How To Reduce Tension And Free Yourself From Muscle Stiffness

If you are experiencing chronic muscle tension or back pains, then you should first visit your doctor to get it checked out, just so they can eliminate any forms of illnesses. 

However, most muscle stiffness can usually be put down to emotional stress and bad standing and sitting postural habits.

We often hold a lot of tension in the neck, head, upper back and shoulder region. which can result in tension headaches.

Again emotional stress or too much worrying and anxiety can cause the stiffening of the muscles.

Other causes can be leaning and bending forwards, slouching or collapsed postures or trying to stand too tall and ridged.

These days more and more people are living sedentary lifestyles or they are spending a lot of time on electrical devices.

Nutrient deficiencies

Some of the top experts in health are telling us that a magnesium deficiency can cause muscle tension and tension headaches, so it may pay you to have magnesium supplement or eat plenty of rich in magnesium foods like 

  • Spinach, green leafy vegetables
  • Avocados
  • Pumpkin seeds 
  • Banana 
  • Black beans

If you cannot get the recommended daily requirement of magnesium, which has been named the stress and anxiety reducing mineral, then you may benefit from taking a supplement.

Release all that tension

Most people often hold themselves in unnecessary, uncomfortable and tense positions, or they go against their natural balance and alignment.

Often, people will go around with their heads pulled back, chin up, their pelvis pushed too far forwards, their lower backed with too much arch in it, the shoulders rounded, hunched or pulled too far back, too high or too far forwards, the chest lifted, all of which.

Or perhaps you have tried to change your posture or attempted to sit up straight or physically stand tall, both of which will quickly result in muscle stiffness.

You cannot become taller than you're natually are, but you can lose height through slumping or allowing your body to collapse. 

People may have told you to stand tall or sit up straight, but this advice usually leads to people trying to physically stretch themselves beyond their natural height, again resulting in muscle tightness.

You have not got to try and find this so called perfect posture, a far better approach would be to learn how to stand and sit to your full natural expansion without stiffness, with the least amount of tension by releasing any tension you're holding onto and bringing yourself back into balance and alignment with gravity.

Most people try and fight tension, and they end up, tucking, forcing, holding, tensing and pulling their body all over the place, which only makes the problem worse. 

When what you should really be doing is to concentrate on focusing on removing tension by releasing those muscles that you're tensing, by bringing your body back into alignment and balance, so your body is more vertical and your skeleton is holding you up.

You will never get rid of muscle tension by applying tension or physical force, you get rid of muscle tension, by releasing the tension that you're holding onto. 

The general rule is, if your muscles are stiff, then you're physically tensing your muscles or your out of alignment with gravity, thus forcing the muscles into unnecessary action.

As babies, we stand and sit with the least amount of tension

As young children, life is easy, just as it is supposed to be. Young children do not worry and they are not dogged by stress and negative emotions, so they do not suffer with muscle tension.

Also, when we are babies and up until the age of about when we start primary school, we stand, sit and move in our natural and healthy balance and alignment, free of tension.

We automatically sit and stand, with the minimal amount of effort and the least amount of tension.

But as we move through our life's journey, we soon pick up and develop bad posture habits.

Our bad habits, often starts off when we first attend school as we engage in activities such as writing, drawing and reading.

We also begin to mimic the poor postures and bad habits of our elders, or we are told bad advice. 

From then on, nearly everything that we do tend to pull us forward, such as our workstation and jobs. 

Even some hobbies, sitting on the sofa, house old chores, reading, using computers, laptops and mobile phones to name a few, take their toll on our posture.

When we are babies and very young children, we automatically know how to sit, stand and move efficiently with poise, good alignment and natural balance, without having to think about it. 

Young children stand and sit to their full expansion, without stiffness, where all their joints are free and flexible.

Babies and young children either sit upright, stand upright and move with the minimal amount of tension and effort, without having to try or think about it.

They, certainly, don't slouch, and you won't see them lazily lying down on the sofa with their head pushed forwards, the neck bent and resting on the arm of the chair.

You won't see them trying to tuck in their butt or stomach in, they don't try and stand taller that their natural height, they don't try to sit up straight, they don't stick out our chest, lift up their chin or pull their shoulders back too far, and they don't sit and stand in forced and military types of postures.

They naturally  have good poise, balance and alignment, until they either develop bad habits or they are told bad advice that goes against their natural balanced healthy posture.

Before long, many people begin to take on poor posture habits, where they slouch and lean forwards, causing their shoulders to hunch up 

Whilst others who mimic the people around them, tend to push their hips too far forward, which puts them into a back bend.

Or perhaps you were told bad advice, like, to either sit up straight, or to stick your chest up and pull your shoulders back, another bad bit of advice, would be, to tuck your butt in.

Much of what people were told to be, as being good postures, turns out to be bad and unhealthy posture.

So, for those who began to take on any of these unhealthy postures and bad sitting and standing habits, it would not be long before they would be out of balance and alignment, and their muscles would have to take on the extra work load.

