Annie Oakley, whom I intend to paint, could hold and shoot a shotgun while riding a horse. I can barely hold my 20 gauge shotgun for 2 minutes without feeling pressure on my back. Even in her older days, she manipulated heavy guns as if they were toothpicks. In studying Ms. Oakley over the last month, one factor (other than her sheer guts and bravado) has become clear: she had erect posture all of her life.
I’ve noticed that most back problems begin with poor posture. I know mine did.
For a number of years while cheer leading in high school and later instructing cheer leaders on the west coast in my early twenties, I stood for long periods of time on the sidelines of football fields and basketball courts around the SF Bay Area and then on expansive cement staging areas at college campuses.
My posture was poor. I parked my upper body back on my hips and hyper-extended my knees, thus creating a little cradle to rest my back. Surprisingly, no one ever mentioned this to me.
Because I have never abused my joints with over-exercise or weight gain, they have generally functioned well throughout the years but my bad posture caught up to me several years ago when my back began aching along with one leg.
Despite consultations with all of the usual folks (docs, PT’s, more docs) it wasn’t until a physical therapist called me out saying, ” Cheri, you are slumping! Oh my. ”
The word “slumping” has horrible connotations and my English-teacher sensibilities startled that such a word that creates images of decay and resignation would be applied to my posture.
No one had ever observed that I was slumping.
Changing one’s posture is difficult but I have done it. Each morning for the last two years, I remind myself to suck in my gut, elongate my spine, hold my shoulders back and be mindful of my posture.
My pains have lessened.
More importantly, I am able to power walk up a one-mile hill, strengthening the glutes, hamstrings, and quad muscles.
As a bonus, I’ve noticed that those horizontal lines that hold up fat and occur between the breasts and the hips go away if you are standing up straight. Really.