Aside from movement quality, mobility and flexibility, the other fitness trait that is highly sought-after is body alignment. Far from solely being the focus of yoga practitioners, having optimal alignment can translate to overall better athletic performance, making it desirable across all populations. Here are three guiding factors that will help you attain them:
1. Soft tissue work
The foundation of your mobility and alignment lies on soft tissue work. Just as how you can strengthen your body through weight training, soft tissue work can help to release shortened, tight, or hypertonic tissue (residual or resting muscle tension). Muscles grow when trained well, and tissues loosen up after myofascial release, which is a process through which tension is released.
A tip is to decide a focal area first. When you come across a knot or “hot spot”, rest on it for while (around 10 breaths) before applying pressure on it from all directions. Revisiting the area for subsequent sessions can help to ensure that the tension doesn’t return to its origin.
2. Waking up opposing muscle groups
Strength needs to be balanced in order to achieve flexibility. As such, strengthening the antagonist muscle groups is one of the most important aspects to improving mobility and alignment. Neglecting the posterior chain not only results in postural issues, but can also adversely affect health and performance.
When there is improper alignment, there is a significant chance that a muscle is overactive, shortened, or tight, while the opposing tissue is disengaged or weak. Take hyper-kyphosis for instance. Office workers can often be seen having a rounded upper back, shoulders that are rolled too far forward with both the head and neck jutting out, typing away frantically on the keyboard for hours at a time. Unsurprisingly, spending an extended amount of time in this position can cause a shortening or tightening of chest, shoulder and neck. Conversely, the disengaged tissues in the upper back become weaker over time.
Due to modern lifestyle conditions, it is always recommended that when it comes to training, your pulling volume should be twice that of your pushing volume. Weight training can be an effective way to build strength and resilience in muscle tissue, but one must remember to train the areas that don’t turn up in the mirror as well.
3. Changing habits
Probably the most difficult step of all, a habit change can be instrumental in helping you develop optimal body alignment. You may face some small amount of discomfort initially when it comes to adapting to these new changes, but alignment requires conscious effort. Remember, your body is used to behaving in a certain way because it’s been doing that for a long period of time.
Pay attention to your posture as you perform different activities. How do you sit when you are at a meeting? How about when you are at your desk churning out a report? How do you stand on the train? How about when you are in a queue? Be aware of how your body moves and take the necessary actions to ensure that it stays in line.
Use tools to improve your environment. If your desk is too low, why not get a new one or elevate your workstation? If you need help keeping your back straight while seated, why not get a back rest? If you are convinced that you will definitely slouch when you’re sitting regardless of what you do, why not try a standing desk and see how it goes? You can also set alarms on your watch or phone to remind you to get up and take a walk every once in a while.
There is no shortcut to having good body alignment. While it may seem demanding, the steps are fairly straightforward when it comes to execution. Committing to improving one’s body alignment represents a conscious decision and will require effort on your part. Treat your body like a temple and it will provide you shelter from the storms life throws your way!