Ideally, you should aim to sit, stand and move, with the least amount of tension and effort, and when you're in your natural and most healthy, aligned and balanced posture, all your joints should be free, and your bones and your seat, should do all the supporting work, to hold you up.

Alignment and balance

It is important to maintain good balance and alignment, when we are standing in an upright position, our body should be evenly distributed over our shoulders, over our hips and over our ankles which will minimize and prevent muscle tightness.

When we are not standing in good balance, such as leaning too far forwards or backwards, then our muscles will have to stiffen and tighten in order to help support us and prevent us from falling over.

Many people stand with their hips pushed too far forwards, which causes their back to arch and their shoulders to hunch, which puts a lot of strain and tension in their back and neck.

Others will try to hard to hold themselves up, lifting up their chest and chin, putting and excessive curve in their back, whilst others will push their hips too far back, causing the over stiffening of their legs.

When you try too hard to hold yourself up, you will over stretch your spine and your muscles will become very stiff and very tight.

Most people are top heavy, which makes it more important to try and maintain good poise and balance, it can be especially difficult to keep good balance when you are at work.

You should be careful not to try and physically hold yourself up or in position when you're trying to sit or stand, as this will just make matters worse and it will result in even more tension and stiffness.

Although it is important to try and have good balance and poise, trying to hard to hold yourself up or sit down will inevitably result in more muscle tension and tightness.

To see if you're in good balance, you can stand in sideways in front of a mirror with your weight spread evenly over both feet.

See if you're standing upright and vertical, notice if you're leaning forwards or backwards, and are you arching your straightening your back.

If you notice that you're either leaning forwards too much or if you're tilted too far back, or if your hips pushed too far forwards or too far back, then you might need to make some slight adjustments, this should however, this should be done with the very least amount of effort and force.

It is better to release the tension that you're holding onto, rather than trying to apply tension to come back into alignment.

Ideally, your weight should come more over your ankles and into your heel bones.

If your hips are in alignment where they are over your ankles and under your torso, if you still notice that you're leaning forwards or backwards, you can gently sway your whole body forwards and backwards slightly without bending at the waist or upper body.

As you sway forwards and backwards gradually reduce the amount of sway each way until you find your natural most tension free balance and alignment, somewhere in between the two points of tension. 

If you do this exercise, make sure your head, is resting gently and freely on the top of your spine, avoid pulling the back of your head down or lifting up your chin or chest. 

If you use any of the techniques that are demonstrated on the videos on this page to align your body, or if you use any other exercises or ways, make sure you use effortless adjustments, do not tense yourself into position. 

The head

The head plays a crucial role in keeping your spine in its natural upright alignment helping you to stand, sit and move, with balance and the minimal amount of tension.

The head is supported by the neck, and it ideally it should rest, balanced freely on top of the spine. 

The average weight of the human head is about 5kg, so if the head is protruding too far forwards, then it will put a lot of strain and extra load on the supporting muscles, and if the head is out of alignment, then it will throw the rest of your body out of balance and alignment.

There are a lot of muscles in the neck, and the neck muscles are attached to the shoulders and the upper back, where a lot of tension is often held.

It is important for these muscles to be free and relaxed, so they can work together efficiently, especially as this group of muscles, effect the working of the rest of the body.

The head is really important as it can influence the whole body.

The head is attached to the spine and the spine will follow the positioning of the head.

Therefore, if you pull the back of the head down, it will compress the back of the neck and contract the muscles of the back. 

This will lift up the chin and cause the spine to collapse, causing the whole body to shrink and compress in stature. 

If you pull the back of the head down to far, it can cause the head to protrude too far forwards putting you in the fight or flight reflex mode.

The same applies if you bend your head forwards from the neck or you tuck your chin in too hard.

It is estimated that for every inch your head protrudes forwards or back, it adds an extra ten pounds in load on your neck and back muscles.

When the head is at its optimum balance point, then ideally it should rest freely on the top of the spine, where it sits and rotates on a pivotal joint, where it is meant to balance freely.

Most people carry a lot of tension and stiffness in their neck, and when the neck becomes stiff it causes tension in the head.

Stiffness in the neck, can lead to tension headaches and long term stiffness can result in neck and back pain, as well as causing tension throughout the whole body.

To minimize tension the head should be released forwards a few millimeters so the face is slightly tilted forwards as this will help to keep your back fully elongated, avoid bending your neck or forcefully tucking your chin in, everything should be natural. 

To reduce muscle tension or stiffness, the spine should not be collapsed, to straight or overstretched. 

Although you should aim to stand and sit at your full expansion and height, you have to be careful not to stand stiff or forced. This is why it can be advice to tell people to sit or stand up straight.

The head rotates on a pivot point and joint at around the height of the ears, so if the back of the head is pulled down, then it should be released forwards and come up slightly up, but not forced.

The weight and percentage of the head should be slightly greater at the front of the head and the neck and skull balancing point, so the point of the nose is pointed gently down slightly.

