As a child, my Mom would always tell me – Sit straight! Every now and then, she would point out that my back was too hunched, and I looked like some frail old grandmother. If I had to sit for long hours without a back support, I would keep fidgeting, and slowly get to my favourite hunched back position, with my chin rested on my palms, and elbows rested on my knees.
Some of us are right handed, others are left handed. Some of us like to put weight on the left foot when we stand, and some of us on the right. When sitting cross-legged, we have our preferences of which leg we want to put on the top. We like to carry our bags on a particular shoulder/hand. We typically turn around to look behind our backs from a particular direction. We have all participated in different activities, sports or jobs that require a fixed way of sitting/ standing/ moving, or doing repetitive actions. For example, a dentist might have to bend over the patients for long hours to do his procedures. A tailor using a manual sewing machine does repeated rotatory action with one hand.
Most of us get into specific movements or positions that are advantageous to our jobs and that contribute to differences in our individual alignments.
Sometimes these are job related, but many a times these are just a prolonged bad habit – Keeping the head tilted down to look at the phone for prolonged hours for example. This causes certain muscles to be underused and others to be over used. Hence, our posture is affected because our muscles lose the strength to keep us tall and poised. My case of going into a hunchback is an example of this.
Whatever be the reason, the baseline is that our body positions do affect our posture, balance and comfort. Our bodies have a brilliant ability to mould and find the most comfortable position. It’s a great survival and stamina strategy, but the problem is that the body goes into a series of compensations to keep us going. For example, a fixed forward head posture (like the one we have while looking at the screen for a long time), misaligns our neck. This causes the shoulders to get tense. The shoulders in turn become rounded forwards to compensate for the tension. Rounded shoulders lead to reduced area in the thoracic cavity. This affects our abilities to breathe optimally as the thoracic cavity area is reduced. This further causes a hunched back and a tight diaphragm.
Any postural compensation leads to a cascade of events that are eventually recipes for disaster.
7 Simple Ways to Ensure Correct Posture
Our body’s ability to maintain posture comes from a multi-sensory approach. This means that we can change our body’s responses and movements, by changing the way we sense, feel or perceive things. These are some simple things we can do to send the correct signals to our brain, to have fantastic posture :
- Our eyes are our first guides of spatial awareness. Using the eyes more before, during and after the movement, helps get a good sense of balance. Eyes have many muscles. They need training like any other muscle groups in the body. Eye exercises (just moving them around with awareness) can help us send information better to our brain.
- Our skin, and the layer beneath it, the fascia, are our second guides. The skin and brain are siblings from the same parents. Embryologically, they develop from the same germ layer (ectoderm). Pampering our skin – massages, manual therapies, kinesiotaping, or even tapping, rubbing, pinching will stimulate it. This creates better communication within our neural circuitry.
- Any prolonged position is hard on the body. For every hour of sitting, or doing a repetitive movement, its advisable to take a break and move/stretch for around 5 minutes. This prevents compensatory patterns from setting in.
- Engaging in balancing exercises – Standing on alternate legs, rolling, bouncing on a trampoline, walking on some thin pavement, figure of 8 walking, walking on toes, walking on heels etc. are simple things that can help big time.
- Conscious Alternating movements, and switching sides is another thing we need to incorporate. Switching legs if we are sitting cross-legged, using the non-dominant hand in simple activities, switching weight from one foot to the other while standing, changing the bag from one shoulder to the other, mainly being aware of a habit and just alternating it with the opposite side, brings a balance in the muscular chains in the body.
- Movement is Medicine. A sedentary lifestyle is the biggest contributor for weak muscles. Moving all our joints with awareness in every possible direction, will help in sending good signals to the brain. In general, moving around, is absolutely essential for good muscle tone.
- Last, but not the least, our emotions and how we feel affects our demeanour. Stress creates poor posture. Stress relieving techniques like yoga and meditation are essential for taking care of our limbic system, emotional health and agitated stress hormones. Poise comes when we are walking/sitting with confidence.
Good Posture is a habit and the key for a healthy, fit body.
By following the seven points above, you will begin to experience
- Better organ function
- Reduced aches and pains
- Improved stamina and performance
- More confidence
- Enhanced muscle strength
- A robust, resilient system in general.
All possible, simply, through conscious movement.
We teach many of these in depth on our Integrated Craniosacral Therapy Foundation Training, as well as on our Posture and Balance Workshop that we will be launching in 2021.