How do you show up?
I’m talking about your posture. Take a look. Stand in front of the mirror. What do you see?
I remember seeing my reflection in a window when my youngest was an infant. Rounded shoulders. Head forward. Is that me? Really? I wondered what had happened to my posture. I heard my grandmother’s voice in my head: “Stand tall.” And I realized that all the sleepless nights, the countless hours spent breastfeeding while sitting hunched over with rounded shoulders, and the physically heavy loads I carried (the infant bucket in one hand and my 3-year-old on my other hip) — all of this had an impact on my posture.
I wish I knew then what I know now.
Not only was my posture impacting my body negatively, it was also presenting the tired, defeated, me to the world. It was reinforcing my stressed, worried state of mind as a mom who was juggling kids, home maintenance, and professions.
Simple adjustments can change not only your mood but how you show up. For example, the simple act of mindful breathing can change your mood. And basic shifts in your posture can change what is going on in your body. Here’s how:
Start with mindfulness — get to know your body.
Step 1: Breathing
What does your breathing look like? Do you shallow chest breathe (usually with stress) with your shoulders hiked up to your ears? Watch yourself in the mirror. Put one hand on your ribs (fingers on front ribs and thumb on back ribs) and the other hand on your belly. Do your ribs move front, side, and back when you inhale? Switch hands. Repeat. Can you feel your diaphragm push down on your pelvic floor when you inhale deeply? Can you feel it pull away and your pelvic floor lift up on the exhale?
It’s time to get more mind-body aware! Perform 10 breaths with your hands placed as instructed above. Be in tune with what happens in your body as you inhale and exhale. Watch yourself in the mirror. Try not to hike your shoulders up to your ears. When you exhale, think about the ribs coming together slightly, the lower ribs moving toward hips, the diaphragm lifting as the air leaves your lungs, the belly pulling away from your hand. Inhale, and feel the expansion of your ribs as your diaphragm pushes down on your pelvic floor and your belly pushes into your hand.
Step 2: Posture/alignment check
How do you stand and sit? Are you confident? Are your head and chest pointing down toward the earth instead of straight ahead?
Take pictures of yourself — front, side, back. Get a full head-to-toe view. Are your feet evenly distributed? Is your head tilted to one side? Are your ribs in line with your hips, or do you thrust the ribs out? Do you hike one hip to the side? (I used to, and my right side was always tighter than my left.) Are your shoulders up to your ears most of the time? Are your shoulders rounded with a forward head tilt? Do you stick your bottom out with an anterior pelvic tilt, or do you tuck your bottom under? (To find your neutral pelvis, check out this site.)
Now, think about stacking the joints — ears over shoulders over hips over knees over ankles. Distribute your weight evenly between your feet, left and right, as well as from your heels to your toes. Ground all your toes. Ensure your feet are under your hips.
Do you often wear heeled shoes? Look at what this does to your alignment. It pushes your body forward and puts additional strain on the calves and heels. Stretch your calves often!
Look at how you sit in your car and in every chair you use. Is your spine supported? While in your car, use your headrest. Try not to hunch forward into the steering wheel. In a chair, try not to cross your legs, and sit with feet hip-distance apart. Sit on your sit bones.
Poor posture can create muscle imbalances, weaknesses, aches, and pains, and it can also impact how you see yourself — your self-esteem and confidence. Healthy posture can boost your confidence, help your energy, make you look taller, and so much more.
Think about how you show up. Move often. Stretch. Sit and stand. Practice mindful breathing. Adjust your breastfeeding position for maximum latching and for your posture. Your body and your mind will thank you.
Want to learn more?
Here is an interesting talk from Amy Cuddy about what your posture is saying.
And here are some helpful tips from Dr. Sarah Duvall: