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Incorrect Postures to Avoid in Mind-Body Workouts

Think of Barbie Doll and Neanderthal as visual ways to describe two typical incorrect postures. These names were dreamed up by Cathleen Murakami, Pilates instructor and owner of Synergy Systems Studio in Encinitas, California. They are a great visual for proper posture in mind-body workouts.

You’re practicing Barbie Doll posture if your chest is puffed out, your back is swayed, and your buttocks are sticking out behind you. That usually goes along with shoulder blades pulled back too far. High heels can contribute to this posture, and standing and walking in this position can put pressure on your lower back and tighten the front of your hips.

You’re practicing your best Neanderthal if your chest is caved in, shoulders rounded forward, and buttocks tucked under you. That usually goes along with your head poking forward in front of your chest. This posture can flatten out the curves in your lower back, making it more susceptible to impact injuries.

Follow the steps below to help you get to the right place eventually.

  1. Rock your buttocks back to create a big curve in your back.

    You may likely stick out your chest to compensate for the weight shift, kind of like Murakami’s Barbie Doll posture.

  2. Tip your belly forward and try to tuck your buttocks underneath you.

    You may sink your chest to compensate for this move, much like Murakami’s Neanderthal posture.

  3. Rock back and forth between these two exaggerated positions, allowing your shoulders to move in response, but not focusing on their action or making it any larger than required by the pelvis shift. Slowly lessen the swing until you find yourself coming to rest sort of in the middle to a neutral position that doesn’t over-curve or -flatten anywhere.

  4. Test your position.

    Place your hands palm down on your belly, with the base of your palms on your hip bones, your thumbs reaching inward, and your fingers pointing toward your pubic bone.

    Your hands should be perpendicular to the ground. If your fingers are farther ahead of your thumbs, your hips need to tip backward a bit more. If your thumbs are farther forward than your fingers, you need to tighten up your abs and pull under a bit more.

  5. When you find what seems to be neutral, take away your hands and see how this feels.

    Are you feeling forced to bend your knees or do you feel as if you are straining to stay in position? If so, you need to work on your leg and hip flexibility to help you along. You may also need to work on low back or front-of-hip flexibility to help you stay there, too.

You can experiment with this neutral spine position anywhere: sitting in a car, walking through the grocery store, or standing in line at the bank. Just working into it can help you stretch and strengthen a little. You’ll feel taller and statelier to boot!

Instructors of Yoga, as well as of the Chinese mind-body practices of Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong, not only don’t talk about neutral spine, they actually instruct you to “just be.”

They don’t want you to pull in your abdominal muscles or worry whether your shoulder blades are sliding down on your back to open your chest. But, if you practice these methods, you do find that your posture gets taller and your abs get stronger just from the practice and muscle use.

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