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Originally published Thursday, July 15, 2010 at 7:04 PM

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The many benefits of good posture

Posture has an effect on how you look and especially how you feel about how you look

St. Petersburg Times

Can you name the one thing you can do to instantly appear pounds thinner and inches taller?

Stand up straight.

Our mothers told us to stand up straight so many times we may have tuned them out years ago. The word "posture" might have you conjuring images of women with books perched on their heads.

But the fact remains that posture has a tremendous effect on how you look and especially how you feel about how you look. Walking tall conveys self-confidence and grace. Avoiding a slouch and carrying yourself upright lends a feeling of strength and invincibility. Wonder Woman didn't slouch.

Along with outward appearance, inward benefits of good posture include less back pain, better circulation and less stress on the joints. Fatigue is reduced when the body's ligaments and tendons aren't struggling to keep you balanced. Even the Mayo Clinic's website stresses the importance of honoring the spine's natural curvature and avoiding slouching.

Remind yourself throughout the day of the power of good posture. The next time you're at the computer and you notice your shoulders up toward your ears, consciously push them down. Sit up straight. Breathe deeply.

When you go to the beach or out for an evening on the town, throw your shoulders back, smile and walk confidently.

You'll feel great, and your body will thank you.

But after years of slouching, how do you know when your posture is right? Try this exercise in the morning as you prepare for the day; repeat it whenever you need an energy boost.

— First, remove your shoes and stand on a flat surface.

— Bring your feet about hip width apart (your two fists should fit side-by-side between your feet).

— Become aware of the soles of your feet. Press the four corners of each foot into the floor.

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— Draw power from the feet into the legs and feel the rising energy.

— Be mindful that you're standing on both feet; balance your weight evenly over both legs.

— Imagine your pelvis is a bowl full of water. If the bowl tilts backward, the water spills down the back of your legs. If the bowl tips forward, the water sloshes down the front of your legs. Keep your "bowl"even and centered.

— Roll the shoulders back and draw the shoulder blades down the back. You can feel this action by shrugging the shoulders up, then rolling them back and down.

— Balance the head evenly between the shoulders, keeping the chin level with the collarbones. Don't tuck your chin in or thrust it toward the sky.

— Breathe deeply as you feel energy rise up the spine and back down again. Visualize yourself feeling more powerful as your breath flows through your body.

Simple adjustments and practices will have you strutting down the beach, gliding over the dance floor or walking down the street with poise. You know what to do: Now stand up straight.

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