Your posture is your attitude to life. Everyone has one, and like a skeleton in a closet, no one wants to talk about it. And yet it is one of the most important aspects of life. It defines who we are, both to ourselves and to how others see us. It also ultimately defines a great deal of our health.
You may have the most brilliant personality, the most brilliant mind, or be the funniest person in the world, but when you meet new acquaintances, their first impression is, alas, visual. Do they see you as hangdog, defeated, a loser? Or a vital person, a person to trust, to look up to, one to be admired and listened to.
Analyze Your Posture!
But my posture is good! Well is it? Let’s check it out. The quickest (not the most analytical), is to simply strip down to your underwear, swimsuit etc. Now stand side on to a full length mirror. Stare ahead for a full count of 60 seconds. Glance at the mirror without changing your body posture. See yourself.
Alternatively, and easy enough to do in this day of the digital camera, a more objective study is to take a picture in this posture. This time count to 120 seconds, have your buddy take a side-on picture. Print out this image. Take a ruler and place it on the photo from the middle of the ear (external auditory meatus) to the knobby bit on the outside of the ankle (lateral malleolus).
Good posture would also have this line passing through the tip of the shoulder (acromioclavicular joint), the outermost bony point of the hip (greater trochanter) and the outside bony point of the knee (lateral epicondyle).
Still think you still have good posture?
Common Posture Mistakes
What can you do to improve the situation? But first consider, from your personal posture, how forward is your head from a perpendicular line drawn straight up from the shoulder tip?
Research has shown that if the head weighs 10 pounds and if the head is forward one inch from our shoulder tip line, it will effectively weigh 20 pounds, 3 inches would be 30 pounds. Scary isn’t it? Now you will not be able to calculate that from the photograph. But a visual will give you an idea of the stresses being transmitted to your neck and upper back.
Unfortunately, research has also shown that when loads are altered from the normal, bone accommodates correspondingly. In this example, with the forward head, the neck will likely lose its normal forward curve (lordosis) and develop a reverse curve (hyperlordosis) resulting over time in bone spur formation (osteophytes). This is a natural reaction to physical stress of this nature. Posture. Makes you wonder why we don’t talk about it more.
So how did we get here?
Part of the answer is laziness, part of the answer is our posture in everyday activities.
How do you sit when working at the computer? Or when watching TV? In addition, when we hurt ourselves, pain and discomfort are the natural consequences.
Our body then adapts to restrict certain movements, the ones that increase the pain. We learn to avoid certain movements which then increase joint stress and strain.
This then becomes a habit which unfortunately causes unequal muscle and ligament balance. Habits, good or bad, are what we do. Practice doesn’t always make perfect, but it does make for permanent.
Habits shape our bodies, our posture. We learn to do whatever we do repeatedly. If you sleep on your stomach, face turned to the left, when standing you will notice your head doesn’t turn as easily to the right.
At work you prop that phone under your chin and hold the ear to the shoulder all day long. Your head will want to go that way when you are not at work. Both these conditions will now worsen as you get older.
How to Fix Your Posture
These are just two examples. Work out what your habits (unbalanced ones) are. Then try your best to change them. Think of balance. One side to the other. This is a good start, just realizing you need some self help. Further, work on these easy and simple exercises. Sitting, relax shoulders, pull your chin back, not looking up, down or sideways. Pull back till you feel a slight pull to the muscles in the back of the neck, just below the skull. Hold for a slow count of five. Repeat 20 times, two times per day at least.
Still sitting, hands resting on knees, keeping the shoulders straight and even, move your shoulders back squeezing the shoulder blades together. Hold for a count of five. Repeat 20 times, two times per day at least.
An even easier movement is the abdominal pull in. Breathe in then breathe out slowly to a count of five, pulling the tummy in. Repeat 20 times at least twice per day. You should now progress to a series of stretching exercises that will further and more permanently rebalance and strengthen the muscles and ligaments of poor posture.