The spine is the backbone of the body, but proper posture is what holds us up. Posture is frequently mentioned and for great reason. Faulty posture can limit breathing, movement, health and mental attitude. Good posture creates a strong base for the origin of movement.
Ideally our posture is a vertical line tracking from the head, neck, shoulders, tailbone, lower limbs, and ending over the ankle. The spine has natural curves, but the general stacking of joints demonstrates good posture. Think about ears over shoulders, shoulders over hips and hips over ankles or think of floating the head above the hips.
The core is often referred to as the “power house” in classes such as Pilates and yoga. My favorite description of the core is by Akuthota and Nadler (2004) where the core is described as an anatomical “box” in the mid-section. The abdominals make up the front, the paraspinal muscles (deep muscles next to the spine) and gluteals create the back, the diaphragm the roof, and the pelvic floor and hip muscles creating the bottom. Try to visualize a strong box: External limbs will move more efficiently with a base of support.
Over time, incorrect posture can create problems in alignment as ligaments and tendons adapt to the non-ideal form. Review the previous fit tips for mobility exercises to work on opening and moving joints.
Breathing is a tool everyone can utilize to improve posture. Poor posture can limit breath depth and efficiency. Using breathing as a way to reinforce good posture also allows proper posture to become more natural. Give the following a try:
1. Place two fingers on your collarbone. Take a deep breath in and out. Did your fingers move? If yes, work on diaphragm breathing: Place hands around stomach and feel your hands expand and contract with each breath. If not, good work! You are breathing from the diaphragm.
2. Now let’s create more space in the body for breathing. Place two fingers on the collarbone, take a deep breath in and allow the chest to rise and shoulders to fall. Exhale and leave this feeling of a lifted chest. Notice your posture probably improved and your breath can be deeper.
Having optimal posture is helpful in numerous ways. It creates a stable body and allows movements to be executed in the intended manner. It also can improve mood and self-confidence. This week take a mental note and check in with your posture every day after lunch. Give it a try and see how you feel!
Fowler, Kenneth and Len Kravitz. The Perils of Poor Posture. April 2011. http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/the-perils-of-poor-posture
Chertok, Greg. Standing Tall for Success. 2012. http://www.acsm.org/access-public-information/acsm’s-sports-performance-center/standing-tall-for-success