The benefits of good posture are immeasurable, so why do so many people have poor posture? Being able to have more conscious control over your posture is the first step in being able to reap the rewards it has to offer. We’re going to outline a few of those physical and mental advantages to good posture. In addition, we are going to give you some helpful tips on how to find your neutral posture and begin your journey on being more body-aware.
Posture & Perception
One of the reasons good posture can be so tricky to master, is that posture is inherently under the control of two parts of our brain. These parts are our conscious and unconscious nervous system. Posture is just like breathing. It can be controlled when you think about it, but goes on autopilot when you are not. Therefore, posture can be controlled in the moment, and changes in an instant when your mind drifts. The conscious you sits or stands with good posture. On the other hand, your unconscious falls back into that slouch posture that mothers (and chiropractors) are always complaining about.
Many of my patients tell me after our initial visit–where we examine and define their proper posture–that they notice their posture more acutely. Have you ever walked past a window and saw your reflection and thought “Wow, I have great posture”? Probably not. More than likely you didn’t think about your posture at all. You probably noticed your hair or clothes; the more immediately apparent details.
However, subconsciously, our image in how we are perceived and how we perceive ourselves is based on good posture. When you think about it, what does it mean to be an “upstanding citizen”? The word upstanding is synonymous with being a good and honorable person. Posture is a subconscious barometer of one’s character, just as much as your clothes, use of language, or your pedigree.
Every aspect of your life is affected by how you carry yourself and whether unconsciously, fairly or unfairly you will be judged on some level by your posture. On the other hand, good posture can make those perceptions lean in your favor. The old adage remains true today: you never get a second chance at a first impression.
Posture Improves Mood and Confidence
Moving Towards Conscious Body Awareness
One very interesting thing that I have noticed about my patient’s sense of body awareness, is that those who have grown up with sports in their lives generally have a more acute sense of their body than those who have not. In order to participate in sports, one must attempt to master the physical nature of the body to be able to bend it to one’s will. Thus, while focusing on a sport, one is already practicing body awareness. This is not to say that sports participation creates good posture, but that it is easier to correct poor posture habits if you have a pre-tuned sense of body awareness.
Unfortunately, being non athletic may result in a steep learning curve for those who want to improve their posture. Don’t worry, if you fall into a more sedentary-lifestyle camp, I truly believe that there is great benefit to learning and understanding body awareness that reaches far beyond the physical/mechanical component of self preservation and expands into the spiritual nature of the world around us. In other words… it’s worth the effort! Yoga is a great example of the combination of physical movement and spiritual connection. Good posture is often equated with good character, improves your mood, and makes you more confident.
Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character.
Take a deep breath. Did your posture change? Did your shoulders move up or back and did you sit up taller? If your head or shoulders moved, then you weren’t in neutral posture. To feel what a neutral posture feels like try this exercise:
- In a seated position, inhale deeply for several seconds
- While holding it, try to inhale a little more
- Feel your body rise up to allow for more air
- Now, without exhaling, relax your shoulder and neck muscles and keep your body lifted away from pressure on your lungs
- Without slumping back down let that breath out. This, generally, will result in a neutral posture.
Stand in front of a mirror and look to see if you ears, shoulders and hips are level and your feet are evenly turned out. Check the space between your hands and hips. Are they even from one side to the other? If there is an asymmetry, try repositioning yourself symmetrically. Pay close attention to any tension that arises in your neck, shoulders, rib cage, low back, or hips.
- take a moment to feel where your body is resisting this neutral posture position.
- Close your eyes and wiggle around to release the neutral posture
- With your eyes still closed, try to line yourself back up so that every part is close to even, like the symmetric posture that you had before
- Open your eyes and look in the mirror to see if you got it right
Repeat this exercise several times or until you feel comfortable with the results.
Finally, have someone help by looking at your posture form the side. Your ear canal, shoulder, hips, and ankle bone should all be in one line. (fig ?) Remember that tilting your head forward as you look downward looking at your phone the more pressure and strain you add to your neck, back, and shoulders. For every inch your head translates forward past this neutral posture position, it doubles the weight of your head. This can cause further damage, and poor posture!
If you are experiencing pain or tension that is interfering with your ability to stand neutrally from the front, side or both, it will be very difficult to maintain this posture. In these cases you will need to be evaluated by a chiropractor for postural corrective exercises.