5 Reasons Good Posture Is Important!  

 

What if I told you that improving your posture will improve your life?

If good posture isn’t important to you, it should be.

There are many reasons why your mother or teacher nagged you to sit up straight and it has nothing to do with looking good (although looking good could be a reason unto itself J)

Sitting, standing and moving well is incredibly important because doing these things incorrectly can result in discomfort, stiffness, and pain.

  • Sitting or standing with poor posture can impede healthy breathing. Slouching puts pressure on the ribs, lungs, diaphragm and the other muscles associated with breathing. Try this little experiment: where you are right now, slouch or slump, then take a breath. See how shallow your breathing is? When you slouch or slump you cannot breathe deeply and easily.
  • Slumping can cause pain. Poor posture bypasses your postural muscles and puts undue stress on your ancillary muscular system.  This causes pain.  To understand why let’s talk a little bit about anatomy. You have two types of muscles used to support and move your skeleton: postural muscles and phasic muscles. Your postural muscles include spinal muscles, some of your abdominal muscles, hip flexors, calf muscles, and so on. These muscles are designed to work all day long, maintaining your posture. Your phasic muscles are your biceps, trapezius, triceps, etc. They are designed to perform short sprints of work such as carrying the groceries or washing a window. When your posture is poor you rely less on your postural muscles and more on your phasic muscles to maintain your posture. The phasic muscles don’t like to work long hours. Remember, they only like to do short stints of work. That’s why when you carry a gallon of milk for 20 blocks and don’t change arms your arm aches! Poor posture shortens postural muscles and limits their mobility, and this affects strength and can also cause pain and stiffness. Good posture does the opposite and lengthens postural muscles. 
  •  Slouching impedes digestion. According to an article in the Harvard Health Letter, poor posture can lead to incontinence. “Slouching increases abdominal pressure, which puts pressure on the bladder. ” Poor posture can also lead to heartburn and slowed digestion, according to Dr. Kyle Staller. “Slouching puts pressure on the abdomen, which can force stomach acid in the wrong direction. And some evidence suggests that transit in the intestines slows down when you slouch.” It just makes sense that standing up taller makes digestion easier.
  • Better posture means better balance. Think about it. Your head weighs anywhere from 10-15 pounds. Essentially you have a bowling ball sitting on the top of your spine. If your head isn’t beautifully poised on top of the spine then you will be off balance.  Your body will contort itself in every conceivable way to maintain balance so that your head doesn’t hit the ground. 

  •  Better posture translates into dynamic movement. When you have poor posture, your body has to work overtime to maintain balance. This causes excessive muscular tension throughout the body. Tense muscles don’t move easily. It is that simple. Try this. Tense your toes either by lifting them up or scrunching them. Now try to walk. What happens? You can’t walk freely or easily. Or try this. Clench your jaw. Now turn your head. Same thing! Right? You cannot move your head as easily. This is a basic tenet of the Alexander Technique: letting go of unnecessary muscular tension frees up your movement and makes moving easier. Moving more easily makes your movement more dynamic and coordinated.

So why not make this year the year to improve the way that you sit, stand, walk, and even run? Your health depends on it. 

Teaching people how to move well is my passion. Sign up for posts that teach you how to be more comfortable in your body! Click here to sign up or use the form to the right of this post!

How You Move Matters! You can learn how to move better with my Amazon bestselling book  Agility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence.  My book is illustrated with 40 videos that you access with your iPad or smartphone!


 You can purchase it here. 

My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a fitness and movement coach. My methodology is the Alexander Techniquea mindfulness practice that teaches you how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves! Let me know what you think or ask a question! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to post in the comments section below and feel free to share this with your friends!

You can learn more about the Alexander Technique here.

Master Walking, Master Running!

Last week I had the amazing opportunity to become a certified

Art of Running instructor!

About 10 years ago Malcolm Balk wrote the Master the Art of Running and thereafter the Master the Art of Working Out. (Click on the blue links to see his books on Amazon.)

Since then he has created a course to teach Alexander Technique teachers how to work with runners and walkers.

I took it and was amazed!

How could such seemingly simple movements transform my running?

Plus these moves also transformed my walking!!!

I cannot wait to teach you more about Malcolm’s approach.

Click on the video below. Malcolm teaches you 3 cool movements that will improve the way your legs and feet track while you walk and/or run.

Most of us stand, walk and run with our feet way too close together.

Many of you have heard me say over time that you should be more like the Eiffel Tower and less like The Empire State Building!!!

How your legs and feet relate to each other is called tracking.

These three simple movements will improve your tracking and trick your brain into wanting to stand walk and run with improved balance.

WOW! Such a simple way to get away from old habits. Try these several times then let me know how they work for you!!

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this!

