By Kim Robson
When I was a kid, my mom constantly told me to stop slouching. As the tallest girl, and the second-tallest in my class, I tried my best to not stand out. Of course, I didn’t even realize I was doing it. Eventually I found figure skating and dance, and those disciplines taught me the importance of good posture. There are so many benefits to developing the habit of good posture. And it is a habit, one you can easily cultivate with practice.
Good posture naturally enables you to breathe properly, and significantly improves your breathing function. Proper posture opens up your lungs and ribcage, improving circulation, too. Throw your shoulders back and feel your ribs open. Breathe through your stomach, letting it expand on the inhale and contract on the exhale. Better breathing helps improve concentration and thinking ability. Our brain consumes 20% of the oxygen we take in. Better breathing equals more oxygen, which equals more brain power.
People with good posture naturally exude an aura of assertiveness and appeal, appearing smarter and more attractive. Conversely, someone slumped over creates an image of being unkempt and unhealthy. Stand in front of a mirror. First slump over as you know you do occasionally, especially when in front of the computer. I bet you won’t like how you look. Now, stand up straight, shoulders down and back, head up. See the difference? It’s like night and day. You look better, and you feel better, too. All models and dancers learn that good posture makes you look thinner and taller, too, since you’re using your abs to draw in your stomach muscles. Maintaining good posture is also subtle exercise. The effort makes you use and strengthen the muscles in your back and abs.
Bad posture can result in medical complications over time, including increased risk of arthritis, slipped disc, back ache, pressure inside your chest, and poor blood circulation. Poor posture places unnatural pressure on the joints, leading to cartilage loss. Having correct posture will reduce unnecessary strain and pressure on organs, bones, joints, and muscles which occurs when the body is held in an unnatural position.
Often, neck and back pain will develop from issues of poor posture. The spine can become locked in an abnormal position, leading to the constriction of blood vessels and nerves, and problems with the joints, discs, and muscles. Your spine is one of your most important body parts, and poor mobility can lead to all sorts of problems. When your bones and joints are in alignment, your muscles work more efficiently. You will feel lighter and more energetic since your body will require less energy to move about.
So what does good posture look like? Hold your head straight without letting it tilt forward, backward or sideways. Keep your shoulders back, your knees and back straight, with your stomach tucked in. A straight back isn’t ram-rod straight, either. You should see the two natural curves at your back – one by your shoulders and the other at the base of your spine. Click here to view an image that illustrates these curves. Don’t tilt your pelvis forward, and make sure the arches in your feet are supported. Stretch the top of your head towards the ceiling as though a string were holding you up. Focus on keeping your spine and head aligned with the string while relaxing other parts of your body.
Make sure your workstation is ergonomically correct. There are lots of resources that will help evaluate the position of your chair, computer, and desk to best maintain healthy work habits. Keep both feet flat on the floor. Consider investing in a good back cushion and pillow. Exercise! If you have chronic neck or back problems, seeing a massage therapist, chiropractor, or physical therapist can do wonders for setting your alignment back on track.
Remind yourself to make mental checks on your posture throughout the day. Most of us have the best intentions, but our bodies start to forget after just a few minutes. Tie a string around a finger or set your watch to beep every fifteen minutes or so. Are you slouching? With practice, good posture becomes very natural, and you’ll start to notice when you’re not using it.