Many people develop bad postural habits, where they tighten their neck muscles, tilt their face upwards, which shortens the natural gap between the bottom of the head and neck, resulting in a stiff neck and a stooped back.

Ideally you want we want the neck to be free and relaxed as possible, so the head rests freely on top of the neck with the head tilting gently forwards a few millimeters. 

Although the face should gently tilt forwards, make sure you let it roll forwards from the head and neck joint, imagine that there is a bar going through the ears, do not bend from your neck or go around with your head looking at the floor and your chin forced and tucked in too hard. 

The head should be free and the neck should be free and relaxed. Trying to physically adjust your head can result in more muscle stiffness, so avoid tucking in your chin or dropping your head forwards. 

If you focus on relaxing and keeping the neck soft, then your head should find its own natural tilt and point of balance.

A better approach might be, if the back of your head is pulled down, then release the head so the head naturally comes forwards and just allow it to go up freely by itself. 

The Alexander Technique involves little physical adjustments, and it uses thought to direct the head to go forwards and up.

If you are bending or tilting your head too far forwards or down, then just release it so it comes forwards and up. 

The definition of muscle tension is, to "apply a force to muscles which tends to stretch them", so if you have got muscle tension, then you are applying excessive tension which is not needed.

What causes muscle tension and out of balance is when we over lengthen and stretch some muscles and we shorten and contract others. 

To rectify this, release the contracted muscles and relax the over stretched muscles, so you bring the tense muscles back to their resting and most relaxed state.

When you attempt to find your most natural and balanced posture, do not feel your muscles to check if they feel soft and relaxed, because, that can be inaccurate. 

For example, you can go into a lean back stance, and for a while your shoulder and upper back muscles will feel soft, but when you wake up the next day, they will be stiff.

Many people spend a lot of time on mobile devices or reading where they hold the book or device to far down and they bend their head forwards, which is long term potentially damaging, and it will put a lot of strain and tension on your neck and upper back.

Do not allow yourself to be pulled forwards into your computer, laptop or gaming device, and make sure you don't drop your head too far down to operate mobile phones or whilst you're reading or doing any other activity. 

Instead, bring the device, up to your natural eye level, or use your eye movement first, before you engage in dropping or lifting your head up, or turning from side to side.

The correct position of the shoulders

Many people try to correct their posture from a slumped and rounded collapsed position, too, what they think is good posture, but more often than not, they maneuver into a too stiff and tense posture, and they end up making things even worse.

To stand and sit with the least amount of tension, your whole body has to be in its most natural balance and alignment. 

Most people, spend their time either stuck in bad alignment, or they continually, shift from the two extremes, ranging from, too stiff and rigid, where they lift up their chest too high, pull their shoulders into a tense and elevated, position, or they return back to a slumped, rounded and collapsed posture.

The shoulder region, tends to carry a lot of tension for many people, if your shoulders are rounded and they are positioned too far forwards, then, this will this cause, your shoulders to go too far upwards or cause them to become hunched and rounded, and the head will protrude too far forwards, causing stiffness in the neck. 

This will cause your upper and middle back to curve and allow, which will throw you out of balance and alignment, causing the collapse of the body.

When your shoulders are elevated to high, then this will cause, permanent tension in the trapezium muscles, the neck and the forehead. 

If you bring your shoulders back and then down, making sure you don't force them too far back, then this will free a lot of the tension, in and around that region.

Not everybody has their shoulders hunched to far forwards, so do not, bring your shoulders back, if they are already in the correct position, or if they are elevated to far back.

The shoulders, neck and the upper back are all linked to the fight or flight reflex mechanism, so any stiffness or tension in these area's can cause you to involuntarily react with fear for no obvious reason, so if you keep these muscles soft, then you will have less trouble with anxiety.

The shoulders should not be pulled back, if your shoulders are elevated back or too high or they are hunched and rounded it is because we are tensing other muscles.

This often happens because you are deliberately trying to force your shoulders back into what you think is good alignment or your upper back is rounded or over arched so it is better to release any tension in your upper back and bring your whole body back into alignment.

The shoulders should be loose and springy and they should be relaxed in their natural sockets, so to start with, let them relax and naturally hang at their widest point by the side of your rib cage, without physically trying to force them or hold them in position.

Instead of trying to adjust your shoulders it may be more beneficial, to try not to pull them forwards or too far back in the first place.

The, better policy would be to try to stand and sit upright and vertical in your most natural alignment so you're more in a vertical column, where your bones are doing all the supporting work.

Your shoulders, should not be forced back, they should be, free, relaxed and down, so they hang freely by your sides.

Sitting without tension

Over the years, many people have developed bad postural habits, both standing and sitting, and sitting poorly can contribute to pain and tension.

These days, many people are spending large amounts of time sitting down. Your body is not designed to remain in a sitting position for long periods, and if you're sitting badly, then it is going to play havoc with your posture, health and well-being.

