The dress, the hair, the shoes, the ring—these are the more obvious wedding-look essentials. But you could venture to say that great posture is the most important of all. "Nothing looks better than straight posture because it projects confidence, happiness, and positivity," says fitness and lifestyle consultant Ashley Borden, who has counted Mandy Moore and Chelsea Handler as clients. "Aesthetically, it will make you look longer and leaner, give you squared shoulders, and will make you look better in whatever you're wearing."
Today, though, we're in a round-shouldered epidemic of sorts, thanks to our phones, computers, and sedentary lifestyles. "Scrolling through Instagram with your phone at hip height is enough to make even a ballerina slump," says Mary Helen Bowers, founder of Ballet Beautiful in New York City. "Technology dictates so much of modern living. Some days it's hard to step away from the screen. From a fitness perspective, this leads to inactivity and slouching. It's very hard to text or type with perfect posture. Put down your phone!" Though that's easier said than done, there are ways to reverse the harmful effects of sitting at our computers every day while instilling new habits to promote practically perfect posture before your wedding. Here, we've rounded up five ways to get great posture before your wedding.
Swap Your Chair for a Standing Desk
"Sitting is the new smoking," Borden says—it's more harmful for our posture and bodies than we realize. Switch to a standing desk at work, which Borden and Bowers are both fans of. "Small changes go a long way toward building healthy habits and retraining your body to move with great posture," Bowers says. Can't swap out your desk entirely? A lumbar pillow or supportive chair can also make a difference.
Do Posture Checks Throughout the Day
Take a quick 30-second break from your computer and check your posture: Is your back curved, or are your shoulders back with your core engaged? Checking yourself in the mirror throughout the day, or even using a wall to ensure the top of your back is touching the wall, can remind your body of how you should be standing. If you need more help getting used to standing up straight, consider a wearable tracker, like the UPRIGHT Go Posture Trainer. The discreet sensor sticks to your back and gently buzzes when you're leaning forward.
Take Up Ballet
"In ballet, almost every movement from the first plies at the barre in the morning to jetes on stage in the evening are performed with upright posture, building incredible muscle memory and strength," Bowers says. In addition to learning the steps, your body will also learn to stand upright. Plus, it's a great pre-wedding workout for building long, lean muscle. Whether you take ballet classes or try Ballet Beautiful, Bowers' ballet-inspired fitness class, she says, "it takes three intense days to cement a new routine, and by day four you should be feeling stronger and more lifted already."
Add Yoga to Your Fitness Routine
"Yoga promotes body awareness, allowing people to actively correct their stance throughout their daily lives," says Rachel Tudor, yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance. "With consistent practice, the body is stretched, and strength is built so the spine instinctively straightens out." She specifically recommends a few poses: Heart Openers, a group of poses that fix a hunched back or shoulders from sitting too much, Sun Salutations, which promote a strong core to keep other parts of the body from overcompensating, and Mountain Pose, "the epitome of a pose for posture, as it teaches us how to stand with our shoulders in line with our hips, spine elongated, and tail tucked," she says, and recommends starting as soon as you can. "Much of yoga is mental, and I believe that if you commit to seeing change, you will see it after a few weeks, and even feel relief with your first practice."
Try Foam Rolling
Ever heard of foam rolling? We hadn't until Borden raved about it. Basically, it's using a foam roller across different areas of your body to stretch out muscles and tendons. "For various reasons, the underlying muscle tissue can bind together, causing knots or trigger points," she says. "Nearly everyone who does lots of computer work suffers from this." It quite literally opens up your muscle valley, making it easier for you to stand up straight. "It's a magic bullet," she says.