When you carry yourself well, you'll not only look your best but you'll feel a whole lot better too. Here's your guide to the right kind of stance.
Good posture makes you look taller, slimmer, and more confident. And it has health benefits, preventing back, neck, hip, and knee pain and giving your diaphragm and rib cage more room to expand when you breathe. But good posture can be elusive. "If you make little changes throughout the day that involve your pelvis, legs, and feet, you can create a foundation for better posture," says Mary Bond, author of The New Rules of Posture: How to Sit, Stand, and Move in the Modern World.
We sit virtually all day long with only an occasional stroll from house to car, desk to cafeteria, sofa to bed. "We were built to move, not stay in one position all day," says Dr. Stacy Shoemaker, a rehabilitation specialist at SpineCare Medical Group in Daly City, California. "And we weren't built to sit upright in a chair all day." Because it's pretty much impossible to avoid chairs, the next best thing is to sit using good posture principles.
"Every once in a while, place one hand behind the small of your back to see if there's still a curve there," Read says. If there isn't, consider using a lumbar support cushion. Every half hour or so, take a break from sitting. Get up and walk around for a minute or two. This keeps your hamstrings and lower back from tightening up and pulling your spine out of alignment.
You'll notice your thighs more now that you're not crossing your legs. No, they haven't grown, it's just that you're more aware of them. That's natural, so don't let it bother you.
"A healthy spine has an inward curve in the lower back, an outward curve at the shoulder blades, and another inner curve at the neck," says Shoemaker.
Roll up a small bath towel, then stand against a wall using good posture. "Put the rolled towel into the curve of your lower back," says Shoemaker. "It should just fit. This exercise will help you get the feeling for that curve."
You may feel taller and lighter -- and a bit awkward if you're accustomed to slouching. "You may also feel very conscious of your breasts, which may feel more prominent now," says Bond.