Positive Energy 408 - Posture as a Process
In each of our bodies we hold a story. Our beliefs, our emotions, the culture of our society and our history help create the posture we have at this moment. It's fascinating as well as hopeful.
It's hopeful because our posture is a powerful tool to help us look and feel great physically as well as emotionally. It doesn't matter how old or young you are, you have the power to affect your body in significant ways through your posture.
Posture is defined by Merriam Webster Dictionary as "the position or bearing of the body whether characteristic or assumed for a special purpose". This definition goes beyond the belief that posture is limited to the way we sit or stand. It includes how we use our body at all times when resting or moving.
It's common to believe that we can correct our posture by just "standing up straight". The problem with this belief is that it oversimplifies how our body works best and keeps us from addressing weakness and muscle imbalances that can cause serious problems and pain. I'd like to give you a little food for thought and perhaps expand the way you think about posture. I like to explain posture using 3 general categories.
1) Droopy, slouched with a C shaped spine
2) Overcorrected, compensation with too much tension
3) Natural, upright, balanced and relaxed
Using postural expert and author Kathleen Porter's analogy of sad/dog happy dog posture is a good way to remember postural principles. The 3 categories of posture are shown below using cartoon graphics of dogs to make it easy to remember.
Over corrected, tense posture is just as damaging as droopy, slouched posture. For posture to be optimal it should be upright yet relaxed. Poor posture is more a symptom of weak, tense, and imbalanced muscles. If you allow yourself or your children to live a sedentary lifestyle, they will not develop the balance of stability and mobility in a strong body to maintain healthy posture. If your tissues are weak from disuse or improper use, it will show in your posture.
Instead of forcing yourself to sit/stand up straight and ending up tense and overcorrected, it may prove more effective to look at the big picture. How can we build strong joints, bodies and movement patterns that will naturally express themselves in excellent posture? It's a large topic that is expanding faster than ever. If this is your first introduction to this topic, here are some basic principles to consider:
1) If you want better posture for yourself, your spouse or your children, encourage and make space in your life for more movement with lots of variety on a regular basis. Turn movement into your default state instead of a culturally encouraged sedentary state. Walking is imperative for building strong bones. Plenty of walking and hiking is a great place to start.
2) Learn how to sit on the floor and get up from the floor gracefully, without a struggle and without hurting yourself. It sounds simple but if it's been several years since sitting on the floor, it's guaranteed to take some time and effort for your body to adjust. Regular floor sitting challenges your muscles and joints and when done frequently will add considerable strength and flexibility.
3) Start a daily ritual of stretching and taking ALL joints through a complete range of motion. Include your neck, toes, fingers, shoulders......ALL of your joints! I do this daily and it takes about 15-20 minutes. If I'm pinched for time, I do the joints separately. 2 minutes here, 2 minutes there. This is life changing!
4) Notice how much you lean. If you lean on a shopping cart, counters or anything close by most of the time, this may be an indication that you are so weak that even holding up your own body weight feels like work. If holding your own body weight is challenging, it's time to build strength, ASAP.
Sedentary culture creates poor posture and poor health. A movement rich culture creates strong, balanced posture. We are made to move. Movement is life.
"Nothing is more revealing than movement."- Martha Graham
"Ultimately, we become aware of most of what is going on within us mainly through the muscles." - Moshe Feldenkrais
All the Best,