We have lost the ability, as a culture, to stand well. Esther Gokhale, in her interesting book ‘8 Steps to a Pain-free Back’ posits that this is due to a loss of kinaesthetic cultural tradition and to the influence of the fashion industry at the turn of the 20th century. Whatever the reason, most of us don’t stand well and don’t even know what cues to give our bodies when we try to stand well.
Why do we need good posture? Good posture promotes healthy breathing, healthy joints, healthy blood and lymph flow, healthy nervous impulse relay…. Which means, of course, that bad posture encourages restricted breathing (poor oxygen intake), wear and tear to joints (pain), poor blood and lymph flow (reduced nutrient supply to and waste removal from our cells), poor nervous impulse relay (loss of awareness, restricted movement). All of which can lead to poor cardiovascular health, poor cell regeneration (ie aging of tissues), osteoarthritis, joint replacements…. And of course we all look fatter when we slouch. No wonder your mother told you to stand up straight!
The typical posture is with the pelvis swayed forwards over the feet. This is often accompanied by a tucked pelvis and a tilted ribcage. To counterbalance all of that, the head juts forwards.
Doesn’t look very good, does it?
We often try to correct our bad posture by pulling our shoulders back and sticking our chests out. This just imposes another unhealthy posture onto the first one. Instead we need to think about where the pelvis sits in relation to the feet, and then try to have a spine that lengthens evenly up from there.
To check out your own posture, get a friend to take a side-on photo of you or have a look side-on in a mirror. Drop an imaginary line from the mid-point of your hip to your foot. That line should land on your ankle bone. If it lands forward of your ankle bone (and it probably will!) you need to bring your pelvis back in line. And then line everything up above it too – no sticking your chest out!