belly that seems to pull the spine forward. Your pelvis tilts forward unnaturally throwing your balance out of whack and forcing your lower back to compensate. Your shoulders sit way back, and you head thrusts forward. If you’ve been wearing high heels day in day out, more than likely that’s a big part of the problem.
You know how the song goes: “the hip bone’s connected to the thigh bone…” Anything such as muscle weakness, muscle tension or muscular imbalances across the body can cause you to inadvertently overcompensate creating an unhealthy posture—especially in the spine. Back pain is one of the most common ailments in our modern sedentary society, because our spine is designed to flex in all directions, and all we usually do is bend forward. If that sounds like you, check out this course to prevent back pain, and get your health back on track.
Exercises to Fix a Swayback
First and foremost, the best way to fix a sway back is to feel what proper posture should feel like. Suck in your stomach, but make sure you feel the bottom of your ribcage tipping back toward your spine. That’s how you want to be standing. Practice this on your daily commute. Be mindful of how ‘sitting up straight” doesn’t mean just thrusting your shoulders back. Feel your ribcage in a more vertical position—not just your upper spine. Tuck your chin down just low enough to hold an imaginary orange against your neck. Check yourself in the mirror. Then get to work on these moves to help lengthen and strengthen.
- Planking—You know the one. Get on your elbows and the tips of your toes and hold your body horizontal to the ground for as long as you can. Don’t let your rump pull up; keep your back straight.
- Crunches—Lie on your back and bring your ankles up to the level of your knees. Suck in your gut and pull your shoulders off the ground bringing the opposite shoulder to the opposite knee. Use your ab muscles not your neck to get up there. (Don’t cheat.)
- Lunges— To help your pelvis alignment, strengthen your thighs and hamstrings with a proper lunge. Take a large step forward. Bring your back knee to the ground while maintaining a ninety-degree angle between the ankle, knee and hip with your front leg. Use your thigh muscles to move your trunk straight up and down slowly. Then swap legs.
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Controlling Muscle Tension
Muscle tension may be as important to forming a swayback as muscle weakness. Tight hip flexors are common in people with swayback. In that case, a magnesium supplement can help relax the muscles to improve pelvic tilt. At the same time, flexibility programs like yoga , can go a long way to getting your body back into position. To specifically target the hip flexor with a stretch, take a large step forward and bring your back knee to the floor. Stretch your back leg behind you as far as possible and thrust your hips forward. Feel the burn!
Correcting Your Sleep Positioning
If you’re inclined to sleep on your stomach, you may well be contributing to your sway back throughout the night. On your belly, gravity pulls your hips and stomach down. No wonder they want to stay that way when you wake up eight hours later. Swap over to sleeping on your side, or better yet, your back. And if you could use a better night’s sleep, check out this course on Sleep Hacking.
You didn’t develop a swayback overnight, so don’t expect a quick fix. You’re looking a 3-6 month program of exercises and stretching, so it’s worth talking to a chiropractor or physical therapist to get a specific routine tailored to your body.
One thing’s for sure, your body has got to keep going your whole life long. It deserves your constant attention and maintenance. From a healthy diet to regular exercise, you know what it takes to keep things ticking along the way they should. It always takes effort, but the pay offs are big. Your posture says a lot about you, so make sure it’s saying the right things. Stand tall, baby. Stand tall.