Posture, posture, posture – why is it so important, you may ask? Well, forget about the fact that proper posture can help your aching neck and back. Don’t even consider the importance of posture in injury prevention and sports performance. And least of all, who cares about slowing down or even halting the development of arthritis or osteoporosis?
What if I was to reveal a secret on how to naturally make your breasts appear larger and your waist smaller in an instant! Now, did I make you sit up straight to listen? That’s right – the answer lies in your posture.
Let’s face it, almost everything we do is in front of us; we do not have eyes in the back of our head (my mother is the only exception!) Now with that said, here’s a sure recipe for disaster: add a tiny forward lean with a touch of gravity, and you have a condition called slouching, a.k.a. poor posture.
This bad habit repeated constantly over a long period of time (admit it, we all get lazy and slouch) will result in a faulty aligned body with many muscle imbalances. As a result, undue stress is placed on the bones, joints, ligaments and muscles of your body.
Thus, bad posture is not only an aesthetic problem affecting appearance, it can also give rise to discomfort, pain, and/or disability.16 On the other hand, a well-aligned person is able to use gravity to remain upright and move freely rather than constantly fighting it; bones go where muscles place them (i.e. it’s like setting up a tent – you adjust the ropes not the pole if it is not standing straight.)5 Unfortunately, many people ignore the powerful role that posture plays on their health.
Although posture is typically viewed as a static condition, it also influences the way we move. Posture can be simply stated as the position from which movement begins and ends – it reflects the arrangement of one body part to the next. Of course, ideal posture is the position of the joints from which the body functions most efficiently.3 In order to achieve proper posture, though,
you must have adequate joint range of motion (i.e. flexibility) as well as a balanced set of postural muscles (i.e. strength.)11,16 In other words, you must train the body to walk, stand, sit and lie in positions that place the least amount of strain on supporting structures during movement or weight-bearing activities.11 I hope the message is clear: we must strive for balance in our bodies and pay greater attention to our posture.
Here’s a little game that I want you to play with a friend – preferably a male friend and, of course, clothing is always optional – in order to evaluate your posture.
This may seem very silly, but do it anyway. I want you to shake, wiggle, and jump up-and-down for about a minute. Basically, pretend that you’re dancing while slightly intoxicated which for some of you should feel quite natural! The trick is to perform this exercise with your eyes closed. After thirty seconds or so, your friend will yell “STOP” and you should remain standing still (assuming that you are actually sober) in a posture that feels natural to you while keeping your eyes closed.
That last point is very important. Posture is best evaluated when removing any visual stimuli and then moving/shaking around to distort the senses so that you revert to a natural position.17 So, keep your eyes closed as your friend thoroughly (and I mean t-h-o-r-o-u-g-h-l-y) evaluates you from the front, back, and side (refer to the following checklist for the appropriate criteria.)3,5,8 If no friend is available, pull out a few photographs of yourself – you know the ones with your eyes closed – and laugh …
I mean evaluate them. Rehabilitation specialist, Paul Chek, whose ideas are presented throughout this article states it best when he says, “postural alignment is the key evaluation method because posture never lies!”3