Straight Talk - Why Proper Posture Counts
Good posture isn’t just for good girls with white flowered lace roll-over socks anymore – studies and more studies have shown that correct posture can reduce muscle pain, joint strain, and headaches – but did you know posture is connected to your emotional health as well?
A recent SF State University study linked poor posture to lower energy levels and depression, while carrying oneself in an upright position improves mood and makes us feel more vibrant. Erik Pepper, Ph.D., Professor of Health Education at the university encourages the “fake it till you make it” attitude – essentially convincing your body that yes, you do want to smile!
Posture is also essential to a person’s sense of power and control. Social psychologist at Harvard Business School, Amy C.J. Cuddy, insists that holding your body in a way that opens it up and takes up space will in fact alter hormone levels and make the individual feel more powerful and more willing to take on risks, something that is deeply intertwined with the evolutionary selection of what is ‘alpha’.
And because we are eternally looking down at our phones, hunching over our computers, and even dipping our heads when we walk outside so as not to make eye contact, our posture, and our energy levels, have suffered. Because our downward gaze contracts the flexor muscles on the front of the body, we need to counteract and activate our extensor muscles in our backs to keep us upright.
“Looking at birds and at the sky actually activates back muscles for upright posture, and that makes people feel immediately better because it makes them feel more alert,” Donna Ray, a west-coast psychotherapist and Feldenkrais Method movement specialist, suggests.
So elevate your computer screen at the office and use a chair that supports your sit bones – not only will your energy increase but so will your mood and confidence, remember?
Ken Baldwin, executive director of the NPI as well as sport and wellness professor at the State University of New York, has developed a four-step re-alignment sequence that will correct your posture whether your sitting, standing, or exercising. It is of super importance to check your posture every half hour or so, returning to what William J. Broad’s “The Science of Yoga” refers to as the neutral spine.
1. Stand or sit as tall as you possibly can. If sitting, avoid crisscrossing limbs and ensure that when your feet touch the floor, your body is forming a 90-degree angle with your torso, hips, and legs.
2. Elevate your chest. Elevate the scapula so it becomes level. Position your shoulders so the form a squared-off, 90-degree angle instead of dropping down.
3. Retract shoulder blades and pull them back. To do this, envision holding a pencil between the shoulder blades. This activates the rhomboids and middle trapezius muscle groups, which are weak and distorted in 95% of the population, according to Baldwin. Additionally, to reduce forward head protrusion, use your fingers to press on the chin and push it back, which will better align your neck (and deter lateral deviations in the spine).
4. Isometrically contract your abdominal muscles. To do so, draw the belly button inward, toward the spine, and contract the core muscles to help maintain the position you’ve achieved by following the previous steps.
Make Your Whole Body Happy and stand up straight!