Posture Exercises that Seem to Work

In the effort to correct a lifetime of poor posture, I have tried various exercises and stretches during the past few months. I have been more mindful of how I walk and stand and have tried to be straighter. Finally, I hit upon something that seems to work pretty well to correct my uneven shoulders, at least temporarily.

Here’s what I mean by “uneven shoulders”:

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Uneven shoulders in their natural state

The left shoulder is quite a bit higher than the left, as you can see. It’s also rotated a bit forward and makes a bit of a hunching lump in the back:

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Shoulder issues – the shirt is on grain. I am off grain.

A workshop recently on “somatic movement” offered to help, so I signed up. At the end of a one-hour session, here’s what my shoulders looked like:

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Even shoulders?

Pretty even! Wow!

But I am a skeptical soul, so I figured I’d be back to normal the next day.

IMG_20191120_125716 (2) Still pretty good, right?

How about the next day?

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A bit of the unevenness is back

And four days later, I was back to normal.

Still, that’s pretty good. I am interested enough to try somatics again.

The workshop started with everyone taking inventory of our bodies standing still and lying flat. If you just stand in front of a mirror, barefoot, and pay attention, you notice things. Maybe you’ll notice how your weight tends to sit a little heavier on one foot than the other, or maybe a bit toward the inside or outside of the foot, or back on the heel or forward on the toes. As you stand there, you may notice other things – one knee feels more fatigued than the other, or one hip seems to bear the load more than the other.

As you look in the mirror, you may notice things like my uneven shoulders. Or maybe uneven hips. Maybe one knee bends more, or you feel hunched over.

The same “inventory” works lying flat on the floor – you feel one hipbone more than the other, or your arms may splay differently. For example, because my high shoulder also is rotated a bit, when I lie flat on my back, my arm tends to twist with the back of my hand on the floor, while my other shoulder is better aligned, so my hand rests on the pinky side, more or less in a straight line. I also noticed that I can look further over my right shoulder than over my left.

We did a series of exercises where we stretched and twisted and reached. It was effortful, but not painful (for me anyway – people in the workshop had different abilities and fitness levels). Every so often we’d rest and take stock of how we felt different. If you’ve ever done Pilates or some other exercises where you take turns stretching or lengthening one side of the body, then another, you may have experienced this sensation. Each stretching exercise built on the next, so by the end of the session, we were doing some fairly complex moves.

We ended the workshop by standing in front of the mirror as we had at the beginning to take inventory again. Several people expressed “WOW” moments, including myself.

This is not some chiropractic hokum or new age feely-goody nonsense. It really seemed to work. The effect is temporary, because you’re meant to do these stretches every day and build on them over time, and I just did them once. After I am done with my grad school course (next week – not a moment too soon) I am going to sign up for a private consultation and get started on a regular regimen to see if it helps long-term.

The Lure of “Free” Patterns

Shortly after I started sewing apparel, I got into a “free pattern” kick. That is, FREE PATTERN! DOWNLOAD! DOWNLOAD! DOWNLOAD!

Some have been great (the Deer & Doe plantain shirt and the Maria Denmark kimono T):

Some have been “good for what they are”, such as the Sew So Easy bolero jacket (embellished heavily), the Halloween Hat Pack from Fleece Fun (made for the Womens’ March on Washington in January) and these three chemo caps I sewed for my mother-in-law’s friend from three different patterns found online):

And then there’s the stuff that just doesn’t work. Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s the pattern. Maybe it was a full moon and Mercury was rising. Whatever. The latest disappointment was the Noelle racerback bralette from Madalynne:

 

 

I am reluctant to be too critical of a free pattern – getting what I paid for and whatnot. But this is really off. I made it out of stretch lace with a stretch mesh lining and about 4 yards of picot elastic.

For starters, the instructions stink. They’re written out but there are no drawings or photos to help. I had three major construction problems:

  • The instructions never refer to the lining (when and how you’re supposed to put it in). I just basted it on – basically treated it as an underlining.
  • The instructions for how to install the sliders on the straps made no sense. I just figured it out.
  • You sew picot elastic around the whole thing (the top, armholes, under the bust and at the bottom of the band). The instructions say to sew the elastic flat. So basically the elastic doesn’t do its job at all. I stretched as I sewed and it was not enough.

I wanted a bralette for Pilates – something soft and breatheable for exercising. I had made the Colette Florence bralette last year and loved it, so I wanted to try this style next. Unfortunately, this was a waste of time and money. The fit is very off – even stretching the elastic as I sewed, the bottom band is way too big and the underbust area does not remotely offer enough support and I can’t make the straps any shorter. And I’m a mere B cup. Also, the whole thing just looks sloppy and unfinished.

So, downloader beware? What are your favorite free patterns?

Why Hanker to Sweat with Strangers?

I went to Pilates last night for the first time in a couple of weeks. I had been going 1-2 times a week for years, but lately, like so many other health pursuits, I’ve lapsed a bit.

What is it about an exercise class? Why hanker to sweat with strangers? And why is it almost all women in these classes?

I pondered these things as I went through the shake-inducing classical Pilates workout last night. If you don’t know what Pilates is like, it’s kind of like if a yoga expert and a ballet dancer and a drill sergeant had a child (yeah, that’s three parents, but work with me here) and made a profession out of torturing everyone around them. But in a nice way.

At the recommendation of a friend, I started with Pilates about 3 years ago. Yoga didn’t do it for me; I can’t get into the whole “spiritual” component of it. Pilates, on the other hand, was scientific. Worth a shot.

I thought I was going to throw up my first mat class session. That’s how hard you work your core. I laughed at my inability to do a lot of these moves, while I marveled at the lithe young women  who could do them easily. The trainers were mostly dancers and a few had studied medicine of some kind. Unlike personal trainers, who seem to think that yelling and shame will get you to your goals, the Pilates instructors were kind. They understood the body’s quirks and struggles. They helped. I got better.

After 6 months of regular classes, I figured out how to do the basic moves with the precision of a Rockette and started working on more advanced moves. I didn’t need to attend the classes at $16 a pop anymore and could probably have done the workouts at home, maybe with a video class for company. Yet I still went to the classes.

I had hoped to make friends, but I made none. The classes were mostly college students with the occasional woman a generation older than me. I did belong after a while though. While I was still no dancer, I was competent and earned praise on occasion. So I kept it up. I got hooked into the small but exciting local dance scene and saw some great performances. An injury (unrelated to Pilates) took me out of Pilates for about a year. When I returned, everyone welcomed me back. What a nice feeling!

So I guess that’s why I go to these classes. I belong, in all my imperfect glory.