The human body craves alignment. When we are properly aligned, our bones, not our muscles, support our weight, reducing effort and strain. The big payoff with proper posture is that we feel healthier, have more energy, and move gracefully. So while the word “posture” may conjure up images of book-balancing charm-school girls, it is not just about standing up straight. It’s about being aware of and connected to every part of your self.
Let’s start with the problem- poor posture distorts the alignment of bones, chronically tenses muscles, and contributes to stressful conditions such as loss of vital lung capacity, increased fatigue, reduced blood and oxygen to the brain, limited range of motion, stiffness of joints, pain syndromes, reduced mental alertness, and decreased productivity at work. According to the Nobel Laureate Dr. Roger Sperry, “the more mechanically distorted a person is, the less energy is available for thinking, metabolism, and healing.” Therefore, posture ranks right up at the top of the list when you are talking about good health and vitality.
Ideally, our bones stack up one upon the other: the head rests directly on top of the spine, which sits directly over the pelvis, which sits directly over the knees and ankles. But if you spend hours every day sitting in a chair and hunch forward, such as at work in front of a computer, it can affect you not only physically, but emotionally, too- from the predictable shoulder and back pain to headaches, short attention span, and depression.
In today’s technologically advanced “e”-environment, many of us spend a good amount of time sitting in front of a computer. If the core muscles of the back are not strong, most of us after a period of time tend to slump forward. First the head, followed by the hunched and rounded shoulders then as a consequence we tilt the low spine backwards. These mechanical changes to the spine put undue stress on the discs, and joints. The ligaments and muscles are lengthened anteriorly in the neck and posterierly in the upper back. They are subsequently shortened in the back of the neck and the front of the chest. This is called Upper Crossed Syndrome. The action of the head forward of the shoulder girdle even by one-inch puts 10 times the stress on the anatomical structures of the neck. The result is muscle contraction of the neck muscles followed by impaired blood flow and decreased oxygen. The body tries hard to compensate but gets overwhelmed and we experience headaches, neck pain, back pain, fatigue and a variety of other ailments such as sinus problems. The nerves in the neck are also compromised and adequate nerve supply to the structure of head and neck is also compromised.
What can we do to combat this problem? First make sure you have a good, supportive chair and your desk and computer are at the correct height for your body frame. Your legs should be at right angles, your back straight and the arms at right angles to your keyboard. The chest open, the shoulders soft and away from the ears and the computer screen high enough so that your eyes hit the middle of the screen.
Now that you are sitting in a proper position, it is important to get out of your chair every hour to get the blood moving. A good rule of thumb is to get up and get a drink a water, so not only do you get the body moving but you also stay well hydrated. Fatigue is often caused by dehydration. Set a timer to remind you. Next a routine of simple stretches will ease muscle tension. These can be done in 60 seconds. For example, roll the shoulders back and down, door way pushes to open up the front of the chest, moving thee spine through its full range of motion etc… The most important factor when it come to correct posture is your awareness of your body position and responding to it when you feel yourself slump, and your shoulders rise when you are exposed to stressors etc…Take a minute, take a few deep breaths, stretch a little and relax the muscles. A strong core is extremely helpful when it comes to good posture. Pilates or Yoga are wonderful disciplines when it comes to increasing core strength and putting the spine through its full range of motion.