When I was a kid I heard the phrases “Sit up straight,” “Stop slouching,” and “Why are you hunching your shoulders?” so often I think I eventually just started to block it all out. Almost every kid I knew growing up slouched in their desk chairs in the classroom trying to look cool, but as the earliest bloomer in my age group (I had to start wearing a bra in 3rd grade), I think I was one of the only ones slouching in a vain attempt to hide something. What started as an attempt to hide my blossoming bosom turned into a habit—and now, at the age of 30, I’m starting to fear that this is the sitting stance that I’m stuck with. It finally took the combination of an ancient mattress and a criminally uncomfortable chair at my office for me to decide to take the steps to fix my posture once and for all.
Step One: Sleeping it off. While certainly the costliest step on my journey towards straighter posture, getting a newer, better, more supportive mattress was certainly the easiest step. Our old, traditional boxspring was not only almost 10 years old—it was also a full-sized mattress trying to make two grown people feel comfortable. It was failing miserably. My fiancé and I both chipped in for a (Queen) mattress from Tuft & Needle and, possibly most importantly, a new, more supportive bed frame.
But, while the newer mattress certainly improved matters, the truth is it can only do so much. I did a little investigating and realized that finding the best sleep position for your body is not only important for overall better posture, but also a great way to eliminate aches and pains. I’d wake up almost every morning with raging lower back pains, until I started putting a pillow under my knees. The University of Rochester Medical Center released a helpful article on sleep posture, recommending that “a small pillow under the back of your knees will reduce stress on your spine and support the natural curve in your lower back.” Basically, the best way to sleep is in a position that helps maintain the natural curves and alignment. I’ve personally noticed a huge difference since I’ve started doing this and I can’t recommend it enough.
Step Two: Literally just sitting better. If there’s one thing you can learn from reading Kale.Life, it’s that mindfulness as a practice makes you feel calmer, more centered, and more present in your life. Another unexpected benefit? Better posture. Being aware of my body, giving myself the occasional “scan,” is something that in my “youth” I never thought about. Now that I’m focusing more on my body and my posture, it’s something I do on the regular. It’s as simple as stopping what I’m doing, realizing where my posture is at in the moment, and straightening it out. Now when I’m on my laptop, I’m trying not to hunch over it like I’m Gollum and it’s The Precious and that has (sadly) made a world of difference.
Step Three: Wearing a different bra. This is a very me-specific step, but I know I’m not alone. Practically my whole life has been a sad parade of dull-colored minimizer bras that were as comfortable and supportive as they were boring. But last year, my sister convinced me to donate to the Kickstarter of Evelyn & Bobbie.
They’re a startup that focuses on bringing fit, function, and comfort to women of all shapes and sizes. I signed up and was so excited to get my new, fancy space bra. But once it arrived, I was a little perplexed. For starters: it was gigantic. My first instinct may or may not have been to throw the cups over my head like it was a hat and take a selfie to show my sister. I’ve taken to hanging it up in my closet because it doesn’t actually fit in my bra drawer. But while I’m still adjusting to it, I have to praise the bra for forcing me to stand up straighter. The bra is wireless, but all of the structure and support comes from underneath the breast itself, acting almost like a buttress for your chest. I know—it sounds intense. But it’s actually surprisingly comfortable …as long as I sit and stand and walk with perfect posture. It might not be a practical approach or an everyday solution, but it’s certainly helped me on my journey.
Step Four: Back-friendly exercises. Let’s be honest: This is the real fix. Anyone who’s ever even looked in the direction of a yoga instructor or personal trainer can tell you that working on your core strength is the way to prevent, well, pretty much anything bad. For me, working 9-to-5 was quite a way to make a livin’, but it was also hurting my core strength day in and day out. So for me, a strong core leads to better posture. I start each day now with a few yoga poses like the Standing Forward Bend and Bridge Pose, as well as a bunch of leg lifts. Throw in the occasional plank, and I’ve got myself a very gentle, easy way to strengthen my core. A few weeks in and I’ve already noticed how much better I feel each morning.
A few more resources to support a strong and healthy body:
- How to get enough vitamin D
- Body brushing: do it to detox your skin
- Five steps to a more sound and restful sleep
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