Three Ways to Improve and Check your Posture
Proper posture is the foundation of healthy movement, so it is important to check in regularly to see if your posture is aligned. When you practice proper posture, your running and walking will feel more fluid and efficient. Practice regularly and you’ll be creating the conditions for energy to flow through your body all day long.
To become master of your body, it is helpful to know why good running and walking posture is so important. As Master George Xu says, we are meant to consciously learn to move our body correctly, so review the early chapters of the ChiRunning or ChiWalking books periodically to reinstate your understanding and intentions and get a good visual of how it is done with either the ChiRunning or ChiWalking DVD.
The 3 new exercises below will help you get a Body Sense of good running and walking posture and act as good check in tools to feel if you’re doing it right.
Walk backwards: This is a great shortcut to get into proper posture. Begin by walking forwards, in your usual stroll. Then, walk backwards for 6-8 steps or more. Almost all of us walk backwards with a balanced posture and shorter stride. Stop and Body Sense your alignment. Don’t let your body change, Practice the one-legged posture stance with this good posture. Go back and forth between legs, holding on to the posture stance you had from walking backwards. Notice, as you move back n forth from one leg to the other if your hip stays relatively quiet, or if they start to sway like Mae West. If your hips sway from side-to-side, your core muscles are not engaged. The swaying of the hips can be the early stage of IT Band Syndrome, and/or hip or knee problems. When you walk backwards notice how your core muscles engage (to keep you from falling backwards),you’re your pelvis rotates back (a good thing) and how your shoulders are more forward than usual. Compare and contrast with your usual walking posture.
Next, while walking backwards start walking forwards without stopping. Try this several times until the transition is smooth. Notice how your posture and alignment change when you move forward. Don’t let it change. Maintain the posture, stride length and core engagement that you had walking backwards. Practice this several times before begin running or walking. If you’re a runner, start running while maintaining the same posture you had walking backwards.
Chi ball: This exercise offers a quick way to get into good posture while standing or walking or running. Start by practicing while you’re standing. Get into your good posture, now lift your arms and imagine you’re hugging a large workout ball, bring your arms up and curl them around the imaginary ball. Feel your posture and let your arms drop maintaining that posture. Keep your knees soft.
While running in first gear or walking at a conversational pace, occasionally hug the workout ball and feel what happens to your spine, core muscles and shoulders. Maintain that feeling while you continue to run or walk and especially if your increase your pace.
Rope around waist: Most people stand and walk with their hips in front of their shoulders, which causes them to land with a heel strike and then pull their weight forward with their legs when they take a step. This exercise teaches you to let gravity do the work by leading with your Upper Body. Have a partner tie a rope around your waist. Your partner should stand behind you as you begin to walk forward. Have them pull lightly on the rope, so that you have to pull a bit to move forward. You’ll notice your shoulders and chest are leading you. Many people naturally lean more with their shoulders if they are going up a steep hill or dragging something heavy. This exercise gives you that feeling. Have your partner drop the rope after a few steps and continue walking forward. If you’re going to run, focus on your feet, and lean from your ankles into first gear, keeping that forward momentum.
Whenever you feel any tension, fatigue, discomfort, or even pain, the first thing to do is check in with your running or walking posture. Practice your running and walking posture as if your quality of life depends on it, because it does.