What is ‘good’ posture and why is it so important?

I work with people who are trying to improve their posture.  Most of the time, they are not sure why they want to, only that they may have been told that their posture is ‘bad’.  Maybe they are suffering from lower back pain or neck pain, or maybe they have been told they have round shoulders.  Occasionally, they have just looked in the mirror and come to the conclusion that their posture just isn’t ‘right’.  I also work with people who think they have ‘good posture’ until they come to me.  And that’s the problem here, isn’t it?  I find that most people, even fitness professionals; are not entirely sure of the implications and meaning behind ‘good’ posture.

I work with clinicians who for the most part, consider a lack of pain to be an indicator of good health and well-being.  They are probably right, but an individual with weak musculature and so called ‘bad posture’ can only stay pain-free for so long and it might be knee pain, or shoulder pain for ‘no good reason’ that alerts that individual to the fact that they may have a dysfunction. However, they may only think that they have a problem with the knee and/or the shoulder, not their entire way of holding themselves upright.

Our musculature, sits from one point of origin, to another point of insertion; on either side of the body, on every human being.  Each muscle is designed to have a particular function.  An imbalance in the strengths of these muscles can create a dysfunction; where the muscles pull against each other on the skeleton, pulling us into a different shape.  Habit, will maintain this dysfunctional/imbalanced shape and maybe continue to pull and upset the balance of muscles and joints elsewhere.

Consider the posture assumed whilst sitting at a desk all day.  The muscles on the back of the body, become longer if you sit ‘slumped’, the muscles on the front; push out around the abdomen and tighten across the chest.  The hips are sat in a shortened state, which makes them tight, pulling the pelvis into a forward tilt.  This is just one scenario, another person may find that the backs of the legs become tighter and the lower back long and weak, possibly tightness in the neck extensors (at the back of the neck) from jutting the chin forwards.

What about repetitive activity like sport?  Racquet sports player often create power from only one arm, one shoulder – creating an imbalance between the shoulders and pulling the body into a rotation, which affects the way that shock is transmitted through the pelvis legs and feet.

Whatever we do, however we do it; if it is repetitive – it will have an effect on muscle balance and our anatomical alignment i.e. posture.  This in turn, can impact on our efficiency in breathing and therefore our ability to perform basic physiological actions like; remove the waste products of metabolism from within our system, creating toxicity and other symptoms like hypertension and IBS.

To address the imbalance cause by long term dysfunction and ensure sound physiological and anatomical function, Pilates is probably the best and easiest option.  A generic group class will focus on creating balance between the muscles and improving alignment, for serious dysfunction, a course of private lessons is advisable.

If you plan on tackling the issue on your own, watch for these common and counter-productive mistakes.

  • Lifting the ribcage

In an effort to ‘straighten that back’ people often lift the ribs to create the illusion of having a straight spine with shoulders back.  In truth, all that does is create weakness at the top of the (superficial) abdominals attachment and create tension in the middle of the back.   Individuals that I have worked with, who have favoured this ‘solution’ have ended up with chronic instability in the lower thoracic region leading to hyperextension and excessive tension and discomfort; plus an inhibition of movement in the upper spine and shoulder complex.

There is more value, if the ribcage stays low and calm, whilst the shoulders are gently trained into retraction at the same time as training the upper thoracic region to extend (speak to a Physiotherapist or Pilates Teacher for advice).


  • Lifting the chin

To release the tension in a tight neck, lifting the chin is counter-intuitive.  Tension in the neck caused by desk work, is as a result of excessive contraction of the neck extensor muscles at the back of the neck.  Lifting the chin, shortens the back of the neck creating further shortening and discomfort.

Many years ago I read an article in a newspaper that shall remain ‘unnamed’, which showed pictures of people sat at desks performing such an ativity for the management of ‘Desk-based Postural Discomfort’.  I can assure you that this is not going to benefit you, instead; sit with your back against a wall and press the back of your head into it firmly.  Glide the back of the head up against the wall, as if you are giving yourself a ‘double-chin’.  This will lengthen the tight neck muscles, so hold it and breathe in and out a few times to let the stretch take effect.