It is important to sit correctly, you should always be sitting on your sit bones, with your spine positioned, so you have the least amount of strain and tension in your upper body, so your spine maintains its natural and healthy curvature.

You need to learn how to sit and stand correctly because when you stand out of balance and alignment, then when you sit down you will be out of balance and alignment and, when you get up, you will carry this bad posture with you, when you're standing. 

Your neck should be free, and your head should be forward and up, especially when you're getting in and out of your chair, as this will keep your back at the right length and position.

When you're getting in and out of your chair, relax your neck and allow your head to slightly tilt/angle forwards, then bend with your knees and hips, allowing your knees to move forward slightly.

If you have too much tension or stiffness in your knee's, upper legs or your hips and pelvis, when you're standing or if you're out of alignment with gravity, then it will become very hard to sit correctly.

When sitting, make sure you're positioned on top of your sit bones and although you should not allow your spine to curve in a C shape do not try to sit up straight, lift your chest up or sit up too attention, just allow your chair to do all the supporting work.

Things to avoid

  • Do not tuck in your pelvis 
  • Do not try to sit or stand to attention 
  • Do not try to physically hold or pull yourself up 
  • Do not lock your knees or your ankles
  • Do not stiffen or hyper tense your legs
  • Do not force your shoulders back 
  • Do not lift up your chest unnaturally
  • Do not push, pull or tuck in 
  • Try not to lift up your chin

Many people are sitting for prolonged periods in potentially damaging and unhealthy tense postures. 

To sit correctly, you first have to stand correctly. 

Do not try to sit up straight or too attention, sit on your sit bones, with your body upright and allow the chair or seat to support you, instead of trying to hold yourself up or in position, the key is upright but comfortable.

To get on your sit bones, you need to know the correct way to get in and out of your seat, then just relax and allow your body to naturally find its most comfortable position.

The video's below will demonstrate how to sit without tension, and how to correctly, get in and out of your chair.

The important thing to remember when you get in and out of your chair is to make sure you do not tilt your face upwards and pull the back of your head down.

Many people have a tendency to stiffen their necks, by tilting their face upwards and pulling their head backwards when they get in and out of their seat, which shortens the muscles in the neck and causes tensing in the neck and throughout the whole back.

When you get in and out of your chair, without bending your body forwards, make it a habit to release your head forwards gently, as this will free the neck and back muscles, and keep your head forwards throughout the whole movement until you arrive in your chair, and do the same as you stand up.

When you allow your head to release so your face slightly tilted forwards a fraction, (Do not forcefully tuck your chin in, or bend from your neck, just allow your head to naturally roll forwards a fraction) then this will help to maintain your spine in its natural upright position.

Also, avoid lifting up your face when you start to walk, when we start to process to move forwards, we should allow your heads to gently drop forwards a few millimeters.

When you're in good alignment and balance, then all your joints should be free, your neck should be relaxed, and your body should be upright, like a column, with your bones doing all the supporting work for you, instead of your muscles.

Ways to ease muscle tension

When you over-extend your spine, your muscle will tighten up, especially your neck and back muscles to hold you up, and once they have gone stiff it is hard to relax them again and is hard to lower yourself back down because your muscle will be so stiff.

If you have developed tight and tense muscles, then the first thing to do is re-align and balance your body, if you have overextended your spine, then you need to relax it back down to, its natural curves and alignment. 

Then go and have a massage as soon as you can, once you have softened your muscles avoid standing in a stiff or rigid military posture, massage is by far the best method to relax your muscles, other ways of relieving tension include.

  • Have a rigorous exercise workout 
  • Hit The Gym And The Weights 
  • Having a nice warm and long soak in the bath 
  • Applying deep heat on the tense area's

There are many ways that can help you to reduce muscle tension, but the benefits you will gain, from things like, having a massage, will be short lived, if you do not stand and sit, in balance and alignment, where you have the least amount of tension.

Before you can correct your posture and get out of those tense and out of alignment postures you will first have to know which one you are. 

When most people try to correct their posture, for what they think is good posture, they usually get it all wrong.

What people tend to do is, when they try to shift out of slouched or zig zag types of postures, they lift up their chest, pull their shoulders back, or they try to physically pull themselves up.

All of these, will result in chronic muscle stiffness. You should never try to physically hold yourself up or pull yourself up, and it will only result, in making things worse.

When you lift up your chest, you will arch your back, which will cause, stiffness throughout your whole upper body.

Other things that you should avoid are, 

  • Locking your ankles 
  • Locking your knee's 
  • Stiffening or hyper-tensing your legs 
  • Stiffening your neck

Most people are either leaning back or they are stooping and bending forward. Both of these unhealthy postures will throw your whole body out of alignment and cause your muscles to tighten up. 

Probably the worst things for causing muscle stiffness are

  • Trying to stand too tall 
  • Trying to sit up straight 
  • Physically trying to pull yourself up 
  • Lifting up your chest 
  • Forcing your shoulders back 
  • Locking your legs and knees into position

A typical types of poor posture, which is very common is where, people tend to have their hips pushed too far forwards, they lock or stiffen their knee's, and their back goes into a sway back or back bend, or they go into zig zag, type of collapsed posture.

