STAND UP STRAIGHT
Easier said than done!?
We all know that we should stand up straight and generally have better posture than we currently do but why? I’m quite happy slouching thank you very much. Its comfortable, takes far less energy and isn’t doing anyone any harm. Or is it?
Before we explore how you can improve your posture in three easy steps, let’s first look at the five main reasons why you are going to most definitely want to bother!
The effects of poor posture go far deeper than the aesthetics of a trademark slump or slouch.
Fair enough you may not be in pain at the moment but the result of poor posture over a prolonged period of time will most likely result in chronic back and/or other joint pain. Poor posture puts additional pressure on the inter-vertebral discs within the spinal column, increasing the risk of a disc protrusion (sometimes knows as a slipped disc or bulging disc). When a disc protrusion occurs think of it like the jam coming out of a donut……..mmmmmm delicious, NO! Not delicious. Painful, in fact, because the jam (or in this case, nucleus populous,) exerts pressure on the nerves running along the spine. This can produce some rather unpleasant pain ranging from localized to radiating, sharp to dull, achy and constant.
A burst jam donut isn’t sounding as attractive now, right?
Just think how hard it’s going to be getting the jam back into a donut. Well, the same could be said, not to mention the time line, about the healing of a prolapsed disc.
Unfortunately the PAIN side effect of poor posture may not end there. Mal alignment of the peripheral joints of the body over a period of time, affect how they function. Increased wear and tear on areas of a joint that are not designed for such, will eventually erode away and cause pain in said joint and eventually arthritis.
Following very closely behind pain comes fatigue. Inefficient movement of the body, due to mal-alignment and poor mechanics means that each joint now takes more energy to move our body across the earth. We can easily become more fatigued, both physically and mentally, because of its inefficiency.
3. ALERTNESS AND MOOD
There are many studies being conducted, looking into subjects with better posture who ‘sit up straight’ against those whom slump and slouch all day long. The research is favoring those with better posture, citing that these people make better decisions and are generally in a better mood than those or slump.
If you think about it logically paired with the factors discussed in this article, it makes sense as presumably, these subjects are allowing their bodies to function optimally, both internally and externally.
4. POOR DIGESTION
I’m sure you all remember mum telling you to sit up straight at the dinner table? Well, there may have been some method to her madness after all……..
You see with poor posture comes a slouching and rounding of the head, neck and shoulders, which in turn compresses the internal organs, abdominal contents and digestive tract. Long term, this can affect how food is broken down and digested, meaning that we won’t get the full nutritional benefits of the food we eat, but worse still eating and enjoying a meal with friends will become a painful process, due to digestive issues.
5. POOR CIRCULATION
It isn’t just long haul air travel and cabin pressure that can add to the risk of varicose veins, it’s also down to prolonged periods of time sitting with poor posture. Think about being slumped over a desk or a long commute home or to work. Even those with seemingly the ‘best’ posture will become lazy over a period of time, concentration will lapse, they may even fall asleep. If this happens, joints and the surrounding structures are likely to be compressed and circulation won’t be working in your favor. Sure, a one off isn’t going to cause much harm, but on a daily basis it may be something to consider.
As you can probably tell the five main side effects of poor posture all effect one another and will cross or overlap. This is a good thing, because if one of these points resonates with you, chances are by addressing that point, you will likely have a positive affect on something else by default.
So with this plethora of information that the medical world has provided us with, what can we do on a daily basis to improve our posture?
I like to give my clients a three-point checklist. Any more than this and I find it can all get a bit too much and a bit of a turn off.
Standing in your regular posture, bend your knees slightly if they aren’t already:
Imagine your pelvis is a giant bowl of popcorn. Tip the popcorn out the front of the bowl and now tip the popcorn out the back of the bowl. Spend a few minutes doing this to explore the range you have available there.
Beware not to thrust the pelvis forward in space. Make sure it’s a tipping or rocking back and forth.
In an ideal world we should be able to keep the popcorn in the bowl, so now find that place.
Now that the pelvis is set imagine your spine is like a tree or plant growing out of its pot (your pelvis). Feel a lengthening and lifting of each vertebra off the one beneath it. You might imagine someone is lifting you up from the crown of your head.
Finally think of your collar bones (clavicle) lengthening and reaching to the sides of the room.
In a lot of clients, I find that starting with the pelvis often sorts out the following two points with little to no effort required. So assess your posture in the mirror after each point.
This exercise can also be applied when seated.
It seems long-winded and might be a lot to think about at first. Keep reverting to your natural posture and going through the checklist until you don’t need a mirror and all you need to say to yourself in your head is: