Remember your mother or grade school teacher or coach or other adult authority figure telling you to stop slouching and stand up straight? It's really good advice!
I'm not talking about being stiff as a board, or unnaturally stretched out. If you don't know what I mean, please stand up, lift your chin so that it's parallel with the floor, let your head rest comfortably on your spine which might mean you need to pull your head backwards a little bit. Move your head around until it feels comfortable. Let your spine nestle comfortably into your hips. Again you might have to move a little bit to find that position. Sway back and forth, do a couple of spirals with your hips, then let them come to rest comfortably. Let your feet relax and make solid contact with the floor. You can't do this while wearing heels, so kick off your shoes, please.
Imagine a filament extending upwards from the crown of your head. Imagine that this thread very gently lifts your head, while gravity holds you securely to the earth. Now put your shoulders back a bit and engage your stomach muscles. You don't have to suck in your stomach, just engage the muscles so you can feel your core. Take a deep breath and smile.
You're doing your body a big favor. Only when standing fully extended can your internal organs function well. They need the space. When you stand up straight, the discs between your vertebrae get a little more room, too.
You don't have to stand up straight all the time. Go ahead and slouch sometimes, but make a comfortable, upright posture your body's default. It takes some practice but is well worth it. You will walk more comfortably, think more clearly, digest your food more efficiently. We are built to stand up straight.
You will also make a much better impression on others when you're upright. When you see a person slumped forwards, shoulders curled inwards, chin on chest - collapsed, in other words - what is your first impression? Yeah.
I tell my clients to stand up straight before walking into the conference room for a meeting, or when arriving for a job interview or performance review. Relaxed, fully extended posture commands respect. It's instinctual. It also helps with self confidence. I had a therapist who insisted I should not worry in the middle of the night while lying in bed. She said a "passive posture" only increases worry. She told me if I wanted to worry, I should get out of bed and stand up straight. You would be surprised how hard it is to indulge in worry when fully upright.
Fully extended, upright posture is one of the basic pieces of self-care and self-respect. Our species evolved over hundreds of thousands of years so we could stand up straight. I hope you will stretch up to your full height today and every day. Shalom.