How to look younger, thinner and more powerful? Maintain perfect posture
Bad posture and poor alignment is rampant, the result of stress, wearing high heels, lugging heavy bags, and/or being glued to laptops and phones. Here is how to combat the hunch.
At the recent catwalk shows, I was surrounded by some of the best-dressed people in the world. However, one thing let many of their elegant ensembles down: Terrible posture. While passing a street-style photographer, most remembered to stand up straight and strut, but when perched on a tiny chair for tiny bottoms, correct spinal alignment went out of the window. The duration of a fashion show would see the reverse of the evolution of man as guests went from straight-backed to slumped Neanderthal within 15 minutes.
And I was one of the worst: By the end of a show I looked like a nervous flyer practising the brace position. Bad posture seems surprising among people who presumably want to avoid resembling Gucci-clad gargoyles, but – busy and phone-fixated – we’d all forgotten that standing tall works better than any accessory when it comes to looking younger, thinner and more powerful.
Dodgy posture – and its associated health problems – is almost universal. “From office workers to athletes and performance artists, bad posture and poor alignment is present in the vast majority of people I treat,” said Enrico Di Candia, an osteopath and clinical pilates instructor who practises at the beauty and wellness centre Urban Retreat.
“From office workers to athletes and performance artists, bad posture and poor alignment is present in the vast majority of people I treat." – Enrico Di Candia
And the common causes? Stress, high heels, lugging a heavy bag, laptops and phones can all exacerbate the problem. Di Candia added: “Alterations in posture can contribute towards health issues beyond headaches and back pain such as fatigue, poor circulation, digestive and breathing problems”. Slouching compromises the diaphragm, which can promote shallow breathing, reduce oxygen and elevate stress levels.
Movement director Pat Boguslawski helped the model Leon Dame work on his walk at the SS20 Maison Margiela show. Dame had the room mesmerised as he hurtled down the catwalk with a strut that was at once predatory and a bit crazed. While not exactly straight out of a deportment class at finishing school, it was a neat illustration of the power of body language, and the ability to convey charisma and energy.
Boguslawski said posture reveals our innermost selves – “You can tell if someone has had a good or a bad day” – and thinks that on the catwalk, the supermodel sashay is due a comeback after years of anonymous gaits.
So how can we all stand taller? The right kind of exercise is key, from gym work on the back of the body (many people often prioritise muscle groups at the front because it’s what they see in the mirror), to pilates, barre and yoga.
Personal trainer Dalton Wong works with actors Gwendoline Christie and Olivia Colman (who plays the physically composed Queen in the next series of The Crown). “In the gym, for every pushing exercise you do, you need to do two or three pulling ones,” he said. “If you go to the gym and lift weights then focus on the bum, back and hamstrings. If you aren’t flexible, then yoga will help the whole body; if you feel a bit weaker then pilates will help.”
“In the gym, for every pushing exercise you do, you need to do two or three pulling ones. If you go to the gym and lift weights then focus on the bum, back and hamstrings. If you aren’t flexible, then yoga will help the whole body; if you feel a bit weaker then pilates will help.” – Dalton Wong
Barre classes are also one of the best ways to get that lithe ballet-dancer poise. Former celebrity trainer Niki Rein set up her first Barrecore fitness studio in 2011, and now has 12 across the UK. The exercise classes combine low-impact interval training with functional stretches to sculpt the body; she said it “Aligns the skeletal system in such a way that it has to work less. We work the tiny stabilising muscles. Our clients say they leave walking taller.”
If you can’t commit to a class, Wong suggests that a massage every two weeks to release tension will help. Bamford’s Haybarn spas are as relaxing as it gets; try its new B Vibrant treatment, which combines sound therapy, marma point massage and breathing work to improve positivity. (£170/S$299, bamford.com).
To instantly combat that hunched pose we all get when scrolling through Instagram, lost in the digital vortex, Di Candia advises a brief “body scan” several times a day to encourage body awareness, focusing on the head position, which should be upright, in line with the spine and pulling the shoulders back. There are multiple apps and gadgets aimed at improving posture (including the Posture Shirt 2.0, a stretchy top worn by Justin Bieber, which I found had a subtle, to the point of indiscernible, effect after a day’s wear). Wong, however, advises simply putting Post-it notes everywhere saying sit up straight: “It’s old-school but it works.”
By Carola Long © 2019 The Financial Times