The mind’s first step to self-awareness must be through the body.
~ George A Sheehan
A correct standing posture has the spine stacked vertically, vertebra over vertebra with the correct curvatures. The back and the neck stay elongated and upright. The weight-bearing joints stand precisely vertically on top of each other, coupled with healthy feet and leg alignments. Together, these make standing comfortable and pain-free.
Standing: The Right Ways
Correct standing posture involves following the rules that we now discuss. Some of these have been explored in the previous chapters too.
• Stand with your feet at hip-width distance (distance between your ears).
• The outer edges of the feet should be parallel to each other. Most of us habitually stand with the front part of our feet turned significantly out. To nullify the harmful effects of our habits and to activate our weaker inner leg muscles, we must stand with the front part of the feet (toes) turned in by just half an inch. This feels good as it offers stability and balance.
Strengthened Arches of the Feet
• Prevent rotation of your feet. To do so, do not let your ankles fall in towards the body’s midline as it collapses the arches of the feet. Instead, keep your feet parallel to each other as mentioned earlier.
• Press the mounds of your toes down.
• Raise your toes and spread them out. Observe the strength in the arches. Place the toes down.
• Divide the body weight on the three weight-bearing points of the feet. (Refer to page 65, Chapter 8.)
While standing, we tend to put maximum weight on our heels. This pushes the knees back into an overarch and locks the knee joints. This is extremely harmful for the health of the knees. To avoid this:
• Spread the body’s weight evenly over the triangular base of the soles – the first and the fifth toes and the heels
– and relax the knees. With unlocked knees, the legs are straight but internally soft and slightly bent (the bend is not visible). People, who habitually stand with locked knees, will have to micro-bend them to bring back the neutral state.
• Bring a gentle tone to your hips and thighs with a Hip Clench. (Refer to page 47, Chapter 6.) Another way to safeguard your knees is to mildly activate your front thigh muscles to give them a baseline tone.
• This feels like your thigh muscles are gently hugging the thigh bones.
• The tone slightly pulls the kneecaps up, thus preventing the knees from getting locked. At the same time, use your thigh muscles to hold your body up instead of weighing down on the joints.
This is the same inner corset tone we spoke about in Chapter 6 on page 46.
This would feel like you are zipping your trouser. To recapitulate:
• The navel must be pulled in by a mere half inch towards the back.
• It should not be too tight. Make sure you do not hold your breath.
• In fact, the navel pull should comfortably enhance the breathing.
Small Hollow in the Lower Back
The idea is to avoid the tendency to arch the back. In such cases:
• Imagine you have a tail.
• Now, pull this imaginary tail down towards the heels.
• This should be done with straight but not hyperextended knees. The knees should not bend too much either.
• The belly should not bulge out.
Now that you are well-balanced on your feet:
• Lift the breastbone and the rib cage up without an excessive arch in the lower back. It should feel like a puppeteer has pulled your torso up on a string. This creates a good distance from the hipbone to the rib cage.
• Another way to understand this position well is to employ a good old technique. Place a flat book on the
crown of your head and walk. This will help you find the plumb-line (Refer to page 34, Chapter 5.) and create awareness of any habitual or excessive wrong movements that pull you out of alignment.
• When you stand, push your head upward as if there were a light weight on it.
• This technique contracts the neck muscles at the front and gives a stretch to the tight muscles behind the neck. Your neck will actually become longer.
Lowered and Opened-Up Shoulders
• Lower your shoulders, that is, increase the distance between your ears and your shoulders. This has the dual effect of easing the tension in the shoulders and lengthening the cervical spine.
• Rotate the arms gently behind. This opens up the chest and engages the upper back muscles.
• The palms now face the thighs and the thumbs point forward instead of being turned inwards.
We have already explored this technique on page 135, Chapter 14. Let’s do a quick recap:
• Pull your head and neck in line with the rest of your spine.
• Take your chin in slightly to make it parallel to the floor.
• The highest point of your body should be the tip of your head from behind.
• Let your breaths become smoother and efficient with a chin tuck.
• Relax the jaw and the neck muscles.
• If you happen to clench your teeth, rest your tongue gently at the roof of your mouth. This automatically relaxes the jaw, which in turn eases any strain on the neck.
Retain this healthy position from feet to toes, whenever you remember to do so, while comfortably breathing. The ears, the shoulders, the hips, the knees and the ankles will fall in one straight line. However, if this does not occur due to an overarched back or neck, exercises should be added to stretch the shortened muscles and strengthen the weaker ones, as prescribed in earlier chapters.
Instant Alignment Technique
Follow these primary alignment steps as a routine:
• Toes In, Heels Out – Stand with the outer edges of your feet parallel to each other.
• Knees Unlocked – Keep your knees soft and do not push them behind.
• Hip Clench – Bring a gentle tone to your hips by squeezing them mildly.
• Navel In – Pull in the abdomen gently and push the lower back slightly behind.
• Shoulders Down – Lower the shoulders as you slightly hinge them backwards.
• Head Glide – Retract the head to keep the chin parallel to the ground.
Developing the habit of properly aligning the body takes times. It is a prerogative and adhering to its principles is the best thing one can do for the self. ‘Practice makes perfect.’ Learning to hold the aligned position for some time, each time, will unfold a success story. Slowly, but surely, correct alignments will turn into a habit. Take short creative breaks between these alignment cycles; soon the inner muscle memory will take over as the examiner and the results will be astounding.