Your body is ALWAYS learning, from everything you do. Your static posture is a summation of all all movements, work, and every position your body has known. It is also a preparation for what it can likely assume you will continue to do. Posture is not something that got from your mom, it’s not something that is just ‘there’. Your posture is dynamic, it changes, and it adapts to what you do. Posture, function, and changing them are my bread and butter in self-care and fighting chronic problems in people I work with – it works! I could speak at length about posture, and the way the body moves and relate that to a thousand things that might further illuminate what posture really is and how essential it is to you so you might assimilate with the concepts so you can train yourself to thrive and accept responsibility for your body and it’s movements.
However, that is not really how reading blogs works, so here is a list of times during the day when posture matters to you.
- When you are sleeping.
You spend a lot of time sleeping, holding a posture for a good part of every day is going to have an effect on you. Sleeping habits are complicated, but it’s really easy to find out if your sleeping posture is good or bad. When you get up, ask yourself, ‘Do I feel better than when I went to sleep?’ If the answer is no, and you can repeat the experiment, begin looking to improve your sleeping conditions.
- When you walk.
Walking is a complex, often automatic action for the body. If we adopt a compensation in our gait (the way we walk), it will perpetuate itself with use and can lead to problems down the road if not corrected. Have you ever taken note of how you walk? Arms swing the same way? Are the bottoms of your shoes worn differently? If your steps aren’t relatively symmetrical you can be sure that your body is working differently on each side as a result of muscular dysfunction.
- When you sit.
Out of your daily activities, sitting is among the worst for your health. Your spine manages a sitting posture best in a neutral position, supported by legs with knees and feet pointed ahead, flat to the ground. An overly flexed or hunched position in the lower back leads to compression of the spinal discs and increases the hanging weight of the head. Improving your sitting posture could be a game changer for you now and in the future by prevention inflammation and chronic injury.
- When you work.
No matter what your profession is, there will be certain repetitive tasks involved that will encourage the development of altered movement patterns and dysfunctions. These will form and occur whether we notice them or not, but by noticing them we can respond with proper self-care and maintenence to maintain a high standard of living. Some professions wreak absolutely havoc on the body such as a barber, a dentist, or a groundskeeper.
- When you brush your teeth and work on your appearance in the mirror.
Brushing your teeth is a daily repetitive action, and becomes fairly autonomous early in life. Noticing your posture during this time, and even improving it could equate to bigger changes in your posture. Also, brushing your teeth with your opposite hand is a great brain training, mindfulness exercise. Personally, I used to have this horrible lean forwards on the counter and support my body weight with my hamstrings and lower back thing I would do to trim my beard. I have since trained myself to do so seated, and standing straight with better and more comfortable results.
- When you sit on the couch
We tend to sit on the couch in our favorite spot, and in our preferred way. I gave up couches a couple years ago, but a majority of people in the US have couches and use them regularly. The way our back is able to relax on a couch is quite comfortable in short periods, I’ve also sat on one so long my back was killing me. Our back flexes on the couch the same way as when we slouch and sit up, flattening the vertebral discs on one side and stretching them in the other then holding them there as long as you are sitting.
- When you watch TV.
Your body learns from anything you do on a regular basis, so if you still very still without moving your head on regular basis it could be worth your time to be mindful of your postures while doing so. Don’t lounge twisted for hours a day, or slop your whole body over the armrest 4 days a week. If you can help it, sit in different places regularly, or a little more evenly. Your body is learning even when you are checked out.
- When you use a computer.
In a group of over 100 iPad and computer using children I studied, 68% of them had overly forward heads with excessive thoracic flexion. That is the proper way to describe being hunched over, it’s terrible for you. Screen time is high in today’s world noticing how your body is spending this time, can be important. Forward head posture stretches and stresses the spinal cord (mind-body connection),protect your future and your health by taking care of your neck and shoulders.
- When you are frustrated.
Body language is perpetuated by the body if you don’t want to wear your emotions for everyone to see you need to be aware of your posture. Foot stance, shoulder position, the clench of the muscles, and stoop of the head. An angry or frustrated posture is going to perpetuate things in the body that support anger like angry shallow breathing. Noticing these things about your posture at the right time can increase your capacity for happiness, understanding, and professionalism.
- When you are expressing yourself.
I notice people use many different parts of their body in expressive body language. I see people talk with their hands, hips, shoulders, head and a variety of combinations. I have also spoken with people who say their neck hurts, and their shoulders are stiff while they use their shoulders and neck gratuitously during the conversation. Being aware of how you express yourself can change not only how that work makes you feel, but what it means to those you are expressing for. Find a friend and have them watch you while you talk, noting your characteristic body language, it can be really interesting!
