One of the most powerful foundational movement practices we teach, whether we are working with elite athletes or older adults experiencing pain and limited movement function, is a simple movement practice of periodically stopping to pay attention to breath and posture.
Something as simple as taking several deep breaths with awareness paid to your body position not only impacts how your body feels and moves, but also how you show up and interact with the people around you. The act of taking a deep breath resets stress hormones and brings awareness to the present moment.
If you also use the action of taking a breath to actively arrange yourself in the best posture possible at the moment, you support a strong body foundation for engaging in life - whether that means a 2 hour trail run or walking with less pain.
We encourage you to establish a regular practice several times each day. Get clear on why you want to do the practice (what do you want to be different?) and find something to remind you to pay attention to breath and posture. Some people like to set their phone alarm to remind them, or complete the practice when their phone rings. Whatever works for you.
Step 1: Check where you are
First just stand and notice where you are. What is your regular posture like? Do you have any points of pain or tension? As you stand, where on your feet do you feel your weight? towards the balls of your feet or heels? Are your knees locked or soft? Is your back arched? Shoulders hunched? Head forward or back? It's not right or wrong, good or bad, just information. Do this on your own or follow along with Nancy in the video below.
If you'd like, you could also use a mirror or take photo from the side and front to better check your current posture.
Step 2: Start Position
Start standing (or seated) feet on the floor, feet (& knees if seated) parallel and shoulder width apart, weight on the balls of your feet towards the outside and knees soft.
Step 3: Inhale
Take a deep inhale and use the deep in breath to:
- actively get as tall as you can
- gently squeeze the shoulder blades together allowing relaxed arms to align with your side body
- gently pull head into alignment over the shoulders so the head is level and ears are directly above the shoulders (generally the head and upper back is hanging forward a bit, so this action is just pulling both into alignment with the body).
Step 4: Exhale
Exhale the air out somewhat forcefully (like a sigh) AND stay in this position. The outbreath should feel relaxing or tension relieving like a sigh often does.
Take a few moments and complete several of these breaths while paying attention to your posture and being curious about what feels tight and what it feels like to take a second to release tension.
Perhaps take 20-30 seconds while you are in this position to let your head drop slowly to the right or left feeling for tension release.
Can 1 minute make a difference?
How can the simple act of checking your posture while paying attention to your breath make a difference in your day?
First, you should notice that the act of gently and muscularly pulling yourself into aligned posture using a breathing practice feels relaxing. Science shows us that stress hormones are reset from taking a deep breath and we know that shifting our posture can impact how we feel about ourselves.
Other benefits of this movement practice:
- Remind the body of your better posture. This practice is often the first step in re-educating and re-training your neuromuscular system toward a more healthy normal while countering the impact of long duration sitting, standing, or other repetitive activities like keyboarding, driving, or work movements.
- Reduced blood pressure using relaxed breathing to reset stress hormones
- Better mechanical self which can lead to a reduction in headaches, and reduce strain on back, knee and hip joints.
- Focused awareness and attention which can support the ability to make new choices.
A nice compliment to this posture practice is a 5 minute Mindful Movement practice that creates healthy challenges for postural mobility and stability.
We use this slightly longer practice for a variety of people including those who sit for long periods of time, laborers who use repetitive motion, individuals wanting to start an exercise program, and even athletes who are in a foundation or corrective phase of their training.
Repetitive sitting, movement, or training creates body imbalances of all sort. The aim of a Mindful Movement practice is to increase awareness around and counter the imbalances caused by the nature of the movement you do.