As you practice obtaining your natural alignment and balance, observe yourself in a mirror or get somebody to look at your body posture so you can find out what type of posture you are which will help you eradicate any bad habits.

Your stomach and your trunk are the main supporting part of your upper body so if you're out of alignment you may will need to strengthen and activate your core stomach muscles as well as bringing your legs, hips and upper body back into their natural alignment.

It can help to exercise to strengthen your chore stomach and body muscles, but no amount of exercising will help you if your body is still out of its natural alignment.

If you have overextended your spine, then you will need to relax your muscles with a good massage, then you will have to lower it back and realign it back to its natural curvature. 

Help if your body is collapsed

A lot of muscle tension is a result of people, who are either out of alignment, where they are slumping or their body has collapsed.

Or they are either trying to get themselves out of a slumped posture or they have been physically pulling themselves up into a military type of posture or they're physically trying to hold or lock themselves fixed in position.

If your body has collapsed and you find that you've gone into a zig zag type of slumped or slouched type of posture where your knees are too bent, then it may be a case of, you may need to lengthen your spine slightly so you become a bit more vertical and in alignment with gravity, without creating any tension.

This can be achieved through thought. And one way you can do it is by imagining that there is a piece of string attached to the top of your head. 

Then, without trying to physically pull or push yourself up, imagine that the piece of string is very gently pulling you up. 

When you have reached your full expansion, without letting yourself collapse back down, just let your shoulders relax and ease down a touch and let your nose gently and effortlessly drop down a fraction.

Whatever you do, do not physically attempt to pull yourself up, then again without collapsing, through the imagination, just allow the piece of string to gently hold you up and support you, whilst at the same time, you keep letting your shoulders relax, your body and your neck relax a bit more. Stay in this position for around a minute, then ease off a bit and carry on as normal. 

You must be careful if you do attempt this, that you only do this if your body is slumped and you make sure that you only think this through your imagination.

Again, do not attempt to physically push or pull yourself up otherwise you will create tension, and the whole idea is to create less tension. 

Make sure you do not lift up your chin or your chest, and any adjustments that you do make should be smooth and effortless.

This technique is to gently ease you back to your natural height and full expansion, you must not physically stretch or stiffen your body.

So, again, be careful you don't physically pull yourself up, it has to be done subtly, effortlessly and smoothly, through the use of imagination as demonstrated in the video below.

Standing with the least amount of tension and strain

If you have developed quite advanced forward head posture or you're in a hunched up and rounded posture, then it will require some work and effort, because you cannot just go from bad posture too natural and healthy posture overnight.

Some people will have to do some daily posture correction exercises until they gradually return back to your natural and healthy alignment and balance.

You should not try to physically correct your posture, unless you're absolutely sure you know what you're doing. 

It is OK to gently align yourself, but do not pull, lift your chest, force, push or tuck in, and when you attempt to bring yourself back into alignment, never tense yourself back into position.

When you physically try to pull yourself up, or you brace your legs stiff, then this will cause chronic stiffening of the neck and the whole back.

The more you can start to return back to your natural and healthy alignment and balance, the less trouble you will have with muscle tension and stiffness. 

Get into the habit of scanning your body for tension and release any tension in the area's where you're holding onto it.

When you get it right, your body should be more vertical and upright like a column, so your weight is evenly distributed over your shoulders, hip and ankles, which should reduce any tension. 

Many people will tend to stiffen their legs to hold them up in position, the trouble is, you're just using tension to hold you up and compensating for other parts of the body that are out of alignment, and this is not the answer as it will just cause more stiffness. 

Standing efficiently does not just involve the legs, the whole body needs to be in good alignment and balance in order to stand with the least amount of tension and strain.

The sensation of our weight should be more towards our heels than the front of our feet, but although the weight should come more over the ankles, we should avoid standing back on our heels as this can put us into a lean back, nor should we stand with our toes raised.

The correct way to stand is, you need to have your whole body in alignment and balance, so your bones are holding you up, and all the muscles are working in co-ordination with each other.

If you're experiencing stiffness in some of your muscles, then it is because you're trying to compensate for the under use of others, which results in some muscles stiffening whilst others collapse. 

When we are in good alignment and balance then we will be standing with the least amount of tension and strain, so it is more of a case of standing with the least amount of tension, than trying to find this so called perfect posture.

Any adjustments that you make should be gently and effortlessly. Do not use tension to try and get rid of tension or to compensate for any bad postural habits. 

Instead, observe yourself, and correct any bad habits or out of alignment, or release any tension that you're holding onto.

Sometimes it is not just about what you should do, but more of a case, what you shouldn't do, for instance, if you find that your shoulders are hunched and tensed forwards. 

To correct this, don't apply more tension to pull your shoulders back to far to other way, because all that does is, it creates another problem and more tension, instead, just release the shoulders and let them relax and find their natural position and release any tension in your upper back if you're bending forwards. 

