Posture is your key to healthy movement. You have already realized that as a mom you get stuck in some awkward positions. Consider some common scenarios: You are carrying a baby around on one hip, with a diaper bag, pushing a grocery cart, and then attempting to open your wallet to pay for everything…sound familiar? Another situation… Mom is stuck carrying three kids’ jackets, drinks, and snacks and then needs to bend down and grab something someone dropped as well as open the car door.
Anyways, being a mom is a series of challenging movements. Having good posture is your key to preventing injury of a pulled muscle or ligament as well as your secret weapon to having optimal strength for the demanding activities, and looking good while doing it.
What is good posture? Find a mirror and practice finding out what good posture is for you. Stand up tall and straight. Make sure your lower back is not over-arched (you may need to tuck your butt under to achieve this and engage your lower ab muscles). Make sure your shoulders are back and down and your head is aligned so your ears are above your shoulders. Everything should be fairly aligned from your head to your butt (neutral spine). Does this feel awkward? It could be that your body has learned alternative ways to stand, sit, and move due to fatigue, nursing, or tight muscles. Try remembering that: Being in a straight line helps you to use the correct muscles and supports your musculoskeletal system instead of just “hanging by your ligaments”.
Notice the difference in the two pictures above? The one above is demonstrating an arched lower back (meaning the spine and pelvis are not in “neutral” position) and rounded shoulders. The picture below is correct posture. The butt is tucked under, engaging the inner ab muscles and keeping the back and pelvis in neutral position. The shoulders are back and down. Also, notice how incorrect posture emphasizes that dreaded “mummy tummy” from having a baby! Not only does correct posture stabilize your bones and joints but it also looks better!
Exercises to encourage good posture:
- Engage your Transverse Abdominals: Bring in your lower belly (near your belly button) as if you are going to zip up a tight pair of pants. These are your TAs (transverse abdominals). They are your “core” that help keep everything stable and supported. Learning to use these more and more (start with engaging them for 10 seconds at a time for 10 reps) will help protect your lower back and give you a powerful core!
**Tip: Make sure you are breathing while doing this exercise and not just sucking in air!**
- Pelvic Floor Exercises: If you have been pregnant then you have stretched your pelvic floor muscles. You may know this because you still pee a little when you sneeze, or leak a little on a hard run. Do your kegels daily! Do them by engaging the pelvic floor muscles for a count of 10 for 10-15 reps. Work your way up to doing 40 a day! Not only do these muscles help support your bladder and reproductive organs, they also help with your pelvis stabilization and even affect your low back. Your PF (pelvic floor) and TAs are a powerful combination for correct alignment.
- Use that butt: Having strong gluteal muscles will ensure you aren’t stressing your back or other muscles in movements. Do glute bridges, glute squeezes, lunges, and donkey kicks to get these muscles in shape.
**Tip: Be sure to engage your TAs to protect your back as you complete these exercises!**
- Strengthen the upper back and stretch the chest muscles: Especially if you are nursing, you may find that rounded shoulders are making your shoulders, neck, and even head hurt by the end of the day. Stretch out your chest muscles by bracing yourself in a doorway (one hand on either side) and leaning into the doorway gently to stretch your arms back a little behind you. Couple this stretch with shoulder blade squeezes, pushups, and row exercises to tighten the over-stretched back muscles.
- Neck stretches: There are several series of neck stretches you can do. An easy on is to sit in a chair with a flat back. With your shoulder blades flat against the back of the chair and your lower back not arched, lengthen your neck. Slowly look down with your chin into your chest. You will feel the back of your neck stretch (keep your back straight), then slowly look up. Now, looking straight ahead, with a straight neck, slowly turn your head to the right without moving your body and look over your right shoulder, now do the same to the left side. Do these exercises slowly and carefully to not hurt your spine.
There are many other exercises you can do to encourage good posture, both of the stretching and strengthening nature. The good news is… that learning to use those muscles and intentionally sitting and standing correctly can help you immensely in this area! Help your body to work the way it was intended to by using the correct parts for the correct function! Start with good posture and you will be well on your way to being a Strong Mama!