You are only as old as your spine or how to look 10 lbs thinner
July 9, 2012
I have been reviewing some of Joseph Pilates’ writings for a television show I am currently shooting (more on that soon). In one of my favourite quotes from his book Return to Life through Contrology (1945), he states,
“If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old. If it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.”
A strong, flexible spine contributes to all manner of positive health benefits from increased cardio vascular capacity to better gastro-intestinal health to improved balance and stronger bones. A strong flexible spine also contributes to good posture.
More than any other physical characteristic, good posture will make you look and feel strong, confident and capable. Good posture makes you look thinner.
Look around you. Whether its a teenager hanging out at the mall, a business person rushing through the airport, or the person standing in front of you at the grocery store, people’s posture is generally terrible: rounded shoulders, bent spines, drooping heads, protruding bellies. People have no waists because their ribs are sitting on their hip -bones.
Being physically fit contributes to better posture. But fitness alone is not the antidote. Balancing the strength and flexibility of muscle groups that contribute to good posture is paramount.
- Short neck and upper shoulder muscles contribute to poor carriage of the head. Simple neck stretches can help reduce tension and bring the head into better alignment.
- Tight chest muscles and weak mid-back muscles contribute to rounded shoulders and drooping head. Keep you posture tall with exercises to lengthen chest muscles and strengthen your mid back.
- Weak spinal and abdominal muscles contribute to faulty postural patterns. Take your spine through its full range of motion every day and in every plane of movement – flexion, extension, side-bending and twisting to keep your spine supple and your abs strong.
To a certain extent, poor posture is a cultural phenomena. We spend the majority of our time sitting - at our computers, driving in our cars, watching tv.
As well, the idea of promoting good posture as a means of disciplined bearing and moral fortitude has gone out of fashion along with good manners and proper grammar. When was the last time a teacher told your kid to sit up straight at their desk?
More to the heart of it – literally – our hunched shoulders protect what the yogis call our heart centre from an almost constant sense of anxiety, fear and insecurity.
The best way to calm our minds and subdue our anxiety is deep focused breathing. Our lungs cannot function to their full capacity if trapped inside an impenetrable ribcage.
Stand up. Lift your arms to the sky and turn your breastbone to the ceiling. Take a deep breath. And another. And another.
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