Beauty / Health

Improve your posture and straighten up with Pilates

Hannah Holman @ IMG wears RUNNING BARE bra and tights.

One look around and it seems we’re all hunched over something – a phone, a computer, a desk, or at best, a good book. We spoke to Michelle Koton from MPower Pilates about our posture and the everyday tricks we can use to improve it.

How does sitting at a desk all day, or constantly looking at our phones, affect our posture?
Sitting and staring at a computer all day or spending hours of the week on our phones is seriously the disease of present times. Not only are we inactive while at work or on the phone, but we are radically weakening the body and its natural ability to move or stand up with strength. Not only does this lifestyle affect posture and strength, but also our eyesight, digestive, and respiratory system.

Imagine your organs trying to function effectively when for most of the day, they sit squashed into each other, suffering from lack of oxygen and water. Long periods of sitting result in neck strain, shoulder droop, lower back compression and overloading, weak glutes, slack hamstrings and back muscles, as well as tight hip flexors.

What Pilates exercises help correct this?
Firstly, I’d recommend getting a standing desk. If this works for you, they are a great invention. The computer can be raised to eye level and the fact that you are standing will help keep your back and front of body working together to keep you upright. This will allow oxygen and nutrition to better flow through your system, feeding muscles and brain function.

If, however, you do have a normal desk, make sure you get up and move every hour. When you are up, try these simple moves:

Stand (preferably outside in fresh air) and take 3-4 giant inhalations, filling your lungs completely as you raise your arms up and out like a giant fan. Breathe out all of the stale air.

Roll your shoulders up to your ears. Push your shoulders back then squeeze your shoulder blades together and then release. Repeat these rolls a few times – backwards and forwards.

Try to balance freely on your tip-toes. Go up and down 10 times with straight legs. Then alternate the up-down motion by bending one knee and alternating with a lifted heel on the other foot.

Bend your knees and hang down like a rag doll over your legs, dangling your arms to the floor and softly draping your spine over your body

Interlace your fingers together on top of your head and as you reach up lift your chest and arch upwards to extend the spine. Then keep your hands clasped and lean side-to-side like a tree swaying in the wind.

This sequence should take no more than ten minutes. You should feel refreshed and ready to go back to your desk.

Are there specific exercises we can do at our desk to help alleviate ‘tech neck’?
Yes. First, try to have your phone or computer positioned as much at eye level as is possible. Then, every 30-40 minutes, stop and turn your head to look right and then left. Then move your head down and look at your chest, then up to the ceiling.

Slowly and carefully roll your head in a circle, making sure to keep the range in your ‘comfort zone’.

Then, pull your chin in as much as possible making the biggest double chin you can (to help strengthen the muscles at the back of the neck) and then slowly release your head back to gaze up.

Lastly, hold your chair with one arm and see if you can twist a little with your ribs. Look backwards as you do and then repeat this on the other side.

Michelle Koton is the founder of MPower Pilates, Bondi.