A Guide to Good Posture
14th December 2017
Whilst there is a commonly held belief that good posture represents confidence and greater self awareness, most do not realize that poor posture can also be associated with poor health or that it can be improved.
How to identify poor posture
The best goal for posture is to work towards the best posture for you as an individual based on your own history and mechanics. There are three views to look at when measuring posture:
- The side
Here the midline of the ankle, the knee joint, the hip joint, the centre of the shoulder and the centre of the ear should all be in a vertical gravity line. If these points do not lie in close vertical proximity, then we call this a sagittal imbalance.
- The front and back
The main lines to look at are the level of the knees, the hips, the shoulders and then the eyes. These lines should all be in parallel in the horizontal axis.
The third view to look at is if there are any rotations throughout the body, in other words, the pelvis or spine rotated to either the left or the right.
Exercises to improve posture will all depend on what type of posture you currently have and what aches and pains you may be suffering from or wanting to avoid.
For instance, people who spend long hours sitting at a desk, one of the commonest issues is an increased curve in the middle back or thoracic kyphosis accompanied by increased forward head carriage.
To improve this, the best exercise are those which loosen up the joints of the middle back, stretch the muscles of the front of the chest and shoulders and then strengthen up the muscles between the shoulder blades and down the long muscles of the middle back.
It is also common for certain postural issues to cross over to affect other areas of the body. For instance, if you have rounded shoulders from long hours at a desk and play tennis or golf at the weekends, this can affect the range of motion of rotation of the trunk and increase the movement required at the neck, shoulders or low back as a consequence. This can create unwanted over usage and wear and tear. In certain cases, where we hold certain postures for years, the small bones of the back, the facet joints can in fact remodel themselves to accommodate to changes in where load is being placed through the body. Once adapted, these changes cannot be undone but may be supported by strength training to improve function at that area.
How posture affects breathing
If we have poor posture and a rounded back, this can affect our ability to breathe efficiently. As the middle back becomes restricted, the ribcage is less able to expand and the lungs less able to draw in as much oxygen. This also leads to shallower and less effective breaths, which can also influence other factors such as feelings of tension and anxiety. With improved spinal extension and rib cage excursion, not only do the mechanics of respiration improve, but also the general sense of wellbeing and ability to relax.
Improved posture can help improve mental clarity
With increased oxygen uptake, we may naturally expect that our central nervous system function may improve. One of the other key factors here though is that improved relaxed breathing also facilitates the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. This is the branch of the nervous system that helps us to access the intelligent decision making centers of the brain, and steers us away from snappy fight or flight driven decisions. Better breathing makes for more relaxed and well thought out decision-making.
Good posture can encourage a more positive mindset
Our posture gives out very particular signals to those around us and we subconsciously read these signals that we call body language. With a slumped and rounded posture you appear less confident and have less of a dynamic physical presence.
In addition, the worse your posture, the less cheerful you are likely to feel on the inside. These neural connections are established as children and if you look at the postures children take up when upset or disappointed, these all correlate to poorer postural positions we may see as we get older. Look up and lift your chest for a better view of the world and a better feeling within yourself.