  • Forcing the legs into parallel

Have you ever stood with your legs in parallel, with the feet perfectly straight and relaxed your thigh muscles?  If you relax your legs with the feet in a perfect parallel, your knees will roll in.  That is true for everybody!  We are designed to function with our feet very slightly turned out, so that the knees face forwards.  Practice this; take a moment to feel how your knees internally rotate when your feet are straight.  Now turn the feet very slightly out and notice how the knees face forwards.

From this position, when you lengthen the spine, with the ribcage staying low and the shoulders gently drawn back; you will find a position that feels both comfortable and somehow ‘different’, it will feel ‘right’.

‘Good’ posture is found between the boundaries of balance, work and strain.  You want to your muscles gently connecting, but you do not want to feel like you are over-working anywhere.  The lower back in particular, should feel calm and long – as should the neck.  This will take training and commitment to ensure understanding.  I strongly recommend that you seek professional advice as you only have 1 body; it’s yours forever, take care of it.


Tips for a 5 minute meditation.

There are many practises across the world, which range from staring without blinking into the flame of a candle, concentrating only on the candle; staring at a dot on a piece of paper, concentrating only on the dot to concentrating on breathing, concentrating only on the breath.

Many people in today’s world do not breathe fully, they only use the top part of the lungs, which lifts the collar bones up and down and creates tension in the neck and shoulders.  For this reason I favour teaching (and practising) meditation with the breath, to receive more oxygen into the blood stream to nourish the internal organs, the skin, teeth and hair; whilst maximising carbon dioxide removal from the body.  Deep breathing also mobilises the ribs and releases tension from the back and shoulders.

Step 1 Environment

It may not always be possible to find yourself a dimly lit room, with rugs and meditation cushions available for use any time you like.  But you may be able to find a quiet space somewhere, your bedroom, a disused office, your car?  Wherever it is that you choose to meditate, you need to be sure that you will not be interrupted.

Step 2 Sitting position

Whether you are sitting on the floor, or on a chair, try to be comfortable with a very straight (but comfortable) spine.  This is so that the diaphragm has plenty of room to move in your body, thus facilitating maximum benefits from the practise.

At this point, set a gentle alarm for 5 minutes. 

Step 3 Find your focus

Meditation means to be clear in the mind but remaining fully aware, so having only 1 point of focus eliminates the ‘noise’ that we often have in our minds about our worries, our fears, our desires.

Close your eyes and take a moment to relax your shoulders and face, particularly the muscles around your jaw.  Placing the tongue at the roof of the mouth can help. Close your eyes.

  • Notice your breath as it travels in through the nostrils and down the back of the throat, gently lifting the collar bones. Notice the breath as it leaves your body, softening the collar bones and shoulders, releasing the neck.
  • Notice the breath as it travels in through the nostrils and down the back of the throat, gently lifting the collar bones and widening the ribcage. Feel the ribcage widening.  Notice the breath as it leaves your body, drawing the ribcage in, softening the collar bones and shoulders, releasing the neck.
  • Notice the breath as it travels in through the nostrils and down the back of the throat, gently lifting the collar bones, widening the ribcage and expanding the belly. Feel the ribcage widening and the belly softly releasing. Notice the breath as it leaves your body, drawing the belly in, drawing the ribcage in, and softening the collar bones and shoulders, releasing the neck.

Step 4 Meditate

Follow the path of the breath into the belly and out of the belly, softly…softly.  Keep your focus on the breath at all times.

Count how long it takes to inhale, count how long it takes to exhale.

Notice how the exhale is always longer than the inhale.  As you continue to focus on the path of the breath, notice how the inhale and exhale get longer and longer, deeper and deeper.

Step 5 Return to consciousness

When the alarm sounds, take a moment to settle your breathing.  Place your hands over your eyes and gently rub around the eye socket, the brow line and the cheekbones.  Keep your eyes covered as your blink your eyes slowly open.  When ready, take your hands away from your face.


Now, think.  What is it that you plan to do next?

Once your mind is focussed on your next move, you are ready to get on with your day.


Notice the feeling of calmness and gentle rejuvenation.


10 reasons to take up Yoga

Published January 2016 in ‘Female First’ Magazine.

