Your Mama, She Told You So!It is a familiar refrain, the corrective demand from a teacher, your parents: “Sit up straight!” Like so many other admonishings from authority figures when you were young, you discover in your adulthood that they were right. You should sit up straight. You should roll your shoulders back. If only we had listened well in our youth. It shouldn’t come as a great surprise to learn there are many benefits from sitting and standing properly. These habits contribute to our well-being physically, physiologically and even psychologically, according to some studies. In short, sit up straight, stand tall, don’t slouch – it’s good for you.
Those Curves Tho! 3 Sexy Twists and Turns of the Neutral Spine
Photo credit by: yogaforhealthyaging.blogspot.comWhat constitutes proper posture? A key is a properly positioned spine. Ideally, the body will rest and be comfortable in a neutral spine position. Neutral spine is a bit of a misnomer, as the natural position of the spine has three gentle curves. These curves form an S-shape when viewed in profile. They are called the cervical, thoracic and lumbar curves, describing the areas of the spine down from the neck to the middle back to the lower back. A harmony and balance of these three curves result in the neutral spine. Exaggeration or overextension of any of these curves describes a posture out of balance and can result in discomfort, short-term injury, and long-term adverse health effects.
The Top 5 Aspects of Good Posture
- The natural curves of the spine are present.
- Shoulders are directly below the ears, chest broad and open.
- Arms hang at the hips, fingers pointing to the knees and ankles below.
- Weight is evenly distributed between balls of feet and heels.
- Chin is level, not pointed skyward nor to the ground.
Let’s Start with the Man in the Mirror (That’s You, Dude!)
Photo credit by: nutritiousmovement.comTake an honest look — have your girlfriend, wife or buddy take a photo of you in shorts standing in your natural, go-to, comfortable position. How is your posture? You’re going to be surprised, and likely not pleased. Don’t worry — you are not alone. Most of us have developed movement habits over time that have wrecked our posture. But guess what? It can be corrected. You can improve your posture. It’s slow-going, it will take vigilance and consistency, and it will feel awkward or even uncomfortable for a while until you have re-taught your body good posture. For those that spend the majority of the day in various sedentary positions (happens to most) you need little reminders to help you tune in your posture. It is something people take for granted and have spent a lifetime sub-consciously developing as a habit. You can’t undo the effects of a lifetime of behavior with a few quick fixes or sets at the gym. This kind of fix means you’ve got to table your ego and really look at your own patterns.
How Do You Make the Worst Impression Possible?Yeah, don’t do that, ever. But realize this – your posture is already at work making impressions on everyone you encounter. You might already be making an impression contrary to what you want to project, professionally and socially. Picture meeting a colleague for the first time: they approach you with rounded, slumping shoulders, their neck and chin jutting out, chest caved inward. Before they even open their mouth to speak, you’ve likely made some snap judgments. They might be about to blow you away with great insight, but because of their posture and body language, they’re starting out from a compromised position in your mind. You might view them as soft, ineffective, even weak. Is that what you want your own body language to convey about you? Of course not! You want your ideas to be taken seriously to have the respect and esteem of your co-workers. Bad posture, especially in the extreme described above, can put you at a disadvantage in how you are perceived. It is worth addressing.
What Exactly Does Your Posture Do for You?These are all positive outcomes, and regardless of how dialed in you are, who doesn’t want less muscle pain and better concentration? There’s nothing woo-woo about those benefits above. They are all purely mechanical results of improved posture. Here are the four benefits of having a good posture.
Reduced Muscle Tension
Photo credit by: tia-therapiesinaction.com.au
Increased Concentration and PerformanceGood posture is a position of alertness. It is a position whereby you can react to stimuli from any direction, it is the instinctive pose of readiness. The mind follows the body here. It mirrors the body’s readiness. Sitting upright, with a neutral spine, encourages proper blood flow and places the body and mind in state, not of tension, but preparedness. Just think on how you feel when lying back, reclining, or slouching deeply. Are you awake, alert, engaged?
Improved DigestionOkay, really? Seems a little far-fetched, but again, it is just mechanics. Proper posture, both sitting and standing, opens up your torso, allowing your organs to settle into their natural locations, improving blood flow, breathing capacity, and yes, digestive flow.
Better Physical AppearanceIt’s not that good posture is going to make you better looking. What it is going to do is straighten you out, make you stand your full natural height, pull your shoulders into alignment and quite possible, tuck your beer belly back a bit. Fix a beer belly? How? Many men stand with their pelvis tipped back. This is often coupled with shoulders that slump forward and what’s the result of this pose? A pooched-out belly. Say that you look better, more confident and at ease with your belly pooched out. No, sir.
Dig in, Because This Is Not a Quick FixIf you’re looking to improve your posture (by now you’re on board, hopefully) you’ll do well to prepare yourself for the long haul. You’re going to be working to undo a lifetime’s worth of habits, patterns that you are not consciously aware of, patterns you’ve developed in response to a host of experiences.
3 Easy Life Hacks to Get Good Posture Just Using Your Phone
Set timers on your phone
Photo credit by: verywillfit.comThere are apps and wearables you can get to tell you when your posture is sagging or to remind you to make corrections, or you can just set timers yourself. Choose a new sound for the notification – not one you typically use for any other purpose. Give it some intention, but don’t annoy yourself. Start with a manageable interval – set a timer to go off every 2 hours reminding you to straighten up and square off. If you can handle a more frequent reminder, go for it. If you’d rather not have that frequent of a reminder, loosen it up. Make the timing work for you.