WAIST AWAY!!! – Recover Your Waistline in Three Short Weeks

By on May 5, 2011

By Marjorie Jaffe –

Remember when you turned sideways and your profile was thin?  Remember that hourglass image that the mirror always showed you?  Remember when fastening your belt didn’t feel like a weight-bearing exercise?

Sitting,  rushing, worrying, overeating, having birthdays, shouldering the physical and mental burdens that come, to push you down — all these combine to thicken the sylphlike image you keep in your memory.  Take heart!!! You do not have to lose 20 pounds or years to recover the contours that you may think are the private property of the very young.

When your livelihood depends on a sedentary job, you become especially vulnerable to weight gain, flabby muscles and a sagging shape.  Add your home computer to your workday, when you follow sitting at work with sitting at home for e-mail, and you have the perfect prescription for losing your waistline.

Sitting compacts the body.  When gravity presses down on your sitting body, only strong muscles and correct body alignment can hold you up and counteract the downward force.  Without knowing how to sit correctly, sitting results in your ribcage sinking down into your pelvis and you can say goodbye to your waistline.

When you straighten up, when you feel where your muscles are and you know how to work them to make – and keep – yourself aligned and straight, you will feel your muscles pulling you up as if they were suspenders.

You already know that exercise is the key to health, vitality and attractive looks.  You need to know what to do and how to do it right in order to see results.  Otherwise, you’ll get discouraged.

How can you get started and then stay with your program?

Over the years, I’ve devised effective exercises designed to resist the downward pull of gravity and reverse the signs of aging.  They keep your head lifted out of your shoulders (by lengthening and strengthening neck muscles); prevent round shoulders (by strengthening chest and upper back muscles), keep your waistline defined (by  strengthening abs and back muscles) plus keep your standing and sitting posture straight!

I call my program “Muscle Memory” and have written “The Muscle Memory Method”, published in 1997. Muscle Memory occurs in your body when your mind learns a new concept and transmits it to your muscles.  Your muscle intelligence assimilates and remembers what the brain communicated to create new muscle habits.

You have Muscle Memory and use it unconsciously all the time.  The body remembers how to stand up; it remembers how to ride a bicycle. For a few days after you rearrange the furniture, your body goes back to where the couch used to be.  When you move the silverware to a different draw, you go to the original drawer until the new positions set in and your muscles adjust.

The Muscle Memory Method takes place in two stages: first, learn and practice an exercise that trains the muscle correctly and, second, reinforce that correct muscle usage throughout your day.  When you train your muscles to take over, exercise becomes easier and you have more energy because your muscles are holding you up.

As you do the following exercises, you will learn how to ‘”program” your muscles with the “memory” of the proper shape and usage.  For each, your mind will ask and your body will answer relevant questions from the Muscle Memory Quiz that will train your own Muscle Memory Voice.  This “voice” is what you call on throughout your day to check that particular muscles are maintaining their correct form.

Memory helps in other ways.  Each of us has memories of the different sizes and degrees of trimness that we’ve lived with over the years. Is there a time when you especially liked how you looked?  VISUALIZE YOURSELF at a particularly good moment in the life when you had a small waistline.  Keep that picture in your mind as you exercise.  This will create a positive and hopeful state of mind that you will then translate into a positive body image and, ultimately, into the trim silhouette you’d prefer to inhabit for the rest of your life.

Two concepts that will help as you go through Muscle Memory exercises are:

  1. Muscle Balance – Muscles works in pairs.  One cannot work alone. For every muscle that pulls in and contracts, there’s its opposing muscle that stretches out and relaxes.  Always feel work on the front and the back of each body part you’re working.  For example, if you’re doing shoulder circles — feel the pectoral muscles on your chest stretching out as the rhomboid muscles on the inner edge of the shoulder blades is pulling in.
  2.  Body Spaces – (2 long spaces) Increase the space between your ear and shoulder and the space between your ribcage and pelvis which defines your waistline. (2 short spaces) Pull lower abs up and in to shorten space between pubic bone and belly button. Pull upper abs down and in to shorten space between sternum and belly button. **

Now – 5 exercises that will help give you back your waistline, increase your comfort and energy and keep you slimmer.

  1. Action Posture

When you do this exercise, you will become more familiar with your own body.  This knowledge will enable you to take an exercise instruction, absorb it and make it part of yourself. By connecting body and mind in this way, you’ll be more comfortable and be able to engage in more activity; you’ll feel taller and have a waistline!

>With feet firmly placed hip width apart, sway forward and back.  Feel feet grounded to the floor. * Your Muscle Memory Voice (*MMV) – ask yourself “Are my feet balanced? Is the center of my body directly above my arches?

>Loosen (NEVER STIFFEN) backs of knees. Feel ease in knee joint. (MMV) Are my leg muscles balanced so my knee is aligned and not stiff?

>Pull in front of waist & tip public bone up as if you’re closing a very tight pair of jeans. Pull ribs in front down like you’re tucking in a shirt. Feel contraction of abs. (MMV) Do I feel 2 short spaces in my abs? **

>Lift ribcage out of pelvis and center ribcage directly over pelvis. (MMV)  Is there a long space between my ribcage and pelvis? Is my chest more forward of my belly?

