As your mother always said, practice makes perfect. Luckily, every day you are presented with countless opportunities to perfect your posture while sitting, walking, sleeping and...showering.
Lathering is a good time to practice healthy posture
Yes, that’s right. You can, and should, be aware of your posture even while performing the most mundane of tasks. So before your next shower, take a few meditative minutes to enjoy the healing properties of warm water...and then pause before you grab your shampoo bottle. Why? Because the half-minute you spend lathering your hair is probably the most vulnerable shower-time for your back.
Just before you lather is an important time to pause and set your posture
Most people in industrial cultures, when lifting their arms above their head, will sway their backs and put themselves at risk for a couple of problems. Swaying is an excessive arching of the back that compresses spinal discs and compromises circulation around the spine--not good. In the shower, be careful not to lean your head too far back while shampooing because this movement can exacerbate the sway.
Raising the arms above the head can easily result in a swayback
To prevent this, I recommend a technique called “anchoring the ribcage”. I teach this maneuver to students to help them achieve a healthy shape in the low back. To anchor your ribcage, you want to contract your internal oblique abdominal muscles to pull the front of the rib cage downward and inward. This is easier said than done! Your goal is to lengthen and straighten your low back. To isolate the internal obliques (as opposed to rectus abdominis, the ab muscle modern Westerners are more aware of and tend to overuse), it helps to guide the action with your forearm or fists. Place either your forearm or your fists over the lower border of your ribcage (you want to feel bone), and gently press backwards so as to rotate your ribcage forward a little.
Gently pushing back on the lower border of your ribcage helps rotate the ribcage forward and fix a sway back
When you think you’ve got it, you can assess the spinal groove in your low back with your fingers. A healthy low back shape has a mild groove, embedded bumps (your vertebrae), and soft ridges on either side of the groove. If you feel taut muscle ridges on either side of a deep spinal groove, then your back is still swayed. Perform this maneuver to maintain a relaxed and lengthened position next time you shampoo. Lather, rinse, repeat, and before you know it, you’ll be a proper posture pro!
Esther demonstrating how to anchor the ribcage to prevent swaying the lower back
To receive personalized instruction on how to engage your rib anchor, please contact a qualified Gokhale Method teacher near you.