Updated: May 7, 2020
Maintaining a neutral posture focuses on three main points, feet, hips and shoulders. With these three points in place you should, over time build a stronger core and should relieve tension in your upper body. I will explain it in a parallel standing position but it should be thought about at all times. During exercise, walking the dog, running, in the gym, at the office, literally all the time.
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I will try explain a perfect neutral posture, I recommend if your not used to it you should stand in a full length mirror to first of all see what it looks like and then to think about how it feels. Without a mirror our natural stance may be skewed without us realising, I have to work quite hard to maintain a neutral posture as I have one leg longer than the other, sending one side of my body completely out of line with the other.
1. If you stand with feet parallel and hip width apart, your feet should be neutral (I'll say it a lot as 'neutral' is key) by that I mean they shouldn't be rolled in toward each other nor should they be leaning outward. If you struggle with this I would recommend some arch supporting insoles to put in your shoes. As a dancer we are drilled from a young age to focus a lot on our feet but I think if you pay attention to your 'foot posture' it could prevent problems elsewhere like with your knees.
2. Hips, if you look side on to the mirror you should be able to see a fairly straight line from your ribs down across the pelvis and toward the upper thigh. Hips shouldn't be tipped backward but neither tucked under. Both creating an excess curve in the spine but in opposite directions. You should feel a slight pull in with your lower abdominals but not sucked in and a slight nip with your gluteus but again not squeezed. It's all about balance, as is everything in life.
3. Your shoulders are quite important as I feel they're the first to go with everyone. To get rid of 'the slouch', start by standing up straight and visualise your head sitting directly on top of your spine, your head shouldn't be poking forward, nor should your chin be tucked in. Make sure you shoulders are back and down, not rolled forward. Visualise your shoulder blades sliding down as far as you can get them, then release slightly. Also check that they are straight horizontally, not leaning to one side (as I do).
Keeping these three points en pointe, in time you should feel relieved of back or neck pain and again bare it in mind at all times. By maintaining these points you can also relieve stress on other parts of your body, for example, stain on your lower legs whilst running. Give it a go.
Gluteus - Glutes for short, bottom muscles, in 3 parts, minimums maximus and medius.
Abdominals - Abs for short, tummy muscles.
En pointe - Ballet term, foot fully extended in a pointe shoe (on tippy toes).
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Photo credits: Iuliana Olteanu