Posture illustrates the person
You as human are made up of an interesting mix of things. Body, soul and spirit. Blood, eyes and brains. A heart, lungs and nerves and skin to dress this whole bag of bones. It is magical to think that all these components are able to be put together and make up billions of unique humans. No two exactly the same, even though the recipe is similar. As humans, we have a few things that are worlds apart from each other and other things that are more or less similar in all. One of these similarities is posture and how it is created.
Posture is basically the way that this human body holds itself in space. Posture is a result of many factors including emotions, habits, hobbies and genetics. Whatever you spend a lot of time doing will dictate what your body looks like. Posture explains the person.
Let’s do a small experiment to see how quickly our postures affect our whole being :
Sit in a comfortable upright position. Inhale deeply. Next...slouch. Pull your shoulders a bit closer together. Droop your head down. Slouch a little bit more and close your eyes. Take a moment to notice your breath. Is it deep or shallow in this position? Take a moment to notice your mood. Is it uplifted or somewhat suppressed? Next, take a moment to think of people that often find themselves in these types of positions or postures. Depressed? Shy? Protective? Broken? Interesting right!
The next position you are invited to try is sitting on a chair with your back resting and straight, or if you can keep your spine straight comfortably by itself, do that. Turn your palms facing the sky and rest them on your lap. Relax your fingers and arms and shoulders and face. Tilt your chin slightly up while keeping your neck long. Now, curl the sides of your lips up into a smile and breathe very deep. Stay like this and enjoy this posture for a while. Next, take a moment to think of people that find themselves in these types of positions or postures. Confident? Happy? Content? Interesting right!
Some reasons why poor posture is detrimental to your health and well-being :
1. Slouching causes internal organs to become compressed
Compressed organs have decreased blood circulation to them which will lead to inhibited functioning capacity over time. When organs are compressed and have abnormal blood- and oxygen supply over time, the body is more prone to disease and dysfunction.
2. Spinal structures and other joints get injured
With excessive forward slouching, ligaments at the back of the spine become over-stretched over time and offer less spinal stability which could lead to more injury and discomfort over time. This posture also leads to the discs between the vertebrae (spinal bones) to get flattened along the front edges and possibly bulge out over time.
3. Indigestion and heartburn
Indigestion and heartburn are side-effects of poor sitting posture. Poor digestion and poor posture go hand-in-hand, especially so just after eating.
4. Negative mood and depression
Studies have shown that bad posture lead to more fear, lower self-esteem and worse moods which can lead to depression in the long term (Journal of Health Psychology). It seems like our inner and outer worlds mirror each other.
5. Nerve compression and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The spinal cord attaches to the brain and is also the place where peripheral nerves originate. Bad posture in the longer term can lead to nerve compression and damage, especially in the wrist and forearm region after extended periods of sitting.
Tips on becoming more aware of your posture and it’s effect on your daily life:
1. In the beginning
In the beginning of the day, when you wake up from sleeping, your spine is at it’s maximum length. Before getting up out of bed, sit up as straight and tall as you can. Take a few deep breaths in this position. Try make the straightest line you can between the top of your head and the bottom of your spine. This helps the brain and body remember and embody what it’s optimal position looks and feels like. This exercise appeals to the body’s proprioception (joint and body position in space and relative to each other). This helps the body perceive it’s optimal posture and notice when it has moved outside of this position.
2. Mark it
Find a spot inside or outside of your house where you can make a mark with a pencil or pen or marker. Stand with your heels very close to a wall and hold yourself up as tall as you can. Make a mark horizontally in line with the crown of your head. (This is the easiest and most accurate when done with the assistance of another, but perfectly effective on your own too.) Re-visit this spot and compare every week initially if you have not been particularly aware of your posture. Once you notice yourself being more aware of your posture and body positions, you could re-visit this spot every month or three. This is done in order to compare not only your height but also your body’s ability to keep itself optimally long. This is an objective measure to make sure you are not slouching more and more and thus appear to be becoming shorter. If your posture was poor at the start of this experiment and you pay more attention to a long spine over time, you might even find that you appear to become taller with time.
3. Car rear-view
This works well for the driver or the front seat passenger. Sit in your car seat and shuffle your buttocks as far back into your seat as you can comfortably manage. Imagine you have a tail and “pull it out from between your legs”, stick that imaginary tail out to the back more. Next, lengthen your spine to a comfortably tall position that you are able to maintain for a period of time while driving. Lastly, adjust the rear-view mirror accordingly while you are in this optimal position. If you start slouching after some time, you will notice it as it will become more difficult to use the mirror as your body is now in a different position.
Pick a spot or two that you walk past or see a few times per day. This could be in your house of office. A spot close to where you are sitting if you do sit frequently or for longer periods of time is a good choice. Place a colourful post-it note or a small sign saying “posture” somewhere that will catch your attention daily.
Ask a friend, family member or colleague to take a picture of you while you are sitting. This is best done unexpectedly, especially if you tend to sit in a poor posture the longer you sit. This can be a shocking reminder of the fact that you start looking like a chair when you sit in one too long. You could also get your connections involved in other ways than taking pictures of you. You could simply ask them to remind you when they see you in a sub-optimal posture.
Become aware of what your posture is saying to you. Notice how you hold yourself and move in space. It affects who and how we are.
Sit or stand up tall.