“The willpower of your brain and your personality is very, very important because you guide your body and little by little the muscles get stronger and then it gets easier!” ~Maia Helles, Russian Ballet Dancer
I am of Northern European descent-the northern latitudes where the sun is weak. Family genetics mean we are prone to getting stooped posture, resulting in our spines rounding as we seemingly carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. My grandmother died from complications due to osteoporosis. In the United States, more than 60 million people either already have osteoporosis or are at high risk. Getting adequate sunlight is important for the bones in our bodies. We also need to have strong muscles (I’m referring to a certain group of muscles in our backs) to help keep us upright and have beautiful posture. This posture will help prevent injuries as we age.
Do you know where your rhomboids are? The major and minor rhomboid muscles are located on either side of your spine, between the shoulder blades. These muscles are super important in keeping your posture well aligned and strong. If you try using these muscles, you will likely actually be moving your shoulders back, via the deltoids and trapezius muscles and the rhomboids just move along passively, without being engaged. The rhomboids sort of like to just sit there and tag along doing nothing, resulting in your back not being aligned properly.
How to engage the rhomboids:
To begin, sit or stand with a semi-straight back. Now, imagine the muscles along your spine. The ones between the shoulder blades. Try to move these muscles. I’ll bet your shoulders moved back, causing your chest to stick out and your neck and head to jut out. Relax again. This time, I want you to “think” the rhomboids to move. I might suggest having a friend lightly touch your rhomboid muscles, so you can sense where they are as you contract them. This should be a subtle movement. If done properly, you’ll feel your chin come down slightly, your diaphram raise up, shoulders drop and instantly you’ll feel straighter. This is the posture of a dancer. Strong, straight and beautiful. Relax and contract the rhomboids again. It’s more of an isometric movement and requires lots of practice. Try doing this while you are sitting, driving, standing in line, walking and bending over. Over time, you posture will naturally begin to straighten and you’ll walk with a beautifully straight back. You will automatically just contract your rhomboids.
The Maia Helles method, is a wonderful isometric exercise. No equipment is needed. I love that I can do it anywhere. And, after only a week of working the rhomboids this way, I feel straighter and perhaps more graceful–a true accomplishment for me!