WHY DOES POSTURE MATTER?
So we have all heard it from our teachers, our parents, our grandparents…’STAND UP STRAIGHT’ ‘FIX YOUR POSTURE’ ‘DON’T SLOUCH.’
We hated it, maybe ignore it, and quite possibly never thought about our posture again. However you’ve definitely shuddered or cringed at a picture or reflection of yourself hunched over, collapsing into your joints and standing in a way that doesn’t look good and 100% doesn’t benefit your body at all. So what is posture? What is good posture? Why does it matter and how can yoga help?
What we want for our hips, spine and shoulder is to be in neutral. This is ‘good’ posture zone and I will explain why and how we get there.
WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?
Want to improve how you walk? Want to improve hip pain? What your knee joints to feel better? Want your back to be in less pain? Want a stronger core? Want to improve your back bends? Want to have less headaches or migraines?
Posture is a key player in all of these things!
So why is it difficult for us and why do so many of us find it difficult to maintain a neutral spinal posture? It’s a pretty easy answer. Lifestyle and comfort.
We don’t really move or spend time in the ways our body was designed to. The muscles that were designed to keep our body in neutral are weak and under-utilised. This is because we have chairs that do the work for us, we don’t travel large distances because our cars move us and most of us have jobs that are almost entirely sedentary. We use toilets, escalators, bikes and mobility scooters that restrict the range of movement and loads we carry that used to strengthen our muscles.
BUT WHAT POSTURE ARE YOU?
So what do we do instead? We slump. We hunch. We lean. We dump into ligaments and joints so the muscles can continue to be lazy.
But what posture do you have? Look at these images and see if you can recognise yourself. Better yet-get someone you know to look at the pictures and then look at you and tell you.
You want to look at the tilt of your pelvis (read this blog), then the curve of each area of your spine (lower, mid, upper), the angle of the neck and then the tilt of the head.
You want the curves of the neck, spine and hips to be in neutral, which none of these pictures depict. But WHY?
NEUTRAL SPINE FOR THE WIN
Okay so that’s the picture of a neutral spine and maybe you’re not that far off it BUT you want to get as close to this posture as possible.
Here’s the reason’s why:
- Your spine, joints and bones are designed to be shock absorbers. They’re bloody brilliant at this. As soon as we move away from neutral, the load distribution is altered and doesn’t work in the same way. This can cause impingement, pain and join issues.
- Space and movement in the spine. You have 33 vertebrae that interlock to make up the spine. They are all specifically designed to work with each other and support the rest of the body. When our posture moves away from neutral the way the vertebrae function is affected. The space between the vertebrae is compromised which can cause bulging disks or compression.
- Range of movement. If we start at neutral we can work towards extension and flexion in a more balanced way. If we aren’t in neutral posture we have to work harder to get to neutral and then moving beyond neutral is more difficult as it begins to feel quite extreme. We want to be able to move into flexion and extension with ease to keep the spine healthy.
HOW DOES YOGA HELP US IMPROVE POSTURE
Yoga is fantastic at helping posture for a number of reasons
- PROPRIOCEPTION- awareness of body. When we practice yoga we start to reconnect to our bodies, how they move and how they feel. We become aware of how we hold our body in space and in class and continue to carry this awareness into our day to day life.
- STRENGTH – the muscles that support the spine need to stay strong to help us stay in neutral. If these muscles aren’t strengthened they struggle to support us in how we stand, sit and walk!
- FLEXIBILITY – many people struggle with their posture due to lack of flexibility and mobility. Yoga helps to open up the chest and shoulders which help us to stand up taller and yoga works with opening up the hips which helps to improve how the lower back feels in movement.