Why should YOU take up Yoga in 2016?

Yoga has been growing in popularity in the West since the 1980’s as a form of exercise, but Yoga offers so much more than just a tight bottom and a flatter stomach.  Here are 10 reasons why Yoga is suitable for ALL.

  • Improve your flexibility

If I had a pound for every time someone told me they couldn’t do Yoga because they were ‘not flexible’ I’d be living in the South of France on a vineyard. Yoga is not ‘for’ the flexible and it is not just about ‘becoming flexible’, Yoga is about finding peace in a busy and stressful world.  Ok, flexibility is a great physical benefit of Yoga, but the right class can teach you how to find a moment of calm in your hectic schedule, both inside and outside of the group class environment.  A gentle Hatha-based beginners’ class should include the teaching of meditation and relaxation along with stretches and poses designed to settle the busy mind and toxic body.


  • Learn how to breathe fully.

In every-day life we probably use only 20-25% of our breathing capabilities, therefore limiting the amount of oxygen that can be delivered to the blood, muscles, organs, skin, teeth and hair.  Learning to breathe more deeply and more efficiently will encourage a better delivery of nutrients to cells, shinier skin and hair, stronger teeth and greater mobilisation of the ribcage, which leads to increased flexibility in the back and sides of the body.


  • Learn to respect your body.

We push ourselves too hard; women in particular spend their lives trying to be the ‘perfect mother’, the best they can be at work, a considerate wife or partner whilst trying to maintain a healthy physique on top of that!   When fatigued, I find that the gym is either the first to go, or it’s yet another place for women to push themselves relentlessly in order to achieve the perfectly toned sculptures depicted on the front of fashion glossies and ‘health’ magazines. Yoga is about respecting your body and learning to work with it, not against it.


  • Find freedom within your body.

In a traditional yoga class the postures gently flow from one to the other, holding for a moment allowing the body to settle and relax before changing position. This allows the muscles to release quietly without strain, leaving you light, fluid and free, as if every part of your anatomy has had some attention.


  • Sleep better.

The combination of postures, breath work, mediation and relaxation will allow you to clear your mind and feel calm when you go to bed at night.  Reduced muscular tension, efficient oxygen delivery and carbon dioxide removal will lead to less tension and less toxicity leading to restful sleep.


  • Improved digestion.

The breath work and muscle activity works to stimulate the peristalsis of the gut by increasing the mobility of the diaphragm, and squeezing the abdominal muscles against the intestines during Pranayama (breathing techniques) or in certain postures.  This encourages a more efficient action of the bowel, reducing trapped wind and calming Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)


  • Increase your strength.

Yoga postures, whilst releasing the tension in some muscles, will be strengthening the muscles elsewhere.  Yoga can help to develop long, lean muscles without accumulating lactic acid, which leads to a burning sensation in the muscles and then soreness a few days later.  You may ache a little, but it’s a ‘good ache’ rather than a painful one.


  • Find inner/outer peace.

You may have heard people reference Yoga in terms of finding ‘inner peace’ I like to think of it in terms of ‘outer peace’ as well.  During the yoga class, your teacher will guide you through the more relaxing aspects and the sensation of calm will infuse every cell of your very being. But, that calm travels into your peripheral self – projecting that sensation onto others around you and gently simmering down any toxic energy in your home, your office and your social circle.  Positivity and calm is as catching as stress and anxiety.


  • Improve your balance.

Some Yoga postures require balance, which when used in conjunction with hand mudras (gestures) leads to balance in the mind.  Mudras symbolise balance between the left and right hemispheres of the brain.  Balance in the mind can help with manging difficult decisions and volatile environments.


  • Improve your concentration.

The world we inhabit is noisy, not just through actual noise but because of the constant stimulation we receive from our phones, tablets, laptops, co-workers, family, friends and so on.  It makes it hard to focus on work or an enjoyable hobby or just on what it is you want out of life.  To figure out the great questions in your life, you need to concentrate on what they mean to you.  Are you happy? Are you truly happy? The practise of Yoga can help you find the quietness in your mind that is necessary to focus and find the true meaning of our existence….or just finish a spreadsheet for your manager by Monday!