How You Move Matters! You can learn how to move better with my Amazon bestselling book  Agility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence.  My book is illustrated with 40 videos that you access with your iPad or smartphone!


 You can purchase it here. 

My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a fitness and movement coach. My methodology is the Alexander Techniquea mindfulness practice that teaches you how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves! Let me know what you think or ask a question! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to post in the comments section below and feel free to share this with your friends!

You can learn more about the Alexander Technique here.

You can learn more about Malcolm Balk and The Art of Running here 

Walk This Way! Why Your Big Toe Is Important.

When you walk or stroll well, your head leads the movement and your foot comes forward to prevent you from falling on the ground.

Have you ever heard that walking is “controlled falling”?

Toddler walking
Walking is controlled falling. Photo: Unsplash, Joao Alves

Imagine a child first learning how to walk.

Most adults shift their weight from side to side when they walk. If you were to exaggerate this movement, it would look like a waddle, but if you watch a child walk, they walk forward and straight.

Children don’t waddle when they walk.

One problem with the waddle is that you lose the momentum that each step generates. It’s as if you are applying a brake with each step. Instead, if you think of yourself walking forward and not side to side, you will discover that your legs and feet will dynamically flow underneath you. Walking dynamically with forward intention will make walking easier and more efficient.

Another problem with the waddle is that the foot doesn’t articulate with the ground in a dynamic way, thus having an undesirable effect on balance and stride. When your foot works well, it strikes the ground slightly to the outside and to the front of the heel. Your weight then crosses the large arch, the medial-longitudinal arch, over to the big toe.

Your big toe has two very important jobs. It helps you balance, and it propels you forward. Many adults do not engage the big toe at all. Instead, they hold the toe up and only walk on the soles of their feet. This inevitably results in the side-to-side waddle. People who do this to an extreme will create holes with their big toes on the tops of their sneakers and slippers.

If you were to exaggerate this movement, you would eventually shuffle.

The good news is that if you are shuffling now, with a little conscious thought, you can stop shuffling and move into a dynamic walk.

Shoes that fit well with a pliable and thin sole are essential for happy feet and dynamic walking. Here is a Keen sandal at Amazon. I absolutely love, love, love this shoe

Stay away from bulky, padded sneakers that, although comfortable, are not flexible.

Your toes need to be able to splay as you move. Your feet need to flex and adjust in order to keep you balanced.

Make sure that your shoes are large enough to accommodate this movement. Also, overly tight socks can impede movement and diminish balance.

If you are unsteady on your feet or you fear falling, hiking poles are a great way to ensure balance and gain confidence.

Whether you use one or two poles is up to you, but the added point of contact is a huge benefit. Used by hikers and climbers worldwide, the hiking pole is lightweight yet sturdy.

The pole height is adjustable, and it comes with a strap that goes around your wrist. To customize the height, hold your forearms at a right angle from your upper arm.

You can purchase hiking poles at many sporting-goods stores or at Amazon here.

Last week I talked about the benefits of turning your power walk into a stroll. You can see that article here.

Next week I will give  more instruction on how to improve your balance while walking.

How You Move Matters! You can learn how to move better with my Amazon bestselling bookAgility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence.  My book is illustrated with 40 videos that you access with your iPad or smartphone!


 You can purchase it here. 

My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a fitness and movement coach. My methodology is the Alexander Technique, a mindfulness practice that teaches you how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves! Let me know what you think or ask a question! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to post in the comments section below and feel free to share this with your friends!

 

7 Ways to Challenge Balance and Improve Balance

Man balancing on trapeze wire. Balance.

Maintaining a healthy and active sense of balance is imperative for living a dynamic life.

It is no news that fear of falling is one of the greatest fears for aging adults.

Have you ever tripped? It can be terrifying. Just think about the fear that rushes through your body when you start to fall!

Fear of falling is one of the strongest reflexes because your body will do everything in its power to prevent your noggin’ from hitting the floor!

The CDC reports that in the US alone we spend over 34 billion dollars in medical costs associated with falling. That says nothing about deaths, emotional trauma and the inability to get around and all of the lifestyle changes that ensue after a fall.

The CDC also says that 1 in 3 seniors over 65 will fall at some point in the course of a year. Clearly falling and balance are critical issues in our aging population.

Did you know that balance starts to decrease as early as our 20’s and declines with each passing year?

Depressing, I know, but here is some important knowledge- to improve balance you must challenge balance.

Our culture has become way too sedentary. We sit too much! We sit in our cars, we sit in front of the computer, we sit and watch TV. All of this sitting does not challenge balance and weakens or dulls the balance system.

Without getting too technical I want to briefly explore the three parts that comprise the balance system- the inner ear otherwise known as your vestibular system, eyesight, and proprioception. I call this the Balance Troika.

The Balance Troika.

