“I know, I know … I should sit up straight, walk tall, look straight ahead … but does it really matter? Why does it matter? And how do I do it right anyway?”
We don’t really give posture too much thought. Sometimes we can become aware of posture based purely on appearance. People notice it when they see a photo of themselves stooped over or they notice that hump at the base of their neck for the first time … Or perhaps it goes beyond appearance for you. You start to feel aches and pains and start wondering if your posture is a factor.
So what does good posture mean beyond the more superficial appearance? What does it mean for our bodies, for example – our aching shoulders?
Posture helps us to stand, walk, sit, and lie in positions with the least amount of strain on the muscles and ligaments activated during movement. Ideal posture allows you to move in the most economical way – putting the least strain on your body – reducing the likelihood of injury. Simply put, think of posture as the sweet spot for your muscles, ligaments, joints and bones. This is how the human frame has evolved to function at its best. Poor posture, on the other hand, can lead to strain and cause our bodies to be out of alignment.
I have poor posture. What can I do?
Firstly, take a look! Look at your own posture. Figure out exactly where the issue is. Use a mirror or get some help. Perhaps a loved one can take a picture of your while you are sitting at your work station. Be natural when you do this. You are defeating the purpose of learning if you sit up straight the one time someone is there to take a picture. This tip is particularly good if you are working from home. It is very easy, too easy, to let things slide while you are cocooned at home. See more working from home tips here. Take this picture and compare your image to photos of people with good posture, and you’ll begin to see the differences.
Proper Sitting Position
Keep your feet flat on the floor or up on a footrest if they don’t touch the ground. Do not cross your legs. Do not cross your legs. Yes you read that twice. Sit forward enough in your chair so that there is a small gap between the backs of your knees and your chair.
Your forearms should be parallel to the ground and at a 90 degree angle at your elbow. Your head should be in line with your spine. Go back to that photo. Does your head/chin jut out?
Your spine should not be poker straight. Remember your spine has curves. These are the kind of curves you want. So allow the natural curves to assume their position. If you find the curves have changed over the years, you may need support from a health professional such as myself to guide you on exercises to encourage the return of your natural curves.
Next – tune in to your body and note where you are holding tension. Are you shoulders relaxed? Is your jaw soft and relaxed? Holding tension in the body can encourage poor posture so take note of where in the body you tend to do this, if at all.
Note how you breath in the seated position too. Are you breathing into your belly or does most of the movement come from your upper chest? Deep breathing, which is breathing that comes from your diaphragm, requires you to stand up straight. So good posture can help you get more oxygen in your lungs and therefore into the body!
Proper Standing Position
– Maintain the bulk of your weight on the balls of your feet.
– Keep your knees soft. Do not lock them!
– Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
– Let your arms hang naturally at your sides.
– Keep your head level – positioned over your torso – from a profile view your earlobes are in line with the centre point of your shoulders.
– If you have to stand for a long time – it is a good idea to shift your weight from side to side and forward and back from your heels to the balls of your feet. Keep this dynamic. Check that you are not always favouring one side or position.
Also take note that these suggestions are for static posture. Static posture is our body’s posture while at rest. It’s how we sit, stand, and lay. So when it comes to static positions – whether it is standing or sitting – remember your body likes to move, so take regular movement snacks. Simply put, move your body in any way that counteracts the position you have been in. Also, another aspect of static posture is sleep and the position your take while sleeping. This is another kind of posture. Learn more about the best sleep position/posture here.
We also have dynamic posture. This is our whole body’s posture while moving. It’s how we walk, run, lift, and bend. You may have perfect posture when seated at your workstation but you forget about connecting in with your body and its alignment when out for a walk. When you walk, do you look only at the ground in front of you or are you looking ahead with your eyes to the horizon? Looking down to the ground immediately in front of each step is likely to encourage rounded shoulders and dropping your head forward. So look for a balance of seeing where you are going and walking tall!
Achieving and maintaining good posture may be tiring at first. Your muscles and ligaments are not used to this new position and therefore it is hard work in the beginning. Stick with it! Even if you are finding it slow progress, it is nonetheless progress. Posture can affect all areas of health; your susceptibility to injury, breathing, stress levels and even digestion. Although back pain is often associated with poor posture, it can go deeper than that. Poor posture can also cause or compound headaches, migraines, arthritis, digestion problems and respiratory issues.
Support from a health professional such as myself, with a specialty in spinal health is a great resource for keeping your body balanced and aligned. Making routine visits, getting specific advice for your body and your life will keep your back healthy and your posture on point.
If you have any further questions regarding this topic please do not hesitate to contact the clinic.
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Finally, the information provided here is not intended to replace individual medical advice. If you have any questions regarding the above information or if you wish to book an appointment with me, please contact me here, message me on Facebook or on 087 1815007.
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