Marie-Claire Prettyman a.k.a ‘The Movement Specialist’

& Director of Fitness Inspired Teacher Training




Noun – a particular attitude towards or way of regarding something; a point of view.

This word, ‘perspective’ has be rattling around my brain for weeks; possibly months.  Every situation that I have found myself in that has been ‘difficult’ has been interrupted by the thought of this word, ‘perspective’.  I don’t know why – but it’s been a constant so I decided to explore its connotations and understand why every time I close my eyes I just see these letters, ‘P.E.R.S.P.E.C.T.I.V.E’.

I’m a sensitive soul, many people don’t know that, or indeed believe that; but I am.  Words hurt me, people disrespecting me hurts. Listening to the news, that upsets me (so I don’t); thinking that I’ve done something that somebody didn’t like or enjoy really hurts!  Mostly, because I love my job, I love people and I’m a good person.  People have said wicked things about me that I haven’t been able to defend it because I’ve been so upset, and then people have hurt me through indifference and condescension.

Recently though, I have felt a bit different.  There was a trigger, someone I used to love very much disrespected me beyond belief and for the first time in my life, I stood up for myself.  Very empowering; but, it made me look again at how I have allowed people to treat me, purely because I do not like confrontation.

My ‘perspective’ was always that I if was nice to people that they would like me back.  Sometimes, people are viewing me (and you) through a different pane of glass. Perspective to me; is like looking at the world and people from one side of a window.  What you say and how you feel, is probably the same as the other people on that side of the window.  However, there are people on the other side, and they view the world very differently.

It’s like looking out of your sitting room at a person across the street who is looking right back at you.  That person sees you (maybe) looking lonely, or nosey, or irritated, or waiting for someone….you don’t know how they are interpreting the view.  You see that person staring at you, are you afraid? Are they admiring your home or are they envious of your home and feeling the need to take it away from you?  You don’t know.  We don’t know how anyone views a particular situation until we are faced with it.

I’ve been hurt in life because people have not seen the world from my side of the glass.  But there are people who sit on your side of the glass.  Remembering that each individual’s perspective is built up over years of experiences, their childhood, and their relationships with both friends and lovers is important when trying to move forwards in life with other humans.  Their journey is not yours and yours, is not theirs.

If you work closely with people or alongside them, and you find that you do not understand that person’s perspective, I recommend talking to them. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Try and see what it looks like on their side of the glass and allow them to get to know you a little?  It doesn’t always work though.  I have found that I have been unable to shatter the glass between myself and others in the past, so understanding another individual’s perspective may mean that you walk away from them.  That’s OK though, because you’ll feel much calmer for knowing how their particular flavour of human-being evolved and maybe appreciating that there are more factors involved in their attitude than just YOU.

These days, when I am faced with an uncomfortable situation e.g.

a) I’m being told that something I did was not enjoyed by one person or,

b) someone doesn’t like my attitude for some reason or,

c) I feel disrespected by another human,

I see the word ‘PERSPECTIVE’ and try to apply some principles.

a) It was only 1 person! Did everyone else enjoy the session? Yes. Ok, then maybe that person’s perspective was being influenced by expectation and previous experiences or they were simply having a bad day. My perspective on my side of the glass, is that I have thought about my work and decided it was either, absolutely fine or I could have improved in a particular area.   But I’m safe to consider this on my side of the glass, looking out at the world from my side of the window, with others like me.

b) If someone doesn’t like me, maybe I remind them of someone nasty. Maybe I’m too loud and they are a quiet person and they felt annoyed by my enthusiasm. That’s OK, introverts have huge power and are the ‘great thinkers’ of the world.  I could learn from that feedback or just enjoy being me with those who love me.

c) Did I let this person disrespect me? How and why?  If so, then I need to re-think my strategy for taking care of my well-being around that individual OR, have I overreacted?

The glass (perspective) will protect you and provide strength when faced with humans who have a different point of view.  Visualise it and use it to keep you safe as you try to connect with those from a different journey. Shatter it if you want to and if you can but if you like a quiet life, stay on the side you understand.

Much love to everyone and remember that maybe ‘it all comes down to ‘PERSPECTIVE’.