Posture Correction: If you have a postural distortion, you need to do a number of things to fix it: relax tight muscles, strengthen weak ones and make behavioral changes to prevent recurrence and allow the brain to learn new, healthy patterns of muscle activation and relaxation. This post focuses specifically on myofascial release and stretching exercises to undo 2 common postural dysfunctions.
Forward Head Posture
Does your head stick out past your shoulders? Do your shoulders round down and forward? If so, you have some level of forward head posture. The exact amount of work you need to put into reversing forward head, as with the other distortions to be discussed below, depends on how severe it is and how long it has persisted. In general, the following self-myofascial release (SMR) and stretching exercises are helpful.
Pectoralis Minor SMR: This muscle runs along the outside of the chest into the shoulder and is held in a chronically shortened position in forward head posture. Rolling it out will help open up the chest. It may be easiest to do this with a tennis ball against a wall while standing.
Neck Half Circles (forward): Your neck muscles are tight if you have forward head posture; they’ve been working hard trying to keep you facing forward from an overstretched position.
Shoulder Rolls: Roll your shoulder backward in circles to replenish blood flow and restore some flexibility.
Arm Pull-Back: Clasp your hands behind your back, then extend them out and push them upward. This stretches your chest.
Doorway Chest Stretch: With elbow bent, place your forearm flat against a doorway, then walk through to stretch the pectoralis muscles.
Anterior Pelvic Tilt
Anterior pelvic tilt is characterized by a protruding buttocks and increased lumbar arch. This postural distortion is popular both among those who sit a lot and those who are highly active.
Hip Flexor SMR: You won’t regain proper posture unless you restore length and flexibility to the hip flexors. This may be easiest to do with a tennis ball rather than a foam roller.
Lower Back SMR: The muscles near your spine are likely tight and knotted from being compressed. Lie so that the foam roller is just to the side of the spine and roll out each side.
Child’s Pose: This standard yoga stretch helps to lengthen both the lower back and the pectoralis muscles.
Psoas Stretch: Get down on one knee, then lean your upper body forward until you feel a good stretch. Keep the front knee in line with your ankle.
Side Bend Stretch: Sit on the floor with your legs apart. Bend your torso to the side, bringing your ear closer to your leg. Bring your opposite arm over your head to the side you’re leaning into. This gives a good lower back stretch.
Myofascial release is an important component of postural correction because stretching alone isn’t sufficient for lengthening muscles that have developed knots after years of chronic tension. For a crash course in SMR, see www.lightfield.com.