Picture this; a beautiful girl decked out in designer clothes with perfect makeup and hair – but something is wrong. Her head pokes forward, her shoulders round over and there is a slight hump on her upper back – and this is when she is sitting down. It gets worse. She stands up in her patent heels and her backside sticks right out and the arch in her lower back looks very uncomfortable. You’ve seen this girl before at the gym and working with a personal trainer on the weights floor, but all of her efforts have not addressed a very important factor of fitness: POSTURE.
Poor posture is a common occurrence that we can all suffer from to some extent. The continual inappropriate use of muscles, both in stillness and in movement, affects the musculoskeletal system. Sometimes poor posture or alignment may arise from congenital factors or injury, but more commonly it is caused by a lack of awareness and poor use of the body. Poor posture is defined as the body not being in optimal anatomical alignment, and may take the form of a forward-thrusting head; sloping, hunched or rounded shoulders; humped upper back; overarched or flattened lower back; protruding abdomen or hyper-extended knees. People often think that they are destined to have poor posture forever, but this is not true.
Curse of the professional sitter.
Today’s lifestyle is overwhelmingly sedentary, with the majority of workers and students spending their days sitting hunched over computers. In these non-ergonomic conditions the professional sitter struggles to stay comfortable, which results in the emergence of compensatory patterns such as leaning on one arm, slouching to one side or tucking one leg beneath the backside. Consequently, the skeleton becomes poorly aligned and the ‘bad’ position becomes a habit which is automatically assumed whenever the individual sits down. To commute to their places of work or study, these same individuals will often travel long distances by car or public transport – more sitting. When they get home exhausted, the comfortable sofa calls and the television beckons – yet more sitting. And throughout their day, the professional sitter is unaware of the impact these bad positions are having on their posture and body. Of course, a small percentage of these sitters will attend a gym, but they may not know how to choose activities and classes that will bring balance to their bodies. The relentless sitting makes them tight in the hamstrings, hip flexors, chest and shoulders; their breathing becomes shallow and their spine and joints lose mobility. For these individuals, it would be more appropriate to engage in an overall flexibility/mobility session than to jump on an indoor cycle or grab a pump bar.
Good posture is defined as the skeleton being in optimal anatomical alignment, with the weight evenly distributedÂ over the feet and the bones lengthening upwards. Contrary to frequent assumption, attaining good posture does not have to be a struggle. The first thing that is needed is awareness of how the body is placed in space. Lack of awareness is very common. The modern mind is usually busy, agitated, distracted and people need to be guided and coached as to how to enhance the mind body connection and to develop and value ‘awareness’.
Cue, encourage, breathe
As you becomes more aware of your physical self, you will notice what your muscles are doing and how your joints are aligned. This lays the foundation for better functioning of the musculoskeletal system, and also has the psychological effect of bringing a sense of unity, peace with oneself and centredness – of being ‘in the moment’.
Aside from awareness, the most important factor for attaining good posture is a willingness to improve. Connecting the mind to the body does require concentration and dedication, but after a while assuming optimal alignment and good posture will become instinctive and habitual. And in addition to the health benefits, good posture is the ultimate and free fashion accessory, making you look and feel sensational no matter what you are wearing.
Has posture had a profound effect on your life, or the life of someone you know? Can changing your posture really change your mood?