I’ve given my fair share of talks to hard-working bodies across different professions, from those in the military to stockbrokers on trading floors, from construction workers to nanny agencies, and almost every role in the hospitality realm. There is one thing that affects every single body—by the end of their work shifts these workers were not only mentally fatigued but also suffered from some type of body pain.
How do we fix this?
First, we came up with catchphrases to put the problem into a seemingly fixable box: sitting is the new smoking, sleeping-butt syndrome, statue lifestyle, and so on. Next, we turned them into hashtags to see how many other people are suffering from the same things we are. Now what?
Some have tried tech that attaches to the body and “tells us” when we need help. (As if we didn’t already know when pain kicks in.) Others buy expensive chairs or standing mats and hope that something external will support their bodies, so all we need to do is become one with our latest accessory and cross our fingers. But none of these things are a true fix. They don’t teach. They simply put a band-aid over a far-too-painful problem.
What would happen if we just learned how to properly align our bodies so we are in our strongest, most solid, most Jōbu(a Japanese adjective that means strong and solid.) Could we be pain-free standing or sitting at our workspace all day?
The short answer is yes. The long answer requires work and commitment. Work and commitment that our bodies deserve, because no matter how we spin today’s (or tomorrow’s) catchphrase, we only get one body. There are no trade-ins.
So, let’s talk standing for productivity, for a strong body, and to keep body pain away. Although these small adjustments only take a few short minutes, undoing years of a bad posture practice takes dedication and repetition. The first step: To begin standing strong, you must always feel your tallest. So, stand up, up, UP! By that I mean pretend someone is above you pulling one strand of hair from the crown of your head up to the ceiling.
Now, just like everything I teach, we are going to work from the ground up:
- Take a look at your feet. All 10 toes should be pointing forward.
- Your heels should be under your sitz bones. To locate your sitz bones, sit down for a moment, rock back and forth on your hips lifting the fleshy part of your bum. The two hard points of your bum pressing down are your sitz bones. Stand back up and align your legs so they are in line with those two points. (Women have a tendency to think their hips are actually wider than they really are so give the sitting test a try.)
- Your knees should be stretched but not locked. By that, I mean you should not feel any tension in the back of your knees or your quadriceps.
- Place your hands on your abs just below your belly button where you zip your jeans. Contract your abs. Do not interpret this as holding your breath. In fact, breathing is very important at this step. Instead, think of your abs wrapping from your obliques (your sides) and pulling forward (towards your belly button where your hands are placed). You should feel a slight contraction, nothing so strong that you can’t go on about your day. **Bonus move here: once you become confident in this position, add a kegel for a little extra internal workout.
- Press the shoulders down away from your ears and shake your head “no.” Release any tension you are holding in your head, neck, chest, and shoulders. Go ahead and breathe for a few moments.
- Now, keeping your new alignment strong and in one piece, shift your weight forward slightly to the balls of your feet. But keep pressing your heels down to the ground. Your heels should stay anchored to the floor. This is a slight lean, almost completely unnoticeable, but, I promise, it will have huge effects. It will take the tension off of your spine and shift it to your belly. You should be able to release any tension you were holding in your lower back.
Step 4 and 6 are the biggest adjustment the average body has to make. I call this process the JōbuFIT Standing Setup. It will help take pressure off your back, keep you at your tallest, and bring focus to your power center, your abdominal muscles. Follow these steps and you will be standing strong. However, if you need to eliminate step 6 until you master steps 1 through 5, do it.
The goal of this Power Posture Practice is to add power, energy, and support to your day, not take focus away from the tasks you must complete. Please take this one step at a time. Like I mentioned earlier, this is the long answer to all the catchphrases. This means you will see long-term results with commitment. Doesn’t your body deserve it?