Posture does more than make you look good: It’s important for your health! Being bent over creates tremendous stress on our muscles, squishes our organs, and blocks blood flow. I also affects our mood and digestion. Besides pleasing Grandma, there are a lot of terrific reasons to pay attention to posture.
We all sit too much. And that tends to lead to slumping. At work, at home, in the car… it’s actually gotten worse as technology has gotten better. We’re not even staring at computer screens over a desk anymore – we’re looking down at laptops and phones, and as a result, our collective necks are becoming permanently bent!
There’s a funny sort of cascade that happens when you are out of whack. A forward head posture, for example, is very common. In that position, the muscles that flex the neck forward are underworked. The muscles on the back of the neck are overstretched and cranky. The hips tend to shift to compensate, and you get a similar pattern at the pelvis.
Picture a string running from the base of your spine, up through the top of your head. Imagine yourself pulled up by that string. You will naturally straighten, and your shoulders will relax into their proper position. I like this much better than the rigid shoulders that can happen from just trying to “stand up straight.”
Note that her chin is not pointing up – lift the top of your head, not your face.
Of course in about 5 minutes you may find yourself back in the familiar slouch. Pull up on that string again! It takes practice, but like any habit, it gets easier the more you do it, and eventually it’ll be automatic. Yes, your postural muscles will be weak at first, but they’ll get stronger. Stick with it!
Top 8 reasons to use good posture:
1) Create confidence and elevate your mood. The link between mind and body goes both ways… you can literally lift your spirits by lifting your head! Did you know your self-talk is linked with your posture? You know how faking a smile can actually make you feel better? It’s the same thing with your entire body. Career coaches recommend taking on the “Superman pose” (ideally in an empty elevator or bathroom) before an interview, to go in feeling confident.
2) Reduce pain in the neck and shoulders. Your trapezious muscles get pulled tight when you slump forward, which causes all sorts of inappropriate tension. And as you can see, keeping your head aligned is the best way to distribute the weight of your skull. A forward neck posture creates leverage that works against your body. This graphic below shows the pounds of pressure at various positions.
3) The individual bones of your spine – both neck and back – will be able to move more freely. This means less chance of spinal injuries or pinched nerves, and can prevent fusion between bones as you age.
4) You’ll look slimmer! Most of those “before and after” weight loss poses can be achieved with nothing more than good posture and different lighting.
5) Increase the flow of blood and cerebrospinal fluid. If you’re a collapsed beanbag, various pathways can be cut off, preventing your body from working as it should. Even cortisol (stress hormone) levels decrease with better posture!
6) Give your digestive organs room to move. Remember, they have to push food around, from the stomach on down, to mix it with the different stages of digestive enzymes and extract nutrients and water.
7) Make a better impression on the people you meet.
8) Look up and see the beautiful world around you! The sidewalk isn’t nearly as attractive as the people, architecture, and nature around you.
Good posture is a HABIT that you need to build. Put up visual flags (sticky notes, or draw an arrow on your hand) to remind yourself to relax your shoulders and lift your head. Just keep doing it, and eventually it will become your new default!