  • Inner ear or vestibular system is made up of 3 semicircular canals. They kind of remind me of a roller coaster. The way the vestibular system functions can get complicated but let’s just say that it constantly measures the body’s position in relationship to gravity. Along with the eyes, it helps us hold a gaze even though the body is moving. Try this: Hold your hand in front of you and shake your head from side to side rapidly. See how your hand stays in focus. Maybe some small details are out of focus. Now do the reverse. Move the hand very quickly in front of the eyes. See how different that is when the vestibular ocular reflex is not excited.
  • Eyesight: Try this; stand up and stand on one leg. Then stand on the other leg. OK, now try standing on one leg and close your eyes. Aha, see how your vision affects your balance. It is incredibly difficult to stand on one leg with your eyes closed and not all that difficult to stand on one leg with your eyes open.
  • Proprioception: Close your eyes and wave your hands in front of you. See you always know where they are. So Proprioception is the sense of the relative position of neighboring parts of the body and the strength of effort being employed in movement.

Let’s Challenge Balance!

  1. Squats: Squats are great because when done properly they allow for free movement in the hips. Because we sit too much many of us have a very limited range of motion through the hips. Click here for the squat video.
  2. Lunges: The lunge can be a little more challenging. Click on my video here for instruction. If you are a little wobbly place a chair on either side of you in case you need a handle.
  3. Walk the Plank: Click here for more instruction on walking the plank! You don’t need to be a pirate matey! 
  4. Little Lifts: Click here for a video on what I call Little Lift balancing exercise.
  5. Lateral Lifts: The next two are in one video. Make sure that you do these near a chair or a counter in case you need support!  Click here for the instructional video!
  6. Semi-Circle: See above video!
  7. Heel Raises: Foot and ankle flexibility are very important for balance. Heel raises help with both! Hmmm. I don’t have a video for this but here is the sequence- it is very simple.You may want to do this at a counter or with a chair in front of you. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Raise your heels so that you are on the balls of your feet. Lower your heels until they just about touch the floor BUT do not touch the floor then raise the heels again. Do 5-10 of these.

How You Move Matters! You can learn how to move better with my Amazon bestselling book Agility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence.  My book is illustrated with 40 videos that you access with your iPad or smartphone! You can purchase it here.

My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a fitness and movement coach. My methodology is the Alexander Technique, a mindfulness-based practice that teaches you how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves! Let me know what you think or ask a question! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to post in the comments section below and feel free to share this with your friends!

 

 

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Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_bolina’>bolina / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Self-Care Is Health Care

The lion is roaring self- care is health care!
Photo: Unsplash, Lemuel Butler

Have you ever taken the time to consider that self-care is health care?

I think that this is a very important message so please read on.

I like to think that most times I am a pretty easygoing person.

Certainly, I am easy going with the exercise classes I teach.

I call them ExTension Classes! Get it?

I let people come and go as they please and only pay for the classes they attend. I never raise an eyebrow when someone hasn’t shown up in ages. I smile and nod and warmly great them.

Well, a few months ago that all changed! I was like the lion in the photo!

I went on a rant and I roared and I became very pointed and direct and said to the group “It is the New Year and it is time for you to resolve to yourself that you will attend class on a regular basis! This is your resolution. Exercise does not work unless you do it consistently! You need to make a commitment to yourself to attend class regularly. That means put it in your calendar so that when the Dr.’s office, or a friend, or anybody says “Can you make it at 9 Monday?” you say “No, I cannot make it at 9 I have my exercise class!”

Done! Easy! You put yourself first!

I think that my rant was well received and gave my class a bit more direction. My rant prompted a wonderful conversation that ensued the following week.

The topic was self-care.

We know to eat well. We know to catch 8 hours of shuteye. We know that we need to exercise.
But do you know this?

No one can take care of you as well as you can take care of yourself. Not one person.

You have to be your own caretaker.

Self -care is health care.

Taking care of yourself means moving more. Not just exercise. You need to move much of the day every day!

The human body was designed to move and our culture is way too sedentary. We are sitting ourselves to death.

We rely too much on doctors and medicine to do the things that consistent self-care can address. Moving well and moving more is one of the best things you can do to improve your quality of life.

So make a resolution to move more. Make a resolution to commit to self-care and see how your health improves. As I said before no one can take care of you as well as you can take care of yourself.

I will make a resolution to go on more rants and teach you more ways to improve your self- care. Deal?
Let me know how you are bringing more movement into your life!

You can purchase my Amazon bestselling book Agility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence here.

Or sign up for my course 5 Ways to Heal Back Pain here.

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mary Derbyshire and I am a movement and fitness coach. My methodology is the Alexander Technique and I am passionate about getting people moving and teaching people how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your life improves. You CAN learn how to move better and I can teach you!