“FAREWELL TO SLOUCHING”

By on June 3, 2011

By Marjorie Jaffe –

Did your Mom ever tell you “to stand up straight”?  Mine did, and I guess it resonated with me.  But not until one day, when I was in my early 20’s, standing on a beach, wearing a brief, purple bikini, feeling toned, lean and vibrant. And then I saw a photo a friend had just taken showing me in a “model’s slouch”, my hips thrust forward and shoulders rounded, which turned my flat belly into a little pot belly.  And, now, I did take my Mom’s message to heart.

Because, prior to that, I never realized how important your shoulders can be in defining the difference between youth and age. Rounded shoulders, not only makes your belly stick out, they also age you 10+ years. And, because people react to the way you stand when they meet you, why not show them a tall, graceful and confident posture from which to form their opinion of you.

And nothing is more important to attractive posture than straight shoulders. When you straighten up; when you feel where your muscles are, and know how to work them to keep yourself aligned with straight shoulders, you’ll feel your muscles pulling you up just as if they were suspenders.  Straighten up and you’ll have more energy, defy the downward pull of gravity, halt the aging process and look much better.

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My aim is to convince you of the pleasure and benefit of exercise by seeing the results you get when you exercise correctly and learn how to apply your muscle strength to all the movements of your life. It’s ironic that people go to exercise classes where they work ferociously hard and then go home or to the office; and slouch waiting for the bus or over the steering wheel or being on three hours of phone calls, shoulders hunched – all that good work undone. The goal is to be mindful of using your muscles all the time.

Don’t let your muscles grow weak from lack of exercise – for instance, from sitting for long uninterrupted periods.  Tension (which comes from holding your muscles stiff without relaxing them) weakens muscles and also makes you feel tired. But there’s a difference between unhealthy tension – the automatic involuntary kind you didn’t intend to have and good, active tension – the kind that gets things done, the positive energy which holds a muscle in the right place and works for you. Conscious breathing is one way that you can ease tension.  Try this: inhale through your nose and silently count 1-2-3; exhale through your mouth and count 1-2-3; “let go” of your muscles, do nothing and count 1-2-3.  This practice helps to make you aware of holding tension and then “letting go” of it.  Do this a few times and you’ll find that it helps you feel balanced and centered, not tense.

The main reason why people don’t stay with exercise is that they’re never sure if they’re doing it right.  You must know what you’re doing, or all your effort will be useless.  You’ll never stay with any program if you don’t see and feel clear benefits and improvements.  “I should do it” never works.  But if you add understanding to your exercise routine, you’ll find not only that you can exercise effectively, but also that you don’t need to do a lot of exercise to get the results you want.  And, as a bonus, you’ll enjoy it more too

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Do you want to learn how you can communicate directions to your muscles and keep your shoulders straight all the time?  The “Muscle Memory Method” allows you to accomplish this.  Learning to exercise should always involve learning how to adjust your body during exercise and then to re-adjust yourself as you step up a curb, walk down a street, get in and out of a car, climb stairs, run for a bus, and more. You will see that even when you are not exercising, you’ll still be able to keep your body aligned and shoulders straight all the time.

Luckily, muscle memory occurs all the time.  For example, if you always put your house keys down on a shelf to the right when you come home, but then switch to a shelf on the left –- the next few times you come home, you’ll still throw your keys on the shelf to the right, until you developed the new ‘habit’ of using the shelf on the left.  I recently read an article about the Navy Seals who took down Osama bin Laden and the title of the article is, Muscle Memory: The Training of Navy Seals Commandos.  Don’t worry, using my “Muscle Memory Method” won’t turn you into a ‘Navy Seal’, but it will help you remember and automatically use what you’ve learned from exercising correctly.

In exercise, ‘muscle memory’ occurs when the mind learns how to work the body correctly and transmits that information to the muscles. Your muscles have a ‘memory’ for new habits.  And once you have the new habits of a long neck and straight shoulders this becomes so familiar to you that you’re surprised if you catch yourself hunching your neck and shoulders and fix them right away. Knowledge of your body keeps you in shape.

In order to instill muscle memory you need to know a little more.  You’ll learn questions to ask from the ‘Muscle Memory Quiz’ and the answers will become your ‘Muscle Memory Voice’ to remind you of the new muscle habits.  Throughout the day, this ‘voice’ will help you as you develop the new ‘habit’ of keeping your shoulders straight!  When you ask yourself those questions, you’ll be able to recall that information which improves the way you stand, sit and move.  You’ll have much greater pleasure in your total physical being. And when you feel good about yourself, all your relationships and experiences are better.  Next month we’ll discuss various exercises that will help you develop good posture and in the meantime, stand up, with your shoulders back, and start walking!

Marjorie Jaffe, owner of Back in Shape exercise studio in NYC & lifelong fitness expert, is the author of a number of books including, The Muscle Memory Method, Get Your Back in Shape and Albert the Running Bear’s Exercise Book, as well as a Reader’s Digest Books contributor.  She was trained by Dr. Sonya Weber; founder of Columbia Presbyterian’s Posture and Back Care Clinic, and she served for ten years as head instructor for the YWCA Backcare program. Website: http://marjoriejaffe.com/.

About Marjorie Jaffe

Marjorie Jaffe, owner of Back in Shape exercise studio in NYC & lifelong fitness expert, is the author of a number of books including, The Muscle Memory Method, Get Your Back in Shape and Albert the Running Bear’s Exercise Book, as well as a Reader’s Digest Books contributor. She was trained by Dr. Sonya Weber; founder of Columbia Presbyterian’s Posture and Back Care Clinic, and she served for ten years as head instructor for the YWCA Backcare program. Website: http://marjoriejaffe.com.

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“FAREWELL TO SLOUCHING”