The benefits of good posture are immeasurable, so why do so many people do it so poorly? 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. 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 because it is inherently under the control of two parts of our brain. These parts are our conscious and unconscious nervous system. It’s is just like breathing. It can be controlled when you think about it, but goes on autopilot when you are not. Therefore, you can control your posture posture in the moment, yet 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.
Making A Good Impression
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”? If you’re like most people, 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 of 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
Many scientists have found direct connections between how you feel and your posture. You, most likely, have experienced this in your life. For example, if you’ve ever smiled, even when you’re not exactly happy, and felt happier because of it. Power poses such as the ones described by Amy Cuddy standing with your feet apart with your hands on your hips and your back straight can make you feel more confident. Throwing your hands into the air and reaching for the sky can make you feel more energized.
Posture is no different. Standing or sitting with your back straight and chest forward, in correct posture form, can improve your mood. This is not simply because you’re putting less strain on your back, neck, and shoulder muscles (which it does). It’s also in your mind.
Posture & Mood Studies
The theory that your body posture is affected by your mood, and your mood is affected by your body posture is known as embodied cognition. Everyone has had a bad day and felt themselves slouch forward, head down, sad faced. It’s also possible to feel bad because you’re simply in that posture position. Our smartphones force us into the position often associated with depression, and therefore we feel, subconsciously more sad than we would if we were in an upright position.
A 2017 preliminary study of community participants in New Zealand concluded that upright posture may help in reducing fatigue and curbing depressive symptoms. A controlled 2010 study of body image and posture and how it relates to patients with major depressive disorder concluded that a closed posture with slumped shoulders were often expressed in depressed patients, while a more open and upright posture was often found with patients when their depression was in remission.
There’s a multitude of science behind the of psychology involved in why we feel more confident, suffice it to say the taller and stronger you present yourself the better you feel.
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, not being athletic or physically active 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 (Sitting at computer all day as many of our San Francisco tech patients are). 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 equates to 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:
Neutral Position 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
Postural Correction Exercises
Stand in front of a mirror and look to see if you ears, shoulders and hips are level and turn your feet are evenly outward. 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 position
- 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 from the side. Your ear canal, shoulder, hips, and ankle bone should all be in one line. 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 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 we recommend an evaluation by a chiropractor for postural corrective exercises.