Posture plays a significant role in how our bodies function throughout the course of each and every moment. Good posture can impact our health in a number of ways including; reduced lower back pain, less tension in shoulders and neck, fewer headaches, increased energy levels, improvement in the health of joints (especially in the spine), increase in lung capacity, and an increased self-confidence and leaner, younger appearance.
Parents have been telling their young to ‘sit up straight’ and ‘stand erect’ for centuries. But, many of us were never taught exactly how to do this. There is, in fact, an art of sitting with good posture.
Most of us sit in the chair at a desk or table with the best intentions of sitting so as do it comfortably, attempting to sit up straight. Inevitably, over time we find ourselves slouching. Then unconsciously we continue to stay in that slouched position, until our messenger shows up in the form of discomfort. And we may slouch even more getting away from the discomfort or get up and to stretch.
When I “mindfully” attempted to sit upright in most chairs, I found that I really had to work at sitting upright except if I sat way back in the chair as if almost reclining or sat closer to front edge. As I continued to do some type of task sitting in the chair at a desk or table the slouch would eventually settle in.
The best seating that I have found for sitting at a desk is a stool. A stool that has a place to put the feet under the seat can also be of even greater assistance.
Another way to explore sitting with good posture is to get a basic chair, preferably one that has square and relatively firm seat with no armrests. Try this experiment:
Sit on a chair as you would normally sit. Sit up against the back of the chair and attempt to sit upright. Really feel your body as it attempts to sit upright and stay there. Next move towards the front of the seat and sense what your body feels like. You may have noticed it was a little easier sitting upright. Now turn 45°, sit so that the point of the chair is between your legs and your knees are parted. Now feel what this feels like. You may have noticed that there was almost no effort in sitting upright. I would encourage to try this everywhere you sit and just observe your posture. You may find that there is much less tension on your lower back and elsewhere. Sitting like this for some may be different or even a little uncomfortable which may be something to further look into.
As for standing with proper posture here are a few cues that I have found assisted in doing it with the least amount of effort.
Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Engage your feet as if they were like talons of a bird holding a large branch. Gently push your chest out as if standing like a superhero. Check-in to your body and really feel what this feels like. There should be no straining in attempting this. Use this as a base to do any movement. You may notice that your posture improves, your spine elongates, things may get easier to do. You may also notice“the core” begins to engage.
During either one of these exercises there may be some stress or discomforts. This may be due to some underlying issues of muscle memory from chronic tension, adhesions from scar tissue, adhesions formed from chronic tension, areas that are somewhat locked into position because of long term chronic conditions, or other medical conditions that makes tasks difficult to perform. You can address these issues by doing body movement activities such as yoga, tai chi, or other forms of body movement. Get a massage, see a chiropractor, or check in with your doctorfor any underlying conditions that contribute to limiting the range of motion.
The reminder is to be mindful of how we engage our physical structure so as to use it in the greatest way possible with the least amount of wear. Our messenger, discomfort, shows up reminding us of how we are engaging in our activities. Remember, “It’s not what we are doing, it’s how we are doing it”.
John Rosario is a Graduate of Dovestar Institute and has been practicing bodywork for over 25 years. His massage modalities include relaxation, deep tissue, myofascial, sports, structural alignment, proper posture, reflexology, craniosacral therapy AND MORE. He is currently enrolled in a Health Coaching training through the Institue for Integrative Nutrition.
Visit John’s website for more information: www.muscularmassageinc.com