They've Got Your Back
We Bostonians might pride ourselves on our work ethic, but in the end, we’re a town of slouches (literally). While all that time spent perched in front of the computer or hunched over the BlackBerry can be somewhat rewarding for the half-million desk jockeys in this city, it’s also turning us into our grandparents, with the screwed-up back alignment to prove it.
[sidebar]Good posture can make you look taller and promote muscle tone, yet local experts say straightening up is hardly just about aesthetics. And many personal trainers are touting posture as the key to better health and better results at the gym (with the rock-hard butt to follow). "Poor sedentary posture is bad enough," says Helena Collins, owner of Synergistics Personal Training, where trainers analyze how the body works as a whole. "But poor alignment while exercising, whether it’s lifting weights or running or yoga or Pilates, can do more harm than good"—e.g., tense shoulder blades can lead to lower-back pain, tight hip flexors can encourage a bum knee, and lifting weights with rounded, raised shoulders might produce an Alicia Sacramone neck rather than the desired Kyra Sedgwick arms. Seeing a health need (and a market opportunity), last month Collins launched the Life in Synergy Fitness Studio, near the new Mandarin Oriental, offering classes that focus on muscular alignment—from yoga to Zumba to hip-hop dance.
Rather than seniors, it’s people in their thirties and forties who are getting into the most trouble with posture, notes Aviva Lask, a Newton-based personal trainer who specializes in Feldenkrais, a form of complementary exercise that works with the nervous system to improve alignment. "They’re workaholics, but they’re also exercise-aholics," she says. "And they wear very high heels," which can further throw the body out of whack. Lask suffered her own bout of fitness fanaticism 20 years ago: "I looked great, but I was in discomfort most of the time." A single session in Feldenkrais, composed of hands-on guided movement, helped her work out without pain and, she says, eventually reversed her scoliosis. Today she incorporates the method in her sessions with everyone from marathoners to those with movement-restricting illnesses like multiple sclerosis. "First posture, then gym, then strengthening," she says. "It can only work this way."