- When you Work Out
This one is huge. I have been a personal trainer for 7 years now, and we(trainers) all know that the body grows according to repeated stresses. Too many times I have watched people being trained, while the trainer only looks at the muscles performing the direct action during an exercise or in a completely different direction than the person while various points of posture suffer and adapt to suffering. If you’re doing standing exercises of any kind, and your feet aren’t pointed the same direction, at the very least, your hips will be responding that that load differently and thereby growing differently. Not only is it essential to use the correct muscles in the correct movement patterns, but it is also just as important to maintain good, symmetrical posture while training with respect to the body as a whole. Let’s not forget also that varying exercise is also essential, change your stances mindfully and take control of your workout and the way your body is growing.
- When you eat.
Just like sitting and working, or sitting and watching TV the way you sit and eat is largely a habit, and like all habits, it will either serve the natural function of your body or it will not. Sitting with your feet flat and your elbows off the table is not only traditionally polite, but it’s great for your body also. I’m guilty of the extremely hunched over to eat move as if bringing my face closer to my plate would actually help me eat more quickly? Since this is something we do for generally an hour everyday. It’s good to be mindful of what our body is doing as a whole.
- When you are digesting food.
If you have regular indigestion you should ask yourself, what is the biggest thing that might be stopping food from getting all the way through the tube that goes through me? It’s gotta be the content of what’s going through (food quality), lack of lubrication (dehydration), physical impingement (position), or stress on the system (anxiety, chronic stress, medications). More than a few times when I worked as a posture therapist, someone would come into my office and close the door behind them. Look around, look at me, and excitedly, meekly, say something that meant ‘I started pooping regularly’ with a heartfelt, personally unexpected amount of joy on their face. If you are a sedentary person, or someone who sits in less than even position regularly, move around after you eat. Go for a walk, do some mild stretching and generally work on understanding and maintaining posture.
- When bending over, and carrying things.
People tend to favor one side of the body, and over time that favored side grows stronger and more available neuromuscularly, and the other side of the body grows weaker and less active. When you lift and carry things that aren’t heavier on one side and lighter on the other like your body is used too, you are more likely to injure yourself due to that compensation. Thousands of people hurt themselves every year for reasons like this, and maintaining posture and function is a huge protective factor.
- When you are using your phone.
Basically, everyone uses a phone, probably a lot. We typically use the same phones for the same tasks but the posture of our neck, shoulder, and wrist can be unique and contort the body in complicated ways. Stress of use in phone use leaves quite an effect on the body. Hands, wrists and elbows grow stiff, necks and backs hurt, shoulders are sore, limited ranges of motion develop. By tilting your head less, looking down less, or bend and twisting your elbow a little bit less, some of the time you could save yourself some trouble down the road.
- When you are climbing stairs.
If you climb stairs, especially every day in the same place, you are giving your body and ongoing stimulus and exercise. If you step with the toes on your right foot, but you put your whole left foot on the step every time, every day, without thinking about it – you are going to end up with very differently developed legs and hips. By simply noticing your stair climbing posture you can avoid a slew of issues created by compensations held in your body, like repeated asymmetrical hip use.
- When you are standing (anywhere).
Your natural standing posture is in my opinion, one of the biggest lifelong determinants of physical well being. The hips grow and stay active depending on how much of your body weight they receive, over the course of your life if your cool guy pose is back on your left heel and you just barely press the ground with your right toes; your body is going to respond to and grow with that. Your left hip will be strong and active, so will your ankle, leg, that side of your back, and that side of your neck. Your right side will be loose, and less neuromuscularly active. I wrote an article a while back, about standing mostly on your toes. Being aware of your standing posture is huge, stand between your feet and use your legs similarly.
- When you are in an interview or a meeting.
If you are not aware of your posture, an essential part of your body language, during a high-stress meeting like an interview your interviewers will know. Without awareness, you could be showing off your nervousness, uncertainty or other negative feelings. Being aware of your posture allows you to strike a confident and open pose, showing your keen attention, and interest. Research has shown power posing before interviews make interviewees more confident and perform better.
- When you are driving.
Depending on your particular lifestyle you may drive hours daily, for work, or not at all. Some people create a lot of problems in their body with their driving position. It’s very easy to sit rotated in a car seat, with your pedal foot turned totally to the side. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to leave those rotations in the car, and it can lead to some mild to wild misalignments, improper movement patterns, chronic pains, and nerve impingements. As you walk around in public notice how many people turn out their right foot as they walk, it’s from the car pedal! Protect and serve your body by taking a moment to place your back fully on the backrest before finding your foot pedal and placing your foot straight on the pedal.
- When you are cooking, cleaning, and doing other house chores.
Repetitive tasks we do around the house are also in part habits. If you stand askew every time you cook, or tend to work with a rounded back over bending your legs that will stimulate your body to reformat to support these postures. Noticing your tendencies and looking for improvements in your posture in your daily chores will serve your comfort, efficiency, and protect you from compensatory injury when switching activities.
If you don’t feel like you could start noticing more about what your body is doing for you on a regular basis, keep reading I still want to try to convince you. Learning and becoming good at posture related training has been so life changing for me and the way I do things, I look forward to sharing more with you about it and giving you the tools needed to take full responsibility for your body and it’s capabilities. It is very liberating and in my opinion one of the most important if not the most important form of self-care. Faver yourself.