WE all want to be thinner and more graceful, right?  We want to live longer and healthier lives, right? So did you know that just by improving the way you carry yourself, you can actually live longer, look thinner and walk with the grace of a ballet dancer.

So how many of us have good posture? Do you sit up straight, shoulders down and back and chin up. No? Didn’t think so.

It’s true. We are a nation of slouchers. Working at a desk in front of a computer screen doesn’t help matters either. But even when you’re standing up, do you ever catch your reflection in a mirror and immediately straighten up?

If this sounds like you, then it’s time to do something about it.

Pilates instructor Joakim Valsinger, www.balanspilates.com, says: “Very often bad posture is caused by the way people move in their every day life. Most people spend the majority of their day sitting, and our bodies were not designed for this. Sitting and being still allows some muscles to weaken and others to shorten which forces our body out of its natural alignment.”

So how can you improve your posture?

“You have to make small adjustments to move better more often,” he says. “Pilates is a brilliant form of exercise because it teaches you how to maintain good posture throughout your day. Walking is one of the easiest forms of exercise that will also improve your posture.

“Walking barefoot on uneven ground is what we were designed for, and if we can’t spend our entire life on the beach, posture improving footwear is the next best thing. MBT footwear acts like a Pilates lesson in a pair of shoes.”

But it’s not just about how we look or carry ourselves. There are serious health implications attached to holding ourselves properly.

Joakim says: “Maintaining good posture allows you to move freely with less pain and less likelihood of injury. Your body functions better with good posture, allowing the organs space to work, making the joints robust and most importantly keeping the spine strong and supple. A healthy spine keeps you young.”

Here’s seven magnificent tips to improve the way you look and feel – give them a go; you’ve got nothing to lose but your aches and pains.

1. Get reading

Dr Steven Weiniger, posture expert and author of Stand Taller-Live Longer, combines cutting-edge research and interactive demonstrations to build a daily posture exercise routine that is right for your body in 10 minutes a day. He promises to keep pain-free and moving well with The StrongPostureTM 7-week programme. And to keep you supple for the next 40 years…

2. Re-learn it

The Alexander Technique is a therapy that can be taught and then implemented on a daily basis. You would be shown how to improve your posture to improve usage of your own body to eliminate stress and tension. It’s a very gentle technique which is tapered to the individual’s needs, so you won’t be making things worse by pulling muscles or stretching the wrong way. Most people would benefit from at least one consultation. For a practitioner in your area; www.alexandertechnique.co.uk

3. Yoga

Yoga helps improve your posture by strengthening the muscles that support your spine; improves the flexibility of your spine, shoulders, hips and hamstrings, allowing you to maintain good posture without strain.  For advice and tips and yoga retreats log on to http://www.yogatraveller.com/destinations/morocco/the_location
Gozo: http://www.yogatraveller.com/destinations/gozo/the_location
There’s great spas, shopping, cookery schools and day trips to horse ranches and deserted beaches. Yogatraveller offer full packages from €590 for 7 nights with one of their renowned yoga teachers.

4. Don’t forget

Every time you sit down, remind yourself of how you’re holding yourself. Whether you’re in the car, at the dinner table or at work. At first you may feel uncomfortable with the correct posture because it may not feel natural. You will have become used to holding yourself in a certain way, even if it is the wrong way. Do this for two weeks and you’ll soon get used to the ‘new way’.

5. Feet first

Bring your feet parallel; about hip width apart, they shouldn’t be turned out. Bringing your feet parallel keeps your hips, knees and ankles in proper alignment. Reach up through the top of your head, feeling your spine lengthen. Enjoy the feeling the stretch is giving you.

6. Shoulders back

Draw your shoulders back and relax them down, bringing your hands in line with the seams of your trousers.  Level your chin, keeping your head directly over the spot between your shoulders, not forward or back.

7. Neutral territory

Bring your pelvis to a neutral position. To find this neutral position, place your hands around your hips, then tuck your tailbone slightly until your pelvis is directly over your thighs, so there is no bend in your hip joints, and there’s less sway in your low back. As you tuck your tailbone, you should feel your abdominal muscles engage a bit.  Holistic Health Coach and ergonomics expert Dr. Pamela Adams is author of Dr. Adams Painless Guide to Computing; How to Use Your Computer Without Hurting Yourself.