Posture – Why Should I Care?

By Gloria Hansen

Good posture makes everybody look 150 percent better. You look thinner – taller – and your clothes hang better. It is probably the most consistent connective thread running through every man and woman of style.

There is a certain magnetism, self-confidence, and to-the-manor-born charisma about a strong, graceful carriage. It is a body language that works.

But there is much more to good posture than your mother might have told you. It is during a state of ideal posture that the muscles will work most efficiently. Poor posture not only takes away from aesthetics, it compromises how we were designed to function, eventually leading to pain and/or injury.

Old, unconscious habits of misalignment, never detected and thus never corrected, directly cause muscle and joint pain, fatigue and general bodily difficulty. Most of us do not realize this crucial connection, much less know what to do about it.

Whenever we get injured, we experience pain. The body will seek avoidance of pain even if it means moving in ways we would consider as poor posture. That wrong way of moving may well become an unconscious habit by the time healing is completed.

Some therapists seem to believe that the absence of pain equals recovery…it does not! The body must be retrained to use muscles correctly. Continued misuse may well lead to serious problems later in life.

Extended sitting is one of the primary causes of poor posture. Not only do people sit most of the time they are at home, eating or watching TV, the seated workplace is the most common in the world today. Some people sit almost every minute of their waking day, aside from walking to the bathroom.

The modern environment is not favorable to good posture. It is practically impossible to sit both correctly and comfortably in a chair. Most chairs are so constructed that maintaining correct alignment while sitting is out of the question.

They are the wrong size, the wrong shape, and the wrong degree of firmness. The seats of many chairs are too long from front to back for anyone under five foot four inches or so. Place as many pillows as you need behind your back so that you can relax a little and still be held upright.

A big part of improving ones posture is to become active. However, most of us need guidance to understand where our alignment is wrong and how to correct it-and finding that guidance may take some effort.

Weak muscles tend to get weaker and strong muscles tend to get stronger when standard gymnasium exercises are poorly supervised. It is human nature to enjoy doing the things we are “good” at and avoid those where we feel clumsy or that hurt.

Simply looking and studying correct posture charts does not help much. It takes a trained observer to discover the flaws and problems in how we stand, sit and move. It may include assessment of our home and work environments.

There are a few excellent bodywork methods that are wonderful for improving alignment and helping you move with more fluidity. Some have been popular with dancers and athletes for years. They include yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Gong, Pilates, Structural Integration, Alexander technique and Feldenkrais method.

The emphasis is on doing and being. Your mind is directed toward your body, concentrating on what is happening as it happens. Learning, growth and integration are brought about by the activity itself. Exercise is more pleasant when your mind is totally engaged with your body.

It is well worth experimenting to find the method that appeals to you. You will come to look forward to the stimulation it will provide. As time passes you will find that without conscious effort you are walking and sitting straighter, moving more gracefully.

Your muscles will become firmer and sleeker, better shaped, stronger without being large and bulky. And you will be calmer and more relaxed, with a new sense of control and inner harmony. These effects are subtle at first, and it takes time for them to develop, but they are real.

Only when your body is in balanced alignment, each part working in harmony with every other part, can you experience the power, lightness and ease intended by nature.

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