Is there an ideal posture?

“Unless some misfortune has made it impossible, everyone can have good posture.” Loretta Young

 

Normal posture is the position of the body placing the least amount of stress and strain on the supporting postural muscles, ligaments and joints during movement and static positions.  Normally, we do not consciously maintain our posture.  Postural control is a reflex that is built into our central nervous system (CNS).  The CNS controls our posture by regulating muscle tone and thus joint alignment.  Postural assessment is a window into the function of the brain and poor posture can indicate there is a problem with a person’s spine, muscles or nervous system.

Optimal posture can be assessed using a variety of methods ranging from very simple to very complex.  More complex assessment tools involve Posturography or Centre-of-Gravity (COG) testing. These tests involve the use of computer aided analysis of photographic assessment or balance-plate assessment of COG. Although these are very useful tools for the clinician to detail more difficult cases, observation remains the quickest and simplest method of analysis – and you can do it in your home. The simplest method is to observe your posture and examine it from the front, back and sides.

When you look at a person from the front, typically the eyes (or top of the ears), shoulders, hips, knee-caps, and ankles, should all create straight lines parallel with the ground.  In other words, there should be no offset or angles created by these lines when comparing left and right.  Analyzing posture from the front, we also look for changes in limb position, i.e. the outward or inward turning of one or both of arms or legs.  When viewed from the side, a straight plumb line should intersect the body equally from front and back.  From the side this line should pass through the center of the ear, center of the shoulder joint, center of the hip joint, and just in front of the ankle.

Well it’s one thing to be able to see bad posture, but what can we do to change it? A simple awareness exercise to promote better posture is to stand up and alternate between a slouch and military position. In the slouch you roll your pelvis as if tucking your backside underneath you (your lower back sticks out backwards), cave in the chest with shoulders forward and thrust your head forward. The military posture is the opposite. Stick your backside out (your lower back curves in towards stomach), shoulders back, chest out and head pulled backwards with your chin tucked in.

Both of these postures place great stress on the body in their own ways. Nevertheless, they offer a chance for you to become more acutely aware of the strain they create. As such you can use them as barometers of stress and then attempt to find the middle ground. Back and forth, roll your pelvis, swing the shoulders and jut the head until you find a position between the two extremes that offers little or no strain and you still feel relaxed. Your middle ground may not be perfect posture, but it is the best compromise at that moment in time.

Furthermore, it is advantageous to feel as though your body is expanding in all dimensions. Simply focus on feeling tall as if a string is pulling you more erect, broad through the shoulders as if a string is pulling your shoulders wide (they are relaxed down and not forward or backward), and chest out as if a string is pulling your sternum forward and up. These movements should NOT move you substantially into a strained position. We want to have perfect posture but not at the expense of feeling relaxed. In fact someone watching you may not even see a perceptible change, but if you focus your mind on the “feeling” as though you are expanding in those dimensions then the body will slowly edge toward better posture over time.

At the end of this exercise it is very beneficial to focus on your breathing pattern. It is especially good to perform diaphragmatic or belly breathing, using the nose as your primary intake and exhalation of air. We will go into more detail of this technique in a future blog. Suffice to say, the improvement of posture and breathing can be one of the single most beneficial things anyone can do to help their health. If you have them down pat then you will be amazed at how good you feel and how well you perform day in day out.

 

12 things you may not know will give you bad posture

The Causes of Bad Posture and How to Identify them

“Rigid, the skeleton of habit alone upholds the human frame.” Virginia Woolf

Posture is a reflex-controlled system within the nervous system. It is subconscious, so you don’t have to continuously be “thinking” about keeping it correct.

Obviously, it appears that it isn’t perfect since many people have poor posture. Why? Remember that your brain needs to be stimulated appropriately and needs the right fuel in order to work correctly. Before getting into what your brain needs in order to serve your posture well, let’s look at the things we do that don’t serve our posture well. [Read more…]