Want to Improve Your Posture?
Don’t Stand Up Straight!
Push Up Tall!
Most of us understand that posture is important; important for our personal presentation, important for our fitness, important for our children’s development and important for our own health and wellbeing…
but few of us have a clear understanding of what good posture is.
We know it when we see it, but frequently we either do nothing to improve it because it’s not part of our day-to-day habit, or we overcompensate and stress ourselves into unnatural positions that are unsustainable for long periods and give us lower back pain when standing, or neck pain and headaches when sitting.
Most of us at some time in our lives have been told to ‘stand up straight’, but what exactly does that mean? The statement implies the what to do but assumes that you know the how.
Very few of us have ever been taught how to stand and how to sit and how to move efficiently, because it’s assumed knowledge, and perhaps in a bygone era where people walked or cycled to work and didn’t assume a static position in front of a screen for eight hours a day it was less important. But today it takes on massive importance, because our daily activities mean that we are losing the basic fitness in the structures that are required to support us. More worryingly, these postural structures are controlled by important reflexes and neurological systems concerned with keeping us stable and upright and with bad posture and less activity they become less efficient.
The bad news is that it is leading to an epidemic of chronic musculoskeletal injuries such as lower back pain, neck pain, headaches, stiffness and a premature loss of mobility as well as a range of other maladies associated with sedentary lifestyle.
The good news is that it is relatively easily addressed with postural habit change if you understand what you need to do.
We have a postural system that is designed specifically to keep us upright while standing on two unstable pins and then to orientate ourselves to the task we have at hand.
If you stop to think about it, you will realise that it’s a system that takes an incredible amount of information processing to establish where you are in relation to your environment, (and where your different body parts are in relation to each other), and then highly sophisticated coordination to fire the right muscles at the right time to keep you upright.
To get you posture working for you then you need to understand the principles of how it works and then to formulate these principles into habits that you apply during the day until it becomes automatic.
This isn’t as hard as it sounds.
The first key is to get your balance right, which we explain in the first module of our postural education program Perfect Posture Online, with the principle of:
“Bring Everything In Towards You”
You can watch the full lesson here.
In this lesson, I explain how getting your balance right naturally fires the reflexes that holds your spine upright and in the correct position. This is an active process, but it doesn’t take a lot of energy or effort once you master it.
In fact it takes less effort that to stand badly because you are using your muscles as they are intended to be used.
One way of doing this is to actively push yourself away from the ground. The phrase I use is ‘push yourself tall’ because it conveys an active process.
As you do this, you actively fire the deep spinal and deep abdominal support muscles.
Practice this now:
Place one hand on your stomach and one hand on your spine. PUSH yourself away from the ground. Do you feel the deep support muscles working?
Notice what happens if you lock your knees out when you’ve finished pushing. Do you notice these support muscles turn off? If you don’t, then you’ve lost awareness of how these muscles operate. Perfect Posture Online is an ideal education process to help you with this.
How to Stand
Pushing yourself away from the ground is an exercise designed to convey how this support part of your postural system works. If you are someone who’s back aches after standing for a short time, it is most likely that you are not doing this.
If you are in a setting where you are standing for an extended period of time, then the answer is to make sure that your knee are relaxed, not bent… just softened, this automatically engages your deep support muscles.
There are of course nuances to every individual. Rather than taking this information as a ‘tip’ to try out, take it as a rule. The key is to understand the principle of ‘Bringing Everything in Towards You’ so that you can then apply it in any situation.
*We write regular articles on topics related to posture and balance. You can read them by clicking the menu item ‘Posture’ to the right.
If you are interested in taking our online course on posture, please click the button below to take the first lesson for free.
PERFECT POSTURE ONLINE
In this online course, we teach six principles that you can apply in your daily life to maintain a strong healthy spine.
This course is included as part of our rehabilitation if you are taking one of our 12 week programs, or you can take it on its own. A popular option is to take it with a Perfect Posture Screen with additional specific exercises to work on.
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