Having good posture is great, but before we can talk about what that means, we need to get clear on one point: posture is not a static thing.
We are moving beings and so when I talk about posture, I am referring to how we use our bodies every day, through all of our daily activities.
These activities include everything from working at a desk to exercising, and from sleeping to sitting on the couch.
We are dynamic beings who are often in motion and relating to other people, objects, and activities. So, posture is not a single position that you hold, it is how you move your body every day — which is why it’s literally such a critical part of living a balanced life!
Having said that, we are born with a structure to our spines, and they were designed that way for a reason. It has three important curves and they work together to help our bodies function optimally.
The spine’s curves act like a coiled spring to absorb shock, maintain balance, and to facilitate the full range of motion throughout the spinal column.
We need and want those curves, but what often happens is the curves become exaggerated, flattened, or compressed over time due to poor use of our bodies.
These issues are what cause pain to creep in.
When your spine is no longer in its correct position, your body is forced to use muscles that normally would not engage. When poor posture compresses the correct muscles, other muscles compensate to hold up the body.
Do you see yourself in any of these photos? Do these patterns look familiar?
What Inhibits Good Posture
There are many things that contribute to our harmful postural habits.
These are a few :
- Imitating our primary role models and family. We watch how others move and talk, and we imitate them. If your parents slouched at dinner and walked with their heads pulled forward, at a young age you may have started to do so as well.
- School chairs and desks. Many of these chairs actually encourage children to round their backs and slump over. Years of this contributes to the problem.
- The teenage years. When we become teenagers we often start to slouch our shoulders forward. Teen years are a time when our bodies are growing rapidly and it is rarely a comfortable process. So, it makes sense that we would start showing some discomfort in our bodies. Many teens feel like they want to hide their bodies and the slouching can be a reaction to those feelings.
Unfortunately, these patterns tend to stick with us into early adulthood, unless someone has made us aware of them and we’ve put in the work to correct our bad habits.
The common theme is that no one is teaching kids — or adults — how to properly sit, stand, walk, and just move our bodies!
As a society, we assume that we all know how to do these things. Unfortunately, we don’t innately understand the importance of good posture, and that’s the challenge!
I hope to change this and bring awareness of body mechanics, posture, and ergonomics into schools so kids learn at a young age. Until then, I’m on a mission to help adults learn unravel their poor habits and make changes so they can feel better in their bodies. In my next article, I will address how you can make positive changes to your posture, even when it’s become such a strong habit!
Photo credit: Joyce McCown