Basically, if you have tension, then you need to go the opposite way, when you release any tension to re-align your body, if you reach the point of tension the other way, you have gone past the neutral position.

Do not brace or hyper tense your legs, ankles or knees, locking equals tension, and tension or stiffness in the upper legs will result in stiffness in the upper body and lower back.

Make sure you do not lock your ankles or knees to hold yourself in position, because not only will it throw you out of alignment, it will also restrict your blood circulation, the ankles and knees should be free.

Many people hyper tense their legs and knees, again by doing this you're applying tension that is not needed to hold yourself up.

If you're experiencing tension, then this will usually indicate that you have developed some bad habits that will need changing or,

  • Your body is out of alignment with gravity 
  • You're physically trying to hold yourself up 
  • You're physically trying to push yourself up 
  • You're trying to physically correct your posture

Although there are some techniques that you can do to align your body (see video below), you should never try to physically correct your posture as this only will result in more tension and muscle stiffness.

A lot of muscle stiffness are a result of people physically messing about with their posture. The truth is, you should not be trying to physically adjust your posture. 

Why? Because we automatically and instinctively know how to sit, stand and move with the least amount of tension and strain, therefore it should not be something that we need to consciously and physically interfere with or try and control.

Things only go wrong, when we practice and pick up bad habits, we try to mimic others or we try to take physical control of our posture.

To begin to reduce any muscle tension, it might be better to take the approach of 

  • Releasing and letting go of any tension 
  • Correct any bad habits like slouching, bending forwards, leaning back, and looking down by bending your neck and dropping your head 
  • No pulling, pushing, forcing, tensing or tucking in your butt

The feet should be placed firmly on the floor approximately hip distance apart. The legs should be vertical and go up, but there should be no need to stiffen or brace the legs.

Your weight should be more towards your heels, and your heels should be back and down, but not locked, and your knees should go forwards and away from your heels, do not lock or hyper tense your knees.

To be able to stand, move and sit with the least amount of tension has a lot to do with the position of the pelvis in relationship to the legs and body and your abdominal strength and support.

The skeleton bones need to be stacked upright and in alignment so they do all the supporting work so the muscles start to release and become more relaxed and soft, so you return to that feel good comfortable flow state.

Try and avoid trying to stand or sit up straight, as again this causes tension by causing the spine to become too straight or overextended.

If you apply tension or physical force to try and correct tension or correct your posture, then you will create more tension, this is why it might be better to concentrate on releasing tension rather than applying tension to correct tension or to correct any out of alignment and balance of the body.

If your chest is held too high, then gently release it back down, if your rib cage is protruding or too high, which will cause too much of a curve or bow in your spine, gently release it back and let it naturally hang down, but be careful not to bend forwards, otherwise you will push your hips and butt to far back.

If you imagined a piece of string attached to your naval and sternum, then that piece of string should be pulled up so you take up the slack, but it should not be tight.

The head is very important to be able to find good poise, alignment and balance. The neck should not be stiff and the head should not be pulled or pushed up.

The neck should be relaxed so the head rests freely on top of the neck, with a slight natural tilt of the face, many people stiffen the neck, but the neck should be soft and act like a shock absorber.

When you get it right, your whole body should be more vertical and back in good alignment and balance, which will begin to release and free the muscles of tension as your bones hold you up and take back control of the support work, so you stop doing the things that cause the tension in the first place. 

The goal should be, to eventually return back to your natural poise, where you sit and stand upright without any effort and without trying to hold yourself up, so your skeleton bones support you, and you let everything relax and neutralize so your body find its natural position and alignment, without you having to think about it or do anything.

It is more a case of not doing certain things and trying to release any tension that you're holding onto, because tension is always an indication that you're doing something you shouldn't or it's an opportunity for you to relax, let go of something or release the tension.

If you want to test whether your hips are in good alignment, then the video below will show you a very quick method to show whether or not your hips a positioned correctly.

The positioning of the pelvis

Many people stand with their hips either pushed too far forwards or too far back.

When are hips are out of alignment, not only does our whole body become thrown out of alignment and balance, it will also put a huge strain on our muscles which will have to tighten to help support us.

Many people stand with their hips pushed too far forwards and their pelvis tilted back or they are in a lean back type of posture.

This puts an excessive curve in the spine and throws the head and shoulders out of position in order to try and compensate for the hip imbalance.

Ideally, the spine should be a well balanced column, so your weight is evenly distributed, over your shoulders, hips and ankles.

It can be hard to advise people, because each person can vary from another.

Some may have too much curve in their lower back, whilst others have to much curve in their upper back.

Others may have their hips pushed too far forwards, whilst others, have them too far back.

The first step to getting out of tense and stiff postures is all about being aware of what you're doing wrong and figuring out, whether your spine is too curved, or even, too straight.

You may need to visit a professional or take an Alexander Technique class to get help knowing what type of posture you have, and what you need to, put it right.

