So you had a baby. Maybe it was a few months ago, maybe it was a few years ago. Either way, your body is yours again.
So how about we make sure you're not still walking/sitting/standing like a pregnant lady?
First off, I need to inform you that I am NOT a doctor of any kind. My training is as a Pilates instructor and massage therapist, so please understand that I can neither diagnose any medical conditions nor give actual medical advice. If you are in pain of any kind, I beg you to see a doctor before listening to me (or any other wacko on the internet). Pain should not be ignored and doctors/chiropractors/physical therapists are qualified to help you.
With that said, can we all agree that doctors are awfully fond of medication and surgeries and not so good at subtlety and health improvement? And what I'm interested in (and vaguely qualified to talk about) is taking careful stock of your body post-baby and improving your muscular balance so that good posture is easy. So if you've already seen a doctor, or you aren't in any pain, let's proceed.
Actually, one last caveat: I am just as in need of this advice as anyone else, so please don't assume I have perfect posture. I have had to adjust my posture 8 billion times in the writing of this post alone!
If you've ever been pregnant, I don't have to tell you that your body undergoes tremendous change during pregnancy - and after. Your posture changes, some muscles tighten, others weaken, your stance and gait are altered both by the weight of your baby/babies and the hormonal changes that accompany pregnancy. Your entire body - just like your life - gets turned inside out by childbearing. Unfortunately, many of the less desirable bodily changes remain after your babe vacates the womb, when you are the least inclined and able to focus on yourself.
In my next post I will be helping you identify which of your muscles are tight and how to stretch them, because when one set of muscles is tight (such as your lower back), the muscles immediately opposite (like, oh say, your abdominals) have a much harder time working properly and progressively weaken. So we'll start with the tight muscles and then a follow up post will help you identify which muscles are weak and some of the best ways to strengthen them.
In the meantime, the first rule of good posture is this: your function becomes your form. That is, how you use your body directly shapes how it looks and feels. When we are children, a slouch can be fleeting, leaving not a single mark behind. The older we get, the stiffer and more restricted our joints get, the more those momentary slouches form your body into that shape until it's uncomfortable - or, even, virtually impossible - to sit up straight.
How you use your body when you are pregnant, or any other time of postural stress, can stick with you. A waddling walk, a poochy stomach, a hunched I've-just-been-nursing-a-bowling-ball posture, can stick around for years, or your whole life, if you don't do something to stop it. Simply sitting up straighter - pelvis underneath your ribcage, head in line with the rest of your spine - is a start. Consider adding a reminder alarm on your computer to remind you to check your posture at regular intervals.
Before I sign off for today, can we talk about walking with a stroller for a second? Ladies, listen up, this is important: your stroller is NOT A WALKER. (And NEITHER IS YOUR GROCERY CART.) You are not an infirm, elderly lady who needs to lean on top of your stroller for dear life. Function becomes form, remember? So hunching over your stroller, for however many minutes/hours/years you do it, molds your upper back into a less than pretty, not to mention potentially damaging, position.
Drop those shoulders, put your elbows in by your waist and let the forward momentum of your whole body propel the stroller rather than the top of your shoulders. Your arms should be relaxed, elbows bent by your sides, as the muscles of your arms and shoulders are not the prime movers of the stroller. Rather, imagine your arms are a passive extension of the motor that is your lower body.
Your assignment: If you push a stroller or a grocery cart in the next few days, drop those shoulders, let your legs and the forward momentum of your pelvis - your whole lower body - propel you both forward.
Lord knows we'll all be pushing walkers soon enough.