Is your posture sending the wrong message?

The Good the Bad and the Ugly of Human Posture

“A good stance and posture reflect a proper state of mind.” Morihei Ueshiba

When you are next in a busy place take a moment to look at the people around you. Notice the position of their head, shoulders and hips. How they move their arms when walking and the curves of their back and neck. You will be amazed at the number of postural variations that you see.

Pick out those whom appear to have the best posture. Are you surprised that you actually “know” how to recognize good posture. That’s because our brains have an in-built perception of body positioning. Posture is very important to us even if we don’t recognize it on a conscious level. A person with good posture appears taller and commanding, moves with ease and poise, and exudes a youthfulness, vigour and confidence.

These are very important traits to any person (or animal ) because they represent strength and vitality.

The Psychology of Posture

Psychologically, posture provides an abundance of essential information on non-verbal communication and emotional cues. Indeed, certain patterns of body position and movement are indicative of specific emotions.

The most obvious contrasts in the animal kingdom are domination and submissiveness. A dominating posture makes one appear larger, taller or more confident. A submissive posture does the opposite – smaller and more doubtful. Back in the day as hunter-gatherers, distinguishing such postures was essential to our survival as they gave us clues as to the intent or nature of another individual without actually having to ask them first; for example “are you a threat?”

Besides the obvious ‘survival-based’ information we may glean from observing posture, our postures reflect all of our emotional states. Happiness and vitality opens you to the world around you, whereas sadness and depression withdraws you from your environment. Your posture directly reflects these states of mind even if it is in a subtle way.  Indeed, why else would we coin the term “postural attitude”! Good posture is also an obviously desirable attribute on an aesthetic level.

No one believes slouching looks good and I have never met anyone who did not want to improve their posture.

Good Posture, Health and Wellbeing

In my professional life as a chiropractor, the most important aspect of posture I focus on is its enormous role in health and well-being. The significance of poor posture goes far beyond the more obvious detrimental effects on the body, such as the strain it places on joints, discs and muscles.

Poor posture also compromises breathing, metabolic or energy efficiency, and vascular and lymphatic circulation. In the long-term, poor posture is a major cause of osteo-arthritis and spinal deformity. But most important of all is how posture changes the way your brain functions.

As the master controller of all of our body functions, the brain is at the centre of controlling your posture.  This control is patterned and reflexive which means it is reasonably established and operates at the subconscious level. However, this does not mean that it cannot change, whether for the better or worse.

How we move and position ourselves changes the nature of postural patterning within the brain which then has a reciprocal affect on our actual posture. This reciprocal relationship not only induces postural change but also alters other brain activities such as emotional states (meso-limbic circuitry) and vital functions such as blood pressure, heart rate and digestion (autonomic circuitry).

So it is not just a case of the mind influencing the body. The body also influences the mind. What is crucial for people to understand is that we can tap into the connection between posture (body) and brain (mind) simply through awareness.

Tips to improve your posture

As a step in this first part of the series on posture, focus your awareness on your body position when sitting, standing or lying. Notice how it feels – is there strain, tightness or discomfort? Does that sensation alter with a change in position? Does it feel better or worse?

Observe those around you. Adopt their posture. How does it make you feel?

Over time, this exploration of your body empowers you with a deeper understanding of the effects of posture. Obviously posture is complex and any number of things may be impacting on it which remain obscure. To really help you along, make an appointment with us at Windsor Spinal Health. We will take out the guess work and set you on the path of great posture and better health and well-being.