Did you know that a good posture, for the most part, is a habit? The good news – is we can change our posture just like any other bad habit! Change is not always easy, but it is possible. It requires a few things: 1) awareness, 2) daily practice 3) belief that change is possible. Finally, and most importantly, take the first step towards a good posture (which you’ve already done) by reading the following post.
Trust me, I speak from experience! Firstly, growing up, I rarely engaged in physical activities because I was a timid, overweight, and sickly kid. Secondly, my spine is affected by scoliosis (curved like a letter “S” with a rotation of the vertebrae). The curvature made me look like I was leaning to one side. I don’t know if it was developed during childhood or an acquired pattern. Finally, add several injuries to the insult, and voilà! Yet, after a few decades of working with many talented yoga, pilates, and physical therapists and teachers. Sprinkle the daily practice of spacial awareness and an appropriate exercise program; I could attain and maintain a good posture. As a result, my back, neck, and head pains are gone, and I don’t look like a leaning tree anymore. Most importantly, a good posture helps me to stand up straight and show up to the world with grace and confidence!
Ready to get a good posture and change your life? Let’s dive in. To start with, we will define what good posture is. Next, we’ll talk about the specific benefits of good posture. And finally, I’ll share a few tips on how you can improve your posture.
Definition of Good Posture.
A good posture is one of the essential habits that is the key to well-being. The structure and function of the body provide the potential for attaining and maintaining good posture. Yet, bad posture is much more common, especially today. Bad posture is not only about the ascetics but also creates discomfort and pain and can cause disability. The range of effects depends on severity.
You can consider a bad posture a waste of energy. Culture, civilization, and constantly staring at screens don’t help us. Some exercise programs (even with good intentions) using repetitive patterns can make the bad habitual postural misalignments worst. However, correction is possible when we understand the underline mechanics of the body (and a person) and find a positive and educational program. Therapeutic exercises to strengthen the weak muscles and stretch tight muscles are some of the elements by which we can attain a good posture. (1)
In 1947, the Posture Committee of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons defined posture as follows:
Posture is usually defined as the relative arrangement of body parts. Good posture is that state of muscular and skeletal balance that protects the body’s supporting structures against injury or progressive deformity, irrespective of the attitude (erect, lying, or squatting) in which these structures are working or resting. Under such conditions, the muscles will function most efficiently, and the optimum positions are afforded for the thoracic and abdominal organs. Conversely, poor posture is a faulty relationship of the various body parts, which produces increased strain on the supporting structures and in which there is a less efficient balance of the body over its base of support.
How can you Benefit from Good Posture?
1) Cultivate spine health.
“You are as old as your spine.” – Chinese Proverb.
Good posture is one of the easiest ways to keep your spine healthy. Sometimes I think of the body as a brand-new iPhone. Out of the box, everything is in perfect alignment, working order, shiny, and the music is playing. A year or two passes and you download some crap, and the phone’s performance goes to the toilet. The next thing you know, you need a replacement. Unfortunately, we only get one spine per life. All we need to do (right?) is a return to balance.
2) Reduce or eliminate pain.
The human skeleton is very versatile and supported by muscles. Muscles work in harmony when the bones are stacked. But when we slouch or favor one side of the body (leaning on one leg), we overuse one group of muscles, so they become short and tight and overstretch the other side. As a result, we feel pain. Let’s take headache for one, when we put our head forward (think looking at your iPhone), there is increased muscle tension in the back of the neck. A forward head posture will also strain the upper back, shoulder, and neck areas. Proper alignment makes the joints and ligaments less stressed, and headaches will become a distant memory.
3) Improve breathing and lung capacity.
We are compressing our lungs when we are slouching. Stand tall, and your lungs will have more room to expand. As a result, good posture improves your breathing and lung capacity. Consequently, sitting and standing with proper alignment improves blood flow, helps keep your nerves and blood vessels healthy, and supports your muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Once I became mindful of my posture, the back and neck pain flew away.
4) Good posture will help you to improve digestion and blood flow.
Slouching will compress your organs, restricting the healthy blood flow. Your circulation is poor when you are compressing your vital organs. Healthy blood flow requires proper alignment of your spine.
5) Reduced Temporomandibular Joint pain (TMJ)
If your head is out of alignment, your mandibular joint and jaw muscles are taught. Hence, jaw and head pain. Loosen your jaw, bring the head in alignment, and TMJ becomes a distant memory.
6) Good posture will add years to your life.
“If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old. If your spine is completely flexible at 60, you are young.” – Joseph Pilates.
According to the study, bad posture will shorten your life: “the Spinal Posture in the Sagittal Plane Is Associated With Future Dependence in Activities of Daily Living: A Community-Based Cohort Study of Older Adults in Japan” (2). Participants with poor postures could not perform day-to-day activities and needed assistance. As you can guess, the group with the best posture needed no assistance, and overall life quality was higher. The study concluded that posture had a significant impact on quality of life as well as life expectancy.
Four Things You can do to Attain a Good Posture Immediately!
1) Stand up Straight
- Chin parallel to the floor
- Shoulders even (roll your shoulders up, back, and down)
- Neutral spine
- Arms at your sides with elbows straight and even
- Imagine like you are wearing a corset and bring your belly button up and in towards your spine (without changing the curve of your lumbar)
- Hips even
- Knees even and pointing straight ahead over the second toe
- Body weight distributed evenly on both feet
2) Do pilates for Good Posture
Inflexible muscles decrease the range of motion (how far a joint can move in any direction). For example, overly tight, shortened hip muscles would tug your upper body forward. While tight chest muscles can pull your shoulders forward, etc. Muscle strength is directly responsible for balance: the core muscles hold your organs and help you stand up straight. Pilates focuses on the whole body’s alignment—the range of motion (at the joints) and a balance of opposing muscles. Practice will improve your posture. There is emerging scientific evidence to confirm that pilates offers significant benefits to adults of all ages, including a reduction in pain and improvement in flexibility, muscle strength, posture, gait, balance, range of motion, and quality of life(3).
3) Do yoga for good posture.
Similar to pilates, there is a body of research on how a therapeutic yoga (d) practice will improve your posture and overall back health. Yoga for good posture increases flexibility and strength. In addition to physical exercises, you experience breathwork that will improve your posture. Bonus, you get to manage stress better, and that will help you to stand up straight. An intelligent and sequential yoga practice design will bring the body back to balance.
4) Pay meticulous attention to how you move when you are not exercising.
Pay attention to the natural curves of your spine, your neck, how your head is balanced, your feet, keep the shoulders down, etc. A yoga or Pilates mat is an excellent place to start. However, we only spent a short while practicing. How you hold your spine when you clean, sit, sleep, walk, wash the dishes, etc. It takes daily practice and mindfulness. I often ask myself where my head is when I am vacuuming. Do I have a turtle neck? When I walk, I feel how I push off the ground. As I inhale, I expand my chest, and as I exhale, I engage my core without changing the curve of my lumbar spine. How do I sit? How do I stand? Not to mention my “s” shape spine, I have to be extra vigilant not to lean to one side, to use props. Eventually, the spine becomes healthier, and a good posture becomes a habit.
(1) Muscles: Testing and Testing and Function with Posture and Pain (Kendall, Muscles) Fifth, North American Edition
Please share what you find the most useful in the comments below, and stay tuned for more!