One of the most common questions that my clients ask me is how to sit up straight. It sounds like the answer should be fairly simple but actually it’s not, and a number of things need to be said.
First, that the key to ‘sitting up straight’ is to get your pelvis into a good position and relaxing your upper body.
Your pelvis is the foundation of your spine. If it’s in the right position and acting as a solid base on the chair, then your spine, shoulders and head will more likely be in a good position without much effort.
When I see people trying to ‘sit up straight’ they usually do the opposite. They put all their focus on puffing their chest out and pulling their shoulders and head back.
This often feels uncomfortable because their back and neck muscles are overworking, and they’re not going to be able to sustain this position for long.
If you focus on the pelvis instead, then you should be able to ‘sit up straight’ much easier and for longer. I demonstrate this pelvic positioning in the video above.
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Second, I tell them that of course this doesn’t mean I want them to sit like this all the time – you need variety.
You’re not going to be able to sit like this on a sofa or car seat, and you shouldn’t try because it’s not fun or relaxing!
There’s nothing wrong with slouching sometimes, crossing one leg over the other (be sure to swap legs though sometimes), leaning forward, leaning backward etc.
What’s important is that you’re doing this with a body which is in balance.
When I think of good posture I often think of young children aged between three and six.
At certain moments you’ll catch them sitting upright on a chair, so effortlessly and elegantly, and yet seconds later they’ll be all twisted in that very same chair. Some more seconds later they’ll be crawling on the ground pretending to be a bear!
They adopt a variety of positions and move in different ways but do so without too much strain as everything is in balance.
Third, I remind them that just because they now know how to ‘sit up straight’, it doesn’t mean they have great posture.
Having good body alignment is not about being rigid and sitting and standing straight all the time. Instead, it’s about your muscles being in balance, from left to right, and front to back.
This ensures that your body is in a good position and working efficiently in almost everything you’re doing, from walking, to running, to bending down to pick up a pen etc. and all without you having to think about it!
Ameet Bhakta BSc, DipHE – I’m a Posture Correction Specialist certified by the Egoscue Institute, and founder of Health Through Posture.