What is good posture?
Good posture is when you stand with your entire body in proper alignment: Ears over shoulders, shoulders over hips, hips over ankles. This alignment is where our body works the best- but it isn’t where we usually operate.
Basically, when your body is in proper alignment everything else works properly too. The inverse of that is true as well. Poor posture can lead to poor circulation, reduced ability to heal from injuries, poor oxygen flow- which can lead to increased risk for injuries, and it can even lead to depression. So many hours of our modern lives are spent in the head-forward position: driving, working on the computer, holding a smartphone, even mowing the yard. This poor posture starts to add up and can cause a rounding of the spine/shoulders and tightening of the chest muscles. Eventually gravity takes over the poor posture stance and after many years can essentially fuse your spine into that rounded position.
However- posture is fairly easy to remedy. It will take a lot of consistent work and some serious retraining as you overcome bad habits with good ones- but we call it an easy fix because good posture doesn’t require a doctor’s office, surgery, a bunch of equipment, or even much energy. Training your body to stay in good posture will help increase your blood flow (oxygen is getting to your brain), help reduce your risk of injury, help combat chronic pain (we talked about lower back pain and shoulder pain here on the blog this month), and can even help with your self esteem. We all know it- when we stand taller, we feel better!
When it comes to good posture- it helps to understand the mechanics of bad posture. If your go-to posture looks like one of the photos on the left of this graphic then you probably suffer from tight muscles in several areas. Those tight muscles won’t allow you to change overnight: tight back muscles, neck muscles, chest muscles, and even hip and leg muscles will need addressed before you can start to see success in forming habits of good posture.
What can you do?
First- have someone observe your posture- it can be anyone, a friend, co-worker, family member, etc. Stand like you normally would, don’t try to improve your posture for this. Have your helper make notes on your alignment: ears, shoulders, hips, ankles. It helps to have someone observe from the side, then the front or back. Once you’ve done this you’ll have a good idea of where to start. Something as simple as pulling your head back into alignment (ears over shoulders) can help get you started. And don’t despair- this will take consistent, conscious effort to work on! You’ll probably find yourself sinking back into the “normal” rut when you’re tired or distracted- just stand back up straight and keep trying!
Foam rolling can really help you loosen up the muscles that have become tight and over/under-used. Those muscles are the ones pulling you back into poor posture, so loosening them will help as you try to build new habits. We’ve talked about foam rolling here on the blog a few times – the best option though is to talk to a Certified Personal Trainer. This is especially true if you are recovering from any type of injury. Foot injuries or foot pain can really affect your posture- you start to compensate for that pain in a number of ways and before you know it you’ve dug a rut of poor posture. Talking to a trainer can help you work through that injury as they give you tips on how to stand tall AND pain free.
Stretching is another important part of the equation; and another place where the advice of a trainer is helpful. As every person is unique, so are stretching routines. Each person will find specific stretches that help THEIR posture/muscles.
Stretching and strengthening go hand in hand: you want to stretch the areas that are tight and strengthen the muscles that have been overstretched and weakened by years of poor posture. Stretching BEFORE strengthening is equally important. If you try to strengthen the weak muscles without stretching your tight muscles you’re just going to keep pulling at the weak ones and perpetuating the problem. You’ll end up with tight muscles on one side (from lack of stretching) and sore or injured muscles on the opposite side from poor form and posture.
So to recap, what can you do to help your posture? Have a helper observe your stance, massage then stretch your tight muscles to allow you to build new, better form, and strengthen the muscles that have been over-worked by poor form. And stay consistent.
If you want some extra help or advice just give us a call and ask for Tiffany Malone, our resident “posture expert.” 🙂
We wish you good health,
Columbia Basin Racquet Club