>Slowly roll shoulders in a backward circle. (MMV) Do I feel the same strength in my chest and upper back? Do my shoulders point straight to the ceiling?

>Lift head up from shoulders and move it back, aligning ears with shoulders. (MMV) Is the back of my head in the same line as my upper back?  Is there a long space between my ear and shoulder?

2. Lifting Ribcage from Pelvis

The Latissimus  Dorsi muscle (Lats) across Back of ribcage is responsible for lifting and holding the ribcage up.  Touch and feel the muscle working – two equal bunches of muscle on each side of your spine. It’s usually unfamiliar because you only see it when looking at your back in the mirror.  If your ribcage sinks down, folds appear at your sides, and your waistline disappears.

>Stand with legs shoulder-width apart

>Bend arms at a right angle.  Lift elbows to the same height as shoulders.

>Slowly straighten arms towards ceiling.  Keep wrist, elbow and shoulder in a straight line.

> Using lats across back of ribs, slowly bend elbows and pull arms down to a right angle.

>Feel the mid-back (thoracic spine) pulling in.  Hold 5 seconds to set muscle and repeat 10X  (MMV) Am I lifting my ribs in back as they’re pulling down in the front?  Do I feel a long space between my ribcage and pelvis?

3. Windmill

Open your body to experience the lift and free feeling of a windmill.  Every time you lift your arm, you automatically lift your ribcage because the triceps muscle on the back of the arm originates underneath the shoulder blade and inserts at the elbow.  So lifting the arm is an easy and efficient way to get your ribcage up, since the shoulder blade is connected to it.

  • Stand with legs wide apart, arms down and repeat Action Posture
  • Reach right arm diagonally up toward the “11” on the face of a clock and pull up back of ribcage.  Lift right heel and press against the ball of your foot to pull up even higher.
  • Looking toward left shoulder, twist spine and circle arm all the way back over and behind right shoulder.
  • Looking over left shoulder, continue circling back and behind toward the opposite hip
  • Reach with left arm reaching up diagonally. 5 sets (MMV) Is my ribcage lifted out of my pelvis?  Do I feel the same strength in my chest and upper back?

4. Shoulder Circles

This may seem surprising, but when the head and shoulders stay lifted, you are more easily able to contract (pull in) your stomach. Gravity is known to pull everything down.  But now, with upper body strength, use Muscle Memory to hold yourself straight up.  The ribs will stay lifted and you’ll see your waistline defined.

>Stand with feet hip-width apart.  Keep belly pulled in, chest in front of stomach and head in line with upper back

> Inhale to begin. Exhale on the backward circle

>Bend arms and place fingertips on shoulders.  Keep shoulders pointed towards ceiling and tip them farther back than your elbows

>Lift shoulders slightly and make a slow circling motion behind you.  Hold for 3 seconds and feel the pectoral muscles on your chest lengthen as you press shoulders back.

>Keep shoulders back and pull down.  Feel the shoulder blades come together as rhomboids are tightening.  Repeat 10 circles (MMV) if there a long space between my ear and shoulder? Between my ribcage and pelvis? Do I feel the same strength in my chest and upper back?

5. Neck  Lengthener

In addition to a long neck looking graceful and beautiful, you need space for the seven vertebrae in your neck.  If neck muscles tense and shorten, your neck hunches and the nerves radiating from the vertebrae become irritated and cause pain.  And, because your head weighs about 10 pounds, you need a strong neck to keep it lifted so your entire body can stay lifted and keep your waistline defined.

>Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on floor. Bend your elbows and place hands near top of head.

>Bring your elbows forward and slide the back of your neck as flat down as possible towards floor. Keep shoulders back and pulled down.

  • Bend your forehead down and use hands to help lift slightly so the weight of your head is lifted but hair still touches floor.
  • Leading with left hand, turn head and look over left shoulder, keeping head in center plane.
  • Return to center. Change hands and repeat on the other side.
  • Drop your head down and wobble it to relax.  Repeat 4 X (MMV) is the back of my head in line with my upper back?  Do I feel a long space between my ear and shoulder?

Most of us spend huge amounts of time sitting down.  Slumping when you sit makes the belly stick out, the back muscles tense and the waistline disappear.  To ease this, place a phone book in front of your chair under your feet.  This will raise your knees to a level higher than your hips and relax your back.  Keep a small pillow in back between the back of your bra and the back of your lowest rib.  This keeps your ribcage lifted and forward of your pelvis and prevents slumping.

Now you know how to stand and sit straight and what muscles are responsible for maintaining that.  Practice the exercises to gain the muscle strength and use the Muscle Memory Voice to create new muscles habits that you can use all the time.

Your chronological age may be climbing, but you feel as young as you used to be.  And now, with your waistline back, you look younger too!

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://www.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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WAIST AWAY!!! – Recover Your Waistline in Three Short Weeks