Thursday, June 07, 2007

Great posture exercise - climbing stairs

Ok, when you think about posture exercises you might think about Army recruits trying to stand straight up while a drill sergeant screams in their face, "Suck that gut in. Pull those shoulders back." Well, the aikido and judo ideal of good posture begins with relaxed, mobile, and upright. While the old drill sergeant might have gotten upright, he sure missed the relaxed part.

The folks that probably know the most of anyone in the world about functional posture are the Alexander Technique folks and the Feldenkrais Method folks. I've written before on the crossover between aikido, judo, Alexander, and Feldenkrais principles, including a recent article on a neat Alexander trick for fixing neck posture. Feldenkrais has some similar exercises which involve repeatedly sitting and standing from a chair to reprogram the neck muscles. Here's something that, so far as I know, is of my own invention... Walking up and down stairs to fix neck posture.

Try this. Get a flight of steps and walk up and down sliding your hand on the rail for balance. Repeat the flight of steps several times. First this will help your leg and cardiovascular strength if you do it regularly, and having better wind means you don't have to use shoulder and neck musckes as accessory breathers. So they can relax and control your neck posture more efficiently.

Second, keep breathing as you walk the stairs. If you are not used to walking stairs you might, without thinking, hold your breath and drag yourself up by the handrail. If one flight of stairs wears you out and leaves you breathless, look to see if you're doing this.

Third, and this is the really neat part, try the Alexander trick I previously posted while walking the stairs. Concentrate on moving however you have to in order to get your nose forward and upward. As you descend the stairs, imagine your face lifting forward and up, so that your neck gets longer and straighter and more upright as your body descends. As you climb up the steps, imagine leading with your face. Imagine someone gently holding your chin and the back of your head and giving you a little lift as you ascend. Notice that getting your nose and face up and forward releases tension in your shoulders (because you can't raise your face if your levators scapulae are in contraction) and frees your breathing (because your shoulder muscles are hooked to your rib cage).


  1. Those look like Marines to me :)

  2. The Taiji posture is basicly the opposite of the Marine "shoulders back" posture;
    we pull the tailbone in (foward), round the shoulders slightly (slight hollow of the chest), feel pulled up by the crown of head, pulled down by lower dantien. Also, as far as neck, the back of neck should lightly rub the collar of the shirt. All these things lift and seperate the vertebre and take the "s" curve out of the spine. this is supposed to increase chi flow and allow for relaxation. Standing meditation for as long as you can does some interesting things internally also.

  3. It is interesting to me how different groups have different ideals of posture based on what they want to do with that posture. I suspect the 'marine posture' serves no functional purpose except to make the soldiers look uniform. The upright aiki posture (shizentai) facilitates great mobility and neutrality. If I understand it rightly (and I probably dont) the Chinese IMA postures you describe tend to forsake mobility for flexible opening/closing, bending, twisting, while maintaining a strong ground path.

  4. thanks for another great posture post. They help me a great deal and a good deal of the time. Its interesting to me-- Usher-san teaches the same posture as what dojo rat described. I wonder if that is years of Shotokan slipping through the cracks.



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