I’m going to assume just by mentioning posture everyone reading this just sat up a little ‘straighter’. 🙂
I certainly see that happen when I talk to people about the concept, but good posture is a little more complex than that.
I want to expose three big myths about posture as we think of it.
1. Posture is not static.
We stand still to check our posture but for most of our day we may be sitting, or walking or maybe even exercising. And, of course, we bring our own unique postural strengths and imbalances to each of these things. Setting up good postural habits to begin with will take the strain off your joints so they last longer. This post was actually inspired by an elderly jogger I saw on my walk one day. He was running (good for him to not be still!) but with every step he took he was replicating and reinforcing his normal posture. His head was quite far forward of his shoulders, his upper back excessively rounded, not to mention his knees and hips collapsing inwards. The poor guy was jogging on cement and putting so much wear and tear on his joints it was crazy.
So when you think of posture, think of a moving, three dimensional strong stable structure.
Like the model in the picture above – its called Tensegrity.
2. Good posture is not military posture or even a dancer’s posture.
Many people have been told to ‘stand up straight’ or ‘pull their shoulders back’ or ‘tuck their tail bone’ or many other unhelpful things. For example, many of us do ‘slump’ forward in our upper body but our overzealous correction of pulling our shoulders back can take them to far back and cause mid back pain.
Neither of the above examples are good.
Also, your spine is not ‘straight’ or ‘flat’, but that is still something trainers tell you to try to do. If you are ‘tucking the tail bone’ it might be causing all sorts of problems in your back and hips, not to mention exaggerating an action many take while sitting. Flat butt syndrome anyone? When you think of good posture, think of women carrying heavy things on their heads, or hunter gathers who walk a lot and squat a lot.
3. Bad posture is not inevitable.
I come back to the the cliche image of an elder in our society- of the rounded back, the shrinking stature, the shuffling gait. I do not think that is ‘natural’ aging. I think our body is a matrix of what we ask it to do, and you all know we do lots of unusual, fun and challenging movements to keep strong and mobile in yoga. I feel that honoring the natural curves of the spine while keeping the muscles and connective tissue strong but pliant is key. See below for the ribs over pelvis posture I am always talking about in class.
I want to walk with dignity and confidence into old age. How about you?
Also, if you would be interested in a video series going over good posture, let me know in the comments below.