Posture is the manner in which you stand or sit, but that’s only the beginning. I had a dance instructor who would say, “stack your bones.” I liked that because it is a good mental image that will help you attain the correct stance: ears over shoulders, shoulders over hips, hips over knees, knees tracking directly over your middle toe.
Posture is your body’s way of aligning itself to maintain stability and allow all bodily systems to function correctly. Many aches and pains, and, indeed, illnesses, can be prevented by correct posture. Alignment is the key. Think of your car: when it is out of alignment, all sorts of other problems develop, like wear and tear on tires and parts that should never touch, rubbing together.
Your head weighs about twelve pounds. When it sits on top of your spine, there is no stress to the back or neck. Now, when you lower your head, say to look at your computer screen, which is too low or too far from your eyes, it places as much as a whopping thirty-six pounds of pull on your poor little neck. Yikes, that’s painful and, if continued for long or regular periods of time, this posture can cause severe irritation and/or cramps in those neck muscles that were designed to carry only twelve pounds.
Many people, especially women, have rounded shoulders and develop a “widow’s hump” as they age. Can this be corrected? Absolutely! Proper posture means your shoulders are down and back. It must be consciously maintained before the widow’s hump, also called hump back, starts or worsens. If your shoulders have already begun to roll forward, stop now and correct your posture. You will have to speak to your shoulders over and over, but they will comply.
Your knees, ankles, and feet also suffer if they are out of line. Don’t get me started on wearing high heels. Ladies, they are deadly to the feet and the calf muscles. If you must wear them, please, please stretch your calf muscles afterward. A great way to do this is to stand on a stair on the balls of your feet while lowering your heels past the surface of the step.
The key to your posture is your core which includes not only your abs, but everything between your waist and thighs. It is your storehouse of power and must be kept strong to prevent injuries of many sorts. Movement should originate there. This requires a great amount of work and thought. Pilates is the best thing that I know of for core strength. Additionally, it teaches you awareness of the inner muscles that support your spine, and it is a natural safeguard for your back. It is this simple: sitting or lying around weakens your core; Pilates strengthens it. Having a strong core is the best way to improve your posture.
Moving beyond the physical to body language: your posture speaks the loudest. It shows how you feel. When you do not feel well, your posture tends to pull inward. Your get a little sunken in your chest with rounded shoulders and lowered chin. When you feel crummy, try pulling in your belly and straightening your spine while looking straight ahead, guaranteed, you will feel better. That’s the all-important mind-body connection.
Sometimes you pose for a photo, and that is an affected attitude/posture. Maybe you want to present a specific persona in a given situation. Your posture changes with your motivation. Your spirit is revealed through your posture too. It is a fact that you are a triune creature: you are a spirit, you live in a body, and you have a soul (mind, will, and emotions.) You can discern a broken spirit by the lack of life therein. Simply put, you can’t separate them; each affects the other.
And then there is your face. Think it is not connected to your posture? Think again! Here’s a fun little exercise:
- Walk around all bent over like you are in a blue funk. It is difficult, if not impossible, to make your face look happy.
- Now walk around like you are on top of the world: confident and strong. Try to make your face say the opposite. Your face wants to look happy, does it not?
I love the way our body works in sync with our mind. It is something that deserves our study and concentration. Next time you feel bad or are sad, try correcting your posture and notice that your mood will change for the better. Here you can see that posture can potentially impact mental health in a positive (and negative) way. Sleepiness and fatigue can be overcome or at least lessened by the way you hold your body. This is called Embodied Cognition, a fancy name for the mind-body connection which sends signals from the body to the brain and signals from the brain to the body.
People who sit up straight have a lot more confidence than those who don’t. Their sense of self-esteem is also greater that of the slouchers. The people with proper posture tend to be more aware of their surroundings and more in tune with what is going on around them. Thus, they have a feeling of belonging rather than just being an observer.
So, now then, what can you do to improve our posture? Here are a few practical suggestions:
- Raise your steering wheel and rear view mirror just a little higher so that you have to sit taller to use them as you drive.
- Place things that you normally look at a little higher than otherwise.
- Use a riser of some sort to raise your computer to a position where you have to look up to see it.
- Put pictures on your walls a litter higher than you normally would.
I think you get the point: LOOK UP so that your bones are properly stacked and everything is perfectly aligned. You will be amazed at how your excellent physical posture will brighten your mood and free your spirit to love. Be encouraged, you can do this!