What is Good Posture | Part 3-4

Posture | Part 3-4

by: Lisa Kocsis

PART 3...
Now that I've addressed what poor posture is and the causes and negative impact of such, I'm going to discuss what good posture is and how we can improve our postural alignment.

There's an ideal anatomical position for the body to be in for the spine and joint structures to be properly aligned and supported by the surrounding musculature. Our spine has three curves, referred to as... cervical spine (neck), thoracic spine (correlates to our rib cage) and the lumbar spine (low back). While there are variations of the degree of the curves in these regions based upon our individual anatomical structure, we can greatly alter the position of our spine by how we sit at our desk, stand, get in and out of a chair and how we walk (our gait).

Here are some pointers to keep in mind when sitting...
•Sit directly on top of your SITS bones (bony prominences in the glutes).
•Keep your feet flat on the floor.
•Minimize crossing your legs or ankles, as this can cause an imbalance in your hip complex. You may notice this if you have a tendency to always cross the same leg over the other leg. 
•Keep your knees in line with your hips. Often men will cross their ankles, which causes the knees to fall open wider than the hips. Over time, the result is a lengthening of your adductors (inner thigh muscles) and a shortening of your abductors (lateral hip muscles). This may have an affect on the hip stabilizers which effect our balance and help provide support to our lower back area.
•Maintain neutral spine position in all three regions... cervical, thoracic and lumbar. Note that your neck and low back are in extension (curved forward towards the front of the body) and that your thoracic spine is in slight flexion (curved backwards).
•Try to maintain equal weight in both hips and keep your shoulders relaxed, not elevated and rounded forward. 

•Try to maintain equal weight on two legs with your weight/pelvis positioned over your ankles. You want to try to not have more weight in your heels or the balls of your feet, but equally distributed in the mid-foot or instep.
•Line up your ankles with the center of your hips. Hip-width apart does not refer to the widest, most lateral part of your hips, but rather the center of the socket.
•Avoid hyper-extending your knees if they go into that extra range of motion. If your knees have the ability to slightly bend backwards, do not lock out the knee joints when standing; keep them slightly bent.
•Maintain neutral spine in all three curves.
•Keep your chin level, as if in line with a shelf, and in line with the center of your shoulder (from a lateral perspective).
•Eyes should be focused straight forward, in line with horizon of your eye sockets.

I notice when I'm teaching that the moment a client's focus drops, within five seconds their entire skull position is lost, as their head becomes too far forward in relation to their spine. This occurs frequently in the vast majority of people, so we need to be extremely conscious of our head alignment throughout the day.

PART 4...
The alignment of our skeleton directly affects the load on our soft tissue. There's minimal stress on tissue when we maintain an ideal position in our spine and bone structure during movement and in a static position. This reduction of stress on the spine and joints can decrease our risk of injury, or make us less susceptible to, as well as reduce strain from overuse of musculature that can occur when in poor posture. Good posture can also enable more effective use of our musculature, which employs less energy and minimizes muscle fatigue. In addition, it helps support balance and stability, and holds the body upright against gravity.

I think the best approach when addressing this topic is to be mindful! If you don't realize you're slouching you can't correct it. Conscious awareness is a key component to overcoming poor postural habits. There is something to be said for the mind-body connection. The more aware we are of our physical body, the more readily we can make positive change. This occurs when our nervous and muscular systems are working together and have an open line of communication. This is referred to as the neuromuscular connection in our bodies. If our central nervous system (CNS) is telling our skeletal system to sit up straight, our muscles will need to adapt to support that posture. Therefore, we need to be more conscious to gain the ability to self correct. Moreover, we need to build sufficient strength in the musculature to be able to support good postural habits.

This is the next step once you're aware you're not executing good postural positioning. If you realize you're slouching but don't correct it at that moment, you've lost the opportunity to make an improvement. You need to incorporate good posture habits into your daily routine. Make it a regular practice just like brushing your teeth and charging your phone. Remember, the more frequently you do a movement the more you're creating a muscular pattern for that movement. If it's a bad habit, you're more deeply ingraining the old pattern. If it's a good habit, you're working to improve the quality of how you sit, stand, walk, move, live and feel in your body!

This is a critically important piece of the puzzle in improving your posture. If you don't move on a regular basis, you're limiting your ability to stay mobile as you age. Remember, flexibility and joint mobility decrease with age. You must not be sedentary. A sedentary lifestyle is not conducive to a healthy one.

Additional suggestions for improving posture...
Check the position of your workstation. I've cued numerous clients to do this, with positive results! I provide a specific assessment drill in part two of my Posture Blog to teach you how to properly set position of your monitor. If you normally slouch, you're going to set up your screen at the wrong height/level for proper postural positioning. If you have more than one monitor, be sure to turn your body to face that screen. Otherwise you'll be sitting in a twisted position for extended periods of time. This can cause rotation issues in your spine; this is not uncommon. Set your workstation (desk, chair, monitor and keyboard) around your ideal postural position. Don't allow your posture to settle into or become compromised by the setup of your work environment. Take control of it! This applies to a sitting or standing desk.

Exercise not only improves our mental state by releasing endorphins and assists in relieving or minimizing stress, but it also improves our ability to move by increasing our strength and our degree of mobility and flexibility. Doing exercises that strengthen the musculature that supports your postural positioning will have a significant and positive effect on how you feel on a daily basis! These muscles include your core (abdominal wall, diaphragm, pelvic floor, internal obliques), spinal erectors, lats, mid/low trapezius and rhomboids.

I understand how difficult it is for people with extremely challenging schedules to find time to tend to everything. As it is, many people are faced with the dilemma of how to get to the gym and keep up with their workout regimen. Here I'm going to suggest a few quick stretches/movements you can do while at your desk, or anywhere, to improve posture.

Since slouching seems to be the biggest culprit of poor posture, I suggest taking a few moments to extend your spine. What I mean by this is arching your back by contracting your spinal muscles, which will pull your spine forward, moving it in the opposite direction of the slouch. This will enable you to lengthen the abdominal musculature in the front of the trunk, and open up the pectoral muscles in the chest and the anterior shoulder muscles. This musculature gets shortened and tight from slouching. Therefore, lengthening and stretching it will help to counterbalance the negative effects of slouching. I also recommend side bending to the right and left, and rotating your spine in both directions as well. Moving the spine in these three directions is important, as our spine is meant to move in all three planes...sagittal, frontal and transverse planes. A mobile spine is a healthier spine! You can do these three movements sitting at your desk or in a standing position.

This concludes my "Posture" Blog.  Please feel free to comment with any questions.  Thank You.

Lisa Marie Kocsis
Lisa Marie Kocsis | Pilates Personal Training NYC | Logo
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