We are so pleased to introduce Keri O’Meara, creator of Muse Movement studio featured previously here, as our newest contributor! We can’t wait for of her incredible insights and are so happy to have her on the Well TO Do team! Keep reading for her first piece, which gives us some simple pilates-based tips for better posture.
I just had the absolute pleasure of a week long vacation in Tulum. When I got back people commented on my sunny glow and my posture! Confession: I pretty much just laid around on a beach, I practiced a touch of yoga and a snippet of pilates but mostly just soaked up the vitamin D and dipped in the healing crystal aqua sea.
The events in our lives imprint themselves on our body, into our tissues, take shape and inform our posture. Vacations are one of these events – as you let go, so do tense muscles and tissues and so relaxation becomes something you wear in your posture. Winter is also one of these events. Heavy layers, bracing against the cold, endless nights of hibernating with Netflix, create a more enclosed body. Our shoulders round forward, our chest gets tight and our core gets lazy. Upper back muscles tense up, our necks get stiff and our lower back suffers as spinal movement loses fluidity. These tight upper torso muscles can make opening your upper back pretty difficult. So you move into your neck and from there your lower back and your tight shoulders and your upper spine gets no love and, rinse, wash and repeat, the cycle continues.
You don’t need a vacation in Mexico (actually everyone needs a vacay in Mexico) to create more opening through the chest, a more mobile shoulder girdle and a healthy spine that moves in all the right places. Below are some simple tips to help you spring clean your body, rinse out those winter blahs, release neck, shoulder and spine tension and give you spring and summer-ready posture.
Often, because of this wintry inflexibility in the upper spine, when we try to go into extension or do a back bend we end up doing a Beyonce-esque neck whip and then crank into our lower back. So the first step is to get acquainted with your core.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor hip distance apart. On your exhale, draw up through your lower abdominal muscles so that your frontal hip points move up towards your lower floating ribs. Try to avoid squeezing your bum and think more of pulling up from the depths of your pelvis.
Follow this with a pec stretch. A simple one is to stand facing a wall with your arms on it in a cactus shape, turn your body to the left keeping your right arm on the wall and hold for about 30 seconds, repeat on the other side.
When you are feeling a bit more open across the chest, come onto your hands an knees and sit into a wide kneed child’s pose. Walk your hands to the right and push your hips to the left. Try rotating your left armpit down the the floor for a deeper stretch. This opening is to stretch out the lats, side body and upper traps so they have less opportunity to bully up and do the work when you go into extension.
Lie on your belly. Re-engage core, creating that same sense of lift through the low belly so your pubic bone presses down into your mat. Take your arms out to the side in a t- shape with your palms facing down and then flip your thumbs up to the ceiling. Draw your shoulders down as you lift your thumbs as high as you can towards the ceiling. Repeat a few times to mobilize your shoulders.
Take your hands along side your hips with the hands facing into your body and the pinky side of the hands facing the ceiling. Roll your shoulders back and think wide across the chest. It’s important to find your core again here. There will be a temptation to engage lower back muscles to lift your chest. Try to avoid this and just focus on rolling the upper arms away from the floor and gently squeeze the bottom tips of the shoulder blades together so the collar bone widens. You are strengthening the back to open the front and continuing to mobilize and stabilize the shoulder girdle.
Now you are ready for thoracic (upper spine) extension. This is a sticky part of the spine that already has limited mobility so take it slow. The temptation will be to move from your neck and your lower back but if you do that you’ll by-pass the “T spine.”
Still on your belly, take your arms into a cactus shape with the elbows and hands on the floor. Tighten your tummy, draw your shoulders down, push into your hands and pull them back without actually moving them. Again, resist the temptation to Beyonce your neck. Imagine your eyes were on your collar bone and look forward from there, thinking about moving the chest through the gate of your shoulders.
This is the first variation. You can go deeper into a cobra or even an upward facing dog or any other type of extension or back bend you like. The key is to mobilize your shoulders and move from the upper spine and stabilizing through lower spine. This will ensure healthy opening and spring and summer ready posture so that you feel and look like you just got back from a beach vacay!
For more on Keri and Muse Movement, click here.