How long it will take to correct things can largely depend on how bad your posture is, but it may be something that you will have to work on.

If you have very poor or out of balance, posture, then you cannot go straight to balanced posture overnight, and you may have to take small steps, step by step.

So how can you tell if your hips are in their natural alignment?

Stand with your feet firmly on the floor, and then try and lift up the front of your feet.

If you can easily lift up the front of your feet, then this means that your hips are in the right place.

If you struggle to lift up your hips, then this indicates, your hips are thrust too far forwards, or even too far back.

The video below will demonstrate this.

Many people are stuck in a lazy type of sway back posture.

Again, this is where they have their hips thrust too far forwards, which causes their back to angle backwards and the head to protrude forwards, 

When you are in a lean back posture, it will compress the lower back, often the legs become tilted and the knees become locked.

Another typical type of tense posture, is where people enter into an S type posture.

All these types of postures, can make it hard for people to stand and sit properly, and you will usually see them leaning on something to help support them to stand upright.

If you think that your hips are pushed too far forwards, and you have to much curvature in your spine, then you might find that the top of your legs and the weight of your hips need to come back a touch so you hip center comes over your ankles and your upper body comes over your hips.

If you think that you're in an S shape, posture, where your hips are thrust forwards, your back is to curved and your legs are slanted, then the top of your legs may need to come back and your upper body may need to come forward a touch.

The legs should be vertical, but not braced, and the knees should be soft.

Many people have been told to sit or stand up straight.

However, this cause you to lift up your chest which will curve your spine and stiffen your back muscles.

If you find that you do this, gently relax your chest down, but avoid going too far, as this will cause you to bend or lean forwards. 

When you relax your chest, it will relax your back muscles as well.

If you think you're in one of these S type or sway back postures, then the video below by the founder of the Balance Center, Jean Couch, will show you a technique on how to get out of tense and painful postures, by realigning your spine, which will allow your bones to support you and not your muscles.

A common problem that can cause muscle tension is the tensing and contracting of the knees and the muscles at the top of the legs, which can result in the knees being pulled in which can result in stiffness in the lower back and around the hip area.

Your feet should be placed firmly on the floor with the weight of the body spread evenly over the three pressure points underneath the feet, so the weight of the body goes down through the legs and ankles and is distributed evenly over these three pressure points, which are

  1. Under the big toe 
  2. Under the little toe 
  3. The center point under the heel

The feet should be approximately, about hip distance apart or less depending on the width of your hips.

The feet should be in alignment with the legs and slightly wider at the toes than the heels, they not be turned inwards or outwards, the heels should be back and down, with a bit of sway in the ankles, do not lock the ankles and the knees should be soft and they should go forwards and away.

The Alexander Technique suggests, that you can eliminate muscle tension through thought directions and instructions. 

You can purchase an Alexander Technique from Amazon.

You should try and avoid standing still fixed in one spot for too long, try moving your position slightly, or keep alternating your standing stance, such as, standing normally, then standing with one foot slightly more forward than the other. 

The more you move about, the less chance your muscles have of becoming locked in one fixed position. 

If you are experiencing muscle tension and stiffness it is usually an indication that you're doing something wrong such as 

  • Stretching or hyper tensing your muscles 
  • Locking some of your joints 
  • Trying to physically hold yourself in position 
  • Pulling or pushing yourself up 
  • Bending/leaning too far forwards or leaning back 
  • Lifting up your chest, rib cage protruding too far forwards 
  • Lifting up your chin too far, back of the head pulled down

Any adjustments you make should be made without applying tension, make small adjustments at a time. 

Once you have found that natural balance and alignment and you have erased any bad habits, then try not to tinker too much with your posture as you want to return back to your natural poise and balance without any interference. 

You can make some fine tuning adjustments, by thinking, your heels to go back and down, your knees to go forwards and away and your rib cage to come back and down, just be careful not to bend forwards or bring your rib cage too far back.

Then be aware of any tension in specific muscle groups and practice thinking those muscles to smooth, relax, release and be free. 

We have a point of balance where the major muscles that support us are at the least degree of tension, and there is small, variation in-between leaning forwards and leaning backwards which you should try and aim to remain within the two points of tension.

It can be helpful to beware of this, if you lean forwards then you will notice tension in your chest, if you feel those chest muscles tensing, relax and release back a touch. 

If you lean back, you can feel your lower back muscles tightening, if you feel this, relax and release forwards a touch. 

If you overextend your body you will feel your chest muscles stretching or your lower back muscles stretching, if you notice this, relax your body down and your chest back down. 

Try and get into the habit of not doing the things you shouldn't do, and practice releasing tension, where you have got used to habitually tensing your muscles.

Think relax, smooth and soften instead of tensing, start to allow your body to find its most natural tension free poise and balance.

If you want to reduce and eliminate your muscle tension and stiffness, and you want to feel good and healthy, then you may benefit from learning from an expert of the Alexander Technique, which is probably the best posture techniques available.

