Sit Up Straight
Posture is important. We’ve all heard our mothers say “sit up straight.” However, my mother never had to say this to me because I joined the school marching band when I was in 3rd grade. I carried the bass drum, which kept me leaning back to offset the weight of that behemoth, and after many marching band appearances, I developed great posture as a result. Later, I joined the military, which also enforced a straight back, due to the miles of marching and hours spent standing at “attention.” Currently, as a self-improvement enthusiast and fitness professional, I pay special attention to my posture for a number of reasons. Many people don’t appreciate the importance of good posture or, perhaps even know what it is.
Definition of Posture
In Webster’s Medical Dictionary, posture is defined as “the position or bearing of the body.” Physically speaking, the ideal posture is said to be when the earlobe, acromion (tip of shoulder), hip joint, lateral malleolus (ankle) are all in line and the center of the knee is slightly forward.
Posture and Emotions
I have noticed that people’s posture and kinetics tells the world how they feel about themselves – their self-esteem, self-value and confidence, and how they want to be seen. For example, many girls who develop breasts at an early age tend to hunch over and pull their shoulders forward as this de-emphasizes their chests. Many times they will also carry books at chest level to cover their front. This posture works to minimize their breasts but adversely affects their posture and will give them problems as they age. Think of the 70-year-old person who is hunched over at nearly a 90-degree angle. Aside from any spinal injuries or diseases, this could have been avoided by maintaining a straight back as a younger person.
Posture as Self Expression
Many times people will not feel very good about themselves or they are simply shy or embarrassed and take on a posture that minimizes their presence. They may curl their body inward; hunch their shoulders forward and down, bend their head down, avoid eye contact, walk behind people and position themselves out of the way. These are psychological issues that affect the physical body. The longer a person has poor posture the harder it is going to be to correct it. It’s similar to having an arm in a cast for three months, the joint will become less flexible and the disused muscle will atrophy.
Good Posture Should Develop Naturally
“A relaxed, aware body will align itself easily and naturally in gravity, so that body mass balances lightly on the skeleton with a minimum of muscular effort…Poor balance adds tension, as muscles contract to support off-center weight. Excessive tension serves to reduce awareness, closing the cycle of mutually reinforcing feedback among the three” (Strauch).
Excuse me, But Your Posture Proceeds You
Now picture someone who is a very confident, powerful, popular person. How do they enter a room? How do they walk down a street? Is their head held high? Is their back straight? Do they move like they belong? They can give the impression of power and self-confidence just by the way they carry themselves (even if it’s not true or they themselves don’t believe it).
Physical and Social Benefits of Good Posture
There are many social reasons for good posture, but there are also some very important physical benefits. When a person is bent forward they are decreasing the amount of air their lungs can inhale, they may be hindering their digestion and decreasing blood supply to vital organs. The back, like any other part of the body must be exercised. If it remains excessively immobile the joints will be less free to articulate. Below is a more extensive list of problems poor posture can cause how people develop poor posture, and how to improve posture.
Poor posture can cause:
- Stiff neck
- Hunched shoulders
- Restricted breathing
- Tightness in the thighs, legs and ankles
- Restricted circulation of blood and lymphatic fluid
- Strain on muscles, ligaments, bones and joints
- Compressed internal organs and blood vessels
- Irritated nerves
- Poor self-image
- Shoulder impingement
- Poor balance and physical stability
Why do people have bad posture?
- Tension from worry and stress
- Weak muscle tone
- Long hours of sitting hunched over a desk or computer
- Tense neck muscles
- Poor self-esteem, self-value, self-confidence
- Shame or embarrassment
How to Improve Your Posture:
- Pushups, pull-ups, rows, abdominals, front shoulder raises, dead lifts, reverse flies, superman, back extension, etc.
- Be aware of posture. Think about it. Keep your posture present in your mind. Post notes where you’ll see them (on you computer, on the TV, next to the door so you’ll see it before you leave the house) to remind you to keep your shoulders back, chest out, back straight.
- Stretching is very important for the balance of the body. Stretching, or opening, the chest will help straighten up your posture. It also helps to loosen up tight muscles that may be restricting movement or allowing the body to stand upright.
- Play a sport or a heavy drum. Most sports require agility and balance. Playing a sport will help the body move toward a point of balance and exercises joints and muscles. If a person is feeling healthy, fit and strong, problem areas, such as poor posture, will stand out to them.
Regardless of your reason, good posture will certainly serve you well. It will help you look more confident, thus feel more confident. It will reduce the occurrence of back pain, encourage good blood flow and breathing and chances are this will result in a better outlook on life. I’m not saying it’s a cure-all, but it will contribute to feeling and looking better.
And who wouldn’t want that?
Strauch, R. (2002). The feldenkrais method and posture. The Posture Page. Retrieved June 21, 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://www.posturepage.com/feldenkrais/index.html