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Growing up, I witnessed a lot of back pain.
My parents spent endless time and money on chiropractic appointments, stretching, and trying to get comfortable enough to rest. Nights of sleep were lost; days were spent grumpy and grumbling.
So, when my back started to ache incessantly two years ago, I thought, I’m 35, a parent: now is the era of back pain?
My regular morning yoga practice helped but only temporarily. By the end of the day, I would hurt everywhere. I began to feel grumpy; I began to grumble. I pleaded with my husband and young kids to rub my shoulders—even for just a minute.
Then one day, I saw a photo of myself.
My back was rounded, shoulders rolled forward, chest caved in. My head jutted frontward.
I was appalled by my posture.
This pattern is extremely prevalent in our modern culture; increasing age, genetics, and lifestyle habits all play a role. Sitting, working on a computer, driving a car, texting, cooking dinner, or helping kids with homework: all these activities task the body with excessive forward-facing movement.
These patterns, repeated over time, create a constellation of effects: weak core musculature, underused and overstretched back muscles, and tight, constricted chest muscles. This manifests as the classic rounded-shoulder, forward-head posture that I witnessed in myself—and it can come with a side dish of intractable back pain.
But the pain was more than just physical.
I didn’t only look hunched in that photo. I looked small, ashamed, and uncomfortably apologetic for my mere existence.
The way we hold ourselves in the world is more than the alignment of our bones and muscles. Our bodies speak for us. They represent our attitudes about ourselves, and our willingness to take up space. Posture tells the story of our spine, and the story of our self-worth.
I soon realized that since my yoga practice wasn’t enough, and since no amount of massage was going to remedy the underlying problem, I had to try harder.
I had to shore myself up from the inside out. But how?
Naturally, I turned to YouTube. I stumbled across a video titled “Fix ‘Hunchback’ Posture in 10 Minutes/Day (Daily Exercise Routine).” It promised a 10-minute at-home routine of strengthening exercises, foam rolling techniques, and mobility work designed to realign posture.
A year and a half later, these movements are an invaluable addition to my routine. My back pain is down to zero. It requires daily work; like most things in life, consistency adds up.
The unintended benefit? As my chest is stretched and opened, my heart is lifted. As my posture improves, I stand a bit taller. As my back muscles are strengthened, so is my backbone. As my core works to keep my spine erect, I discover the guts to take up more space.
It’s never too late to rewrite the story.
At the very least, I’ll save myself—and my family—from a few days of grumpiness.
Grab a yoga strap (a belt, dog leash, or jump rope work, too!) and a foam roller, utilize a couch, and give it a try.
Let me know how you liked it in the comments!