Although doing some light stretches can help, be careful not to stretch muscles that are already over stretched and stiff.  

Most stretches are alright, leg stretches are fine and any stretching that stretches your body wide are fine, what you need to avoid if you suffer with muscle stiffness, is stretching your body longer.

If you have developed forward head posture or hunched back and shoulders! Then this will probably require some extra work. 

But the consequences of doing nothing can result in frequent tension headaches, neck and back pain, sleep problems, low mood, low energy and even structural damage and fusion of the bones in the neck, if you have forward head posture, do not leave it until it's too late.

When extra help is needed

People who are out of balance and alignment often use tension to compensate for the poor alignment.

This is not the answer because by doing this, their adding further muscular effort and tension to hold themselves upright, sadly, most people accept this state of tension as being normal. 

Once you're more vertical, aligned, relaxed and balanced allow yourself to sway and tilt forwards gently keeping your whole body straight and then go backwards very slightly, making sure you only hinge from the ankles. 

To start off, tilt forwards slightly, once you reach the point of tension at the front of your ankles stop, and then go backwards until you feel the point of tension, do this a few times, until you get to know the midpoint between the two extremes and try to stay around the two limits.

Although you're searching for the position with the least amount of tension, you should not try to stay fixed in one static position or attempt to hold yourself static, just try to remain within the small variations between the narrowest points of balance, and the two points of tension.

The same applies when you're sitting, you have not got to sit and hold yourself perfectly still or lock yourself in position, it is OK to sway back and forth a little, so long as you do not pass the points of tension.

Do not lock yourself fixed in one position

A lot of people tend to tuck their pelvis and butt in, but this can lead to muscle tension, stiffness and back pain, as well as making it hard for you to sit down comfortably. 

When our posture is correct the tension in the muscles will start to ease off, if we continue to use the incorrect posture and put extra stresses on the muscles they will remain tight.

The muscles will relay information back to the nervous system which will keep the muscles tightened to compensate for the extra physical stresses put on them. 

The body will also adjust and reset the length of the muscles according to how we are using our body or if they are held in the same position for sustained periods of time.

The stomach muscles are the trunk of your body, they support a lot of weight, when they become weakened, they collapse and people start to develop sway back and end up pushing their stomach out causing them to lean backwards which puts a strain on the back muscles causing tightness and tension.  

One of the best ways to improve your posture is to strengthen the stomach muscles by doing sit ups, you may also need to do some light weight resistance workouts to strengthen your back muscles.

The Importance Of Good Body Mechanics 

A good way to help to align your posture or straighten your back is by relaxing and releasing tension by incorporating the Alexander Technique semi supine exercise into your daily life as demonstrated by the video below.

Do this exercise everyday for around ten to twenty minutes, and whilst you're performing the semi supine exercise, as you begin to relax, start to scan your body from head to toe, and go through any parts of your body that feel tense in your mind. 

If you come across and tense area's or muscle groups, think the muscles to soften, melt, relax or go limb, and just release any tension that you're holding onto, then repeat the sequence until the tension as melted away.

To reduce muscle tension, you need to start replacing any bad habits or default settings and return back to your natural poise, alignment and balance.

Our body will adapt and mold itself to the furniture we use regardless of whether it causes postural stresses and physical tension. 

Try and wear relatively flat shoes, try to sleep on your side and use a good pillow support. Sleeping with a thin pillow in between your legs can help improve your posture.    

When you sit on a poorly designed chair or if you are working or doing some form of recreational activity like using a computer and the worktop or table is either a little too high or too low and it only has to be a fraction out then it can cause incorrect posture which will inevitably lead to tension and physical strain.

Working at a keyboard promotes poor posture, if you work or spend long periods on a computer, then it is important to stand up and move about as much as possible. Take regular breaks and get up a move around whenever possible.

When you are at work, try to make sure everything is set and adjusted at the right comfortable height for you, if you can avoid over stretching or leaning and bending forward for long periods. 

The same applies if you work or spend long periods of time on a computer or at an office desk, everything should be at the right height so you are comfortable and you don't have to lean forward. 

Exercise regularly, and move about and keep active as much as possible so your muscles do not have time to adjust to one position. 

Take care when you're bending and always bend from your knees and hips so you keep your back straight.

Sitting in an uncomfortable position while you are at home watching TV or slouching in a chair can result in bad posture and muscle tension and pains and incorrect muscle performance. 

Slouching can also lead to back problems and also people who drive for long periods can develop bad posture habits. Learn to recognize when you start to feel tense.

It is also important to make sure your sleeping correctly, a bit of preparation before you go to bed can leave you feeling relaxed in the morning. 

If you go to bed feeling tense, then the chances are you will wake up feeling tense, a good quality memory foam pillow an be beneficial, having a massage before bedtime will help you immensely.

The correct posture involves teaching and conditioning your body to sit, stand, walk, and even lie in positions where the least strain is placed on supporting muscles and ligaments during movement or physical and leisure activities.




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