Justin Timberlake is to *NSYNC as sitting is to posture advice—as in, it’s the star of the show. We at Well+Good are always chatting about how slouchy we are when sitting at our desks, while the way we stand seems to get the short end of the postural discussion stick.
But despite sitting being the popular kid on the posture block, it’s pretty important to be mindful of the way you stand too. Because—fun fact—you can injure yourself from just standing still. Poor alignment can strain your joints, and any sort of imbalance can potentially mess with your movements. According to physical therapist and yoga pro Lara Heimann, as humans evolved to stand upright, we developed a lumbar curve in our low backs and thigh bones, which helped us learn to balance on our own two feet, and dictate how we should be standing.
The key? Stand up straight with equal weight on both feet, and your head, ribcage, and pelvis all in one line. Sounds easy enough, right? That said, below are the non-ideal standing positions that Heimann recommends you try to avoid.
1. Locking your knees: You can lock your knees when doing kickbacks in a workout, but it’s not so great to do it when you’re standing. “When we hang out in our joints, we can cause compression in the joint space and dial down that readiness of the muscles supporting the joints,” says Heimann, noting that it can create discomfort in the joints and an imbalanced pull on the soft tissues surrounding the bones. “If you lock out your knees, less effort is required in the muscles, but this isn’t a good thing. We want the muscles to have a readiness to fire to support us as we move in space and as we are held upright.” Instead, try to stand with your knees more relaxed and not locked up.
2. One hip jutting out: My personal go-to position is actually sabotaging my posture. “Women often jut one hip out as a way of supporting their upright torso, and sometimes to hold a baby,” says Heimann. “Whether it’s a female thing or a habit, when we jut the hip out to the side, we can create compression on one side of the body with the same accompanying tightness in the soft tissue. It also means that we are leaning a significant part of our weight off center so the side of the hip can feel the effects of that in the form of tendinitis, IT band syndrome, and the like.” Considering your IT band is most likely already tight, this is a good stance to avoid.
3. Tilting your pelvis: It’s common to tilt your pelvis either forward or backwards, but ideally, it should be held straight. “If you stand with your pelvis tipped forward in an anterior tilt, more compression can be felt in the lumbar spine with an accompanying shortening of the fascia and muscles,” says Heimann, explaining that this shortens the surrounding fascia and muscles, and can create an uncomfortable backwards pressure on your knees. But tipping your pelvis backwards (in a posterior tilt) is no better, because it strains the low back and creates a gravitational sag in the hips. Lesson learned: Stand up straight, no tilting or jutting allowed.
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