Want to improve your posture quickly, for free, with almost zero effort?
I recently did it. So can you.
I don’t deserve any credit for this accomplishment. I didn’t invent the technique, nor, as I mentioned, did implementing it ask much of me. I can, however, vouch for its effectiveness.
I was introduced to this magic bullet by an acupuncturist, and I have an acupuncture theory on why it’s so beneficial (see below), but getting acupuncture is not required.
This solution to better posture is something you can do completely on your own, anywhere, anytime, without ever opening your wallet. You don’t even have to get up from the couch.
The DIY Solution to Better Posture
Turn up your palms. That’s it.
As in the picture above, whenever you’re doing something that does not require use of your hands, turn them so that they’re palm-side up. You also can do it while standing or walking.
This palms-up position may be familiar to committed meditators and yogis who practice shavasana, but it’s foreign to those of us who spend a lot of time at a computer, behind the wheel of a car, holding babies, making lattes, or doing pretty much anything else that requires constant hand use. Even when we’re not using our hands, it’s just habit to sit, walk or stand with our hands facing down or behind us.
Because we’re so unaccustomed to the palms-up position, when we assume it, the effects are felt immediately. There’s a sense of momentum carrying the upper body backward opposed to the hunched forward motion we so naturally fall into. It feels as if someone is gently pulling back on your shoulders.
Try it. If you’re using your hands, stop and rest them against your thighs. Now turn both palms so that they’re facing up toward the ceiling.
It sounds simple, but I’m telling you, it works—and fast.
First-Hand Success Story: Better Posture in Under Two Weeks
I learned this shortcut to better posture less than two weeks ago, while attending a seminar with Japanese acupuncturist Kiiko Matsumoto. Kiiko is known for her eccentric, entertaining teaching style. During lectures, she’ll often diverge from a subject to impart what seems like an irrelevant anecdote. She’s usually halfway through her next thought before you realize the remarkably useful nature of what she just said.
At the recent seminar, Kiiko mentioned this palms-up technique quickly and in passing to illustrate a larger point about the rhomboids, the muscles that connect the scapula with the spine. She started using the technique herself after a friend pointed out that Kiiko was developing poor posture.
I have been trying it out for the past 10 days. Anytime I don’t need my hands, I turn them palm-side up. If I can get away with using one hand—when reading a book, for example, or walking my dog—I’ll turn the other palm up, alternating hands when the one in use gets tired.
I was going to wait to write about this until I spent more time testing it. But in less than two weeks, I have seen a marked improvement in my posture. I’ve also noticed a general feeling of more openness in my chest. It feels easier to breathe.
An Acupuncture Perspective on Why We Should All Give It Up for Palms-Up
This second observation, about palms-up opening the chest area, relates to my acupuncture-related theory on why this technique is so important.
In acupuncture, the meridians that run along the inside of the arm, from the chest/underarm to the palm, are Heart, Pericardium and Lung.
Just as in Western medicine, where the the heart and lungs are considered such vital organs, the Heart, Pericardium and Lung meridians are critical in acupuncture.
Here is just a smattering of the functions each meridian is involved in (there are many more):
Heart: breathing, cardiac function, sleep, emotional balance and heat regulation. Pericardium: breathing, blood circulation and upper digestive function. Lung: breathing, immune function, perspiration, body temperature and urination.
Not necessarily stuff you want to mess around with.
Yet our lifestyles force our hands and arms into an almost constant downward/backward position, creating a tendency to slouch forward. This causes us to cave our upper bodies inward, crunching the Heart, Pericardium and Lung meridians.
Allowing these meridians to flow more freely optimizes their ability to perform their respective functions.
I’ve only been experimenting with it for 10 days, but I suspect this simple palms-up exercise can go a long way toward encouraging movement throughout the Heart, Pericardium and Lung meridians.
While your palms are turned up, try and visualize the meridians that run along the inner arm into the palm.
The pictures above and to the right show Heart and Lung. Focus just on the solid black line—the one with the orange dots along it—that’s running down the model’s right arm (ignore the lines on the torso as well as the text surrounding the body). The Pericardium meridian, not shown, runs directly between the two.
Imagine these meridians stretching and regaining their normal flow as your palms gaze up.
If you commit to this exercise, I guarantee you’ll notice a shift in your posture. And if my theory is correct, you may notice improvements beyond just sitting up straighter.
You can start right now. Flip your palms toward the ceiling. Let us know what you find.
Photo by Mary Marsiglio
Meridian images from A Manual of Acupuncture