Let's talk about posture, oh yeah, that gravity defying trick we all strive towards every day. It's a lot of work to counter the pull of gravity which tries to get you down, literally. Most people I talk to about posture proclaim that they have terrible posture, many even laugh about it. It seems for many that live with daily aches and pains from poor posture often feel resolved to doing just that, living with it. I am here to let you know that there is definitely something to help improve your posture. In fact, the reality about posture is that we are always trying to maintain good posture by pulling ourselves straight up to defy gravity. When our skeletal structure is in alignment the effects of gravity are lessened by the force running through your bones into the earth, as a result the other systems (muscular, circulatory, nervous, etc) will function optimally. When it takes less effort for you to stand straight you will feel lighter and have more energy to spend on all your wonderful activities.

The first step to correcting your posture is to recognize when you are standing and sitting with poor posture. How often a day do you catch your shoulders slumping forwards, your back rounding and you let your stomach hunch? Maybe your hours of work in front of a computer or behind a steering wheel outnumber the hours spent practicing good posture. Perhaps you stand all day, or lean against a counter for hours, what is happening to your body when you lean onto one hip chronically? Consider that for a moment; what happens to you after you've spent more than 20 minutes in one posture? After a prolonged time the body begins to adapt and become conditioned. By repeating one task or a specific posture on a regular basis your body will learn that to be your 'normal' posture. Your body will literally learn to move in this adapted way, certain muscles will become chronically tighter to help support the new load put on the joints and you will likely experience the achy and stiff feeling in your body as a result. Begin first by observing yourself and the way your sit, stand and play.

 

The joy is that once we recognize when we are throwing ourselves into contorted and awkward postures we can start to break up our habits and routines and introduce a new pattern which is healthier and safer to our structure. The second step to correcting your posture is to start moving more! Let's take me writing this blog about posture as and example. I am typing away at my computer as thoughts come to mind, after a few edits and revisions I am starting to feel tension building in my shoulders and neck, I am also noticing small pulls in my forearms and that my feet are laying at an awkward angle to the floor, I am also somewhat leaning more to my right. So, to correct this posture which is making me feel tension I stand up, take a moment to step away from my computer taking my arms up over head with an inhale then exhaling as I fold forward. I proceed to do a couple stretches and gentle movements while I look out the window and take in our beautiful changing weather. Then when I return to my computer once more I make a conscious effort so sit on my sits bones with both my feet flat on the ground, I pull my lower abdomen in slightly as I lengthen from the top of the head taking my spine with it, I try to face forwards to my monitor and keyboard as I type. I know that after about 15-20 minutes of typing again I will start to feel tension, more than likely because I have shifted out of my proper alignment. Some easy reminders to help get you moving more are: set an alarm, take breaks when the commercials start on the radio, give yourself permission to take breaks. As for movements to free yourself from the postural slump, start small and build to bigger movements in your wrists, shoulders, neck, back, ankles, knees and hips. Move in a way that is different from the way you are working or sitting. Be gentle with yourself and breathe!

 

The third step to correcting your posture is to continue and repeat the first two steps. By reconditioning yourself to bring more awareness to your posture and relax tense muscles bringing your boney structure into alignment you will create a new pattern for your body to adapt to. Consider how you feel when you are hunched over and compare that to how you feel when you have your shoulders back and head held high. Which posture feels better for you? The effort it takes to maintain your good posture comes from practicing. Devoting as much time as you can to bring awareness to your posture will add up very quickly and you will begin to see results. This means when you are brushing your teeth, doing dishes, standing in lines, driving and pretty much any other task your repeat on a daily basis or more are where you start practicing good posture. There are cases where a person has lived for decades with an altered posture and it is difficult for them to experience full ranges in their joints. For these people I recommend speaking with a therapist who works with soft tissue and joints or to try some gentle Yoga. We have the ability to heal ourselves, and this includes correcting our postural adaptations, but sometimes we need a little help to break up the years of tight tissue.

 

Let me take a moment to get into what happens under the skin with regards to our muscles and joints and postural adaptation. Our body is designed to function a certain way, each joint moves according to its shape, the muscles that work around each joint move the joints according to their bio-mechanical relationship. All is well when everything is healthy and aligned properly through all movements. When our joints are not in alignment the muscles which support those joints will have a new kinetic relationship to work under. This means that the muscle fibers need to fire differently than normal to achieve the same movements the body is demanding. Over time these muscles will develop tension, adhesions (which is when the connective tissue of our body begins to stick together restricting proper movement) and possibly scar tissue. Consider these adaptations to be a patch work which holds the muscles and joints in an altered position which is not bio-mechanically correct resulting in pain and possibly even lack of circulation and nerve impingement. By having a therapist work at correcting the joint relationships and reconditioning the muscle firing patterns to a more relaxed state will assist you in your daily endeavor to stand up tall. Though, in the end the brunt of the work will come from you directly. Take every opportunity you can in your day to remind your body of it's proper posture, and remember to smile as you do this as a reminder of how wonderful it feels to be aligned.