Hands up … who has ever been told they have bad posture?
Is your hand up? Because mine is, and I have to tell you, I’m not really a fan of my posture being judged as bad or good by anyone.
Posture is defined as “the position in which someone holds their body when standing or sitting”. This definition doesn’t actually give us a start point to qualify good vs bad, it’s just a position.
So maybe we need to look at posture as efficient or inefficient vs good or bad.
Efficient posture, would be the ability to hold or move your body in a way that puts the least amount of strain on supporting muscles and ligaments; as well as the ability to move into and out of any position easily and without discomfort. Efficient posture is very dynamic, allowing for minor corrections and adjustments by core supporting muscles to create balance.
Inefficient posture, would be the inability to move out of one posture into another (not being able to stand in tall neutral alignment from being hunched forward); also included in this would be the “it hurts to sit up straight” and discomfort or pain when moving into or out of a posture. Inefficient posture is often static, meaning that certain muscles don’t have to work at all to maintain the posture which in the long term means those muscles weaken.
Inefficient posture comes from a combination of weak and tight muscles, and placing your body long term in positions of great load. Weak muscles simply don’t have the strength and endurance to hold against the pull of gravity and tight muscles restrict your range of motion and flexibility.
We all fall victim to inefficient posture at one point or another, but the more time we spend in these positions, the harder it becomes to straighten up into a neutral posture and move without discomfort.
So, what exactly does neutral posture look like?
Standing, with your torso in a neutral position (neither flexed or extended), your ears sit above your shoulders, shoulders above hips; chin parallel to the ground; arms by your sides, palms facing thighs, shoulder blades retracted (flat against your ribs), elbows hanging just behind your midline; spine elongated, shoulders symmetrical, chest open; core muscles engage to form a natural corset; knees under hips, ankles under knees.
Sitting is virtually the same until you get to the hips. Ears over shoulders, shoulders over hips; chin parallel to the floor; shoulder blades retracted back (flat against your ribs) so that elbows sit at your midline or just behind; pelvis in neutral alignment, tailbone tucked under, no anterior/forward tilt; weight evenly distributed on sits bones (ischial tuberosity); knees bent at slightly greater than 90o; ankles under knees, feet flat on floor.
Remember, as soon as you shift forward or back you increase the work load on one set of muscles over another, which can lead to muscle fatigue and often pain or discomfort. Prolonged periods in these postures will ultimately lead to inefficient posture … some muscle groups having to over work to keep you upright, rather than all muscles working together in balance.
Efficient posture can take a little work and practice in the beginning, (you will most definitely find muscles you had long forgotten about) but trust me when I say that the effort is entirely worth it!
The first step is becoming more aware of what your posture actually looks and feels like. Second is regular posture checks. And the third step is correcting the muscles imbalances that prevent you from achieving truly efficient posture.
*stay tuned for Postural Imbalances 1 and Postural Imbalances 2