Blog#75: May is Good Posture Month
Here’s an exercise to develop and reinforce strong posture
The Stork (standing on one leg) must be done with aligned posture in order to improve balance. Aligned posture means that the neck is retracted and positioned centrally over the torso. The head faces straight ahead, not bent back or forward. Shoulders are gently pulled back, relaxed, and level. The torso is positioned directly over the hips not flexed forward or extended back. Knees are locked but not hyperextended or bent, and the toes point forward. (In reverse stork, the toes of the raised leg point downward.)
This exercise involves standing on one leg, with the other leg raised so that the thigh is parallel with the floor and the knee is bent 90 degrees. If this exercise is new for you, it would be wise to stand near a wall and steady yourself until it feels comfortable to let go and stand on one leg without assistance. It is best to practice in front of a full-length mirror in order to evaluate and correct posture.
Also vital for correct practice and optimal balance is diaphragmatic (abdominal) breathing. If you tend to chest breathe, and find it difficult to break out of this pattern, then you might consider lying supine and practicing diaphragmatic breathing that way, since almost everyone finds that relatively easy. Breathe slowly and consciously while supine, and your body can gradually learn to breathe abdominally while sitting and then when standing and walking.
If you find the need to bend your standing knee, wave your arms, sway from side to side or drop your raised leg in order to stay upright when attempting the stork, work on correcting your posture and do the reverse stork for a while. Reverse stork is a “peel-back” of the stork. Here, the lifted thigh is at right angles to the floor and the leg extends behind the body, with the knee bent 90 degrees.
Difficulty levels of The Stork can be increased almost endlessly. Stork can be held for increasingly long periods of time – for one minute, two minutes, or more on each leg. Arms can be raised above the head, extended out at the sides or behind the body, or even crossed in front of the torso. More challenges can include closing the eyes, standing on a pillow or other soft, slightly uneven surface, and even standing on a half foam roll or half exercise ball.
It is best to practice stork at least three times per day on each leg. This can be done in all sorts of situations, such as waiting for the bus, standing in line at the grocers, or waiting at the doctor’s office. If a mirror is available, that is always best. Even if you have problems initially holding this position, as long as you practice daily you will be almost certain to hold the stork for increasingly longer periods of time and improve your sense of balance.
This blog’s offer: contact me with questions about this exercise. You also might consider purchasing the book Stand Taller – Live Longer, by Dr. Steven P. Weiniger.