With our technology-driven world and sedentary lifestyles, it’s should be obvious that we are at a time in our life where it is more important than ever to reclaim the design and function of our bodies. All health and healing comes from your brain. Your brain signals to your body what your organs and organ systems need, when they need it and how often. This is not a belief. It’s a scientific and medical fact that the brain is the master controller of your body. How well your brain works is highly dependent on the health of your spine including the ability to move and alignment (posture).
Your posture tells your story. And it’s probably one about stress, pain, and hours and hours of sitting in awkward and nerve wrecking positions.
But by improving your posture, you can rewrite that story and give it a happy ending.
What Does Posture Influence?
Posture influences the brain. The brain is what influences health. The human body is meant to move. Just 100 years ago the majority of us plowed fields or spent all day physically working in a factory. Now we sit at desks, in cars, and on couches, staring at screens from sunup to sundown. The worst part is that the more you sit, the more you’ll want to sit because of the bad habits you’ve created for yourself.
Bad posture and excessive sitting compress the spine (up to 300 pounds compared to standing) and weaken crucial muscles so that even when you try to stand up and move around, you find yourself fatigued or in pain because you’ve lost the necessary mobility and strength. Your brain is wired to get better at what you practice, and most of us are now expert “sitters”.
We also practice unhealthy movements that allow us to complete our daily tasks without addressing the underlying problem of posture. If, for example, you’re injured, pregnant, or just stiff and weak from too much sitting, your body will compensate for imbalances in ways that affect your posture. Often it will recruit the wrong muscles to do a certain job and end up causing pain and injury. The brain is malleable enough to allow you to pick up an instrument or speak another language, so I’m telling you now that you can certainly learn how to find your best posture and make it your new way of being. You didn’t just wake up one day with poor posture; everyday life has made it that way. And you can use those same moments in life to create healthy changes. You just have to start and keep going!
How Does Posture Affect You?
“The more mechanically distorted a person is, the less energy is available for thinking, metabolism and healing.” -Roger Sperry, PhD and Nobel Prize winner fir brain research
Healthy, aligned posture lets you sit, stand, and move around without pain, but it also does so much more when we consider its impact on brain function. In fact, every single physiological response can be influenced by posture. It improves biological functions throughout your body by increasing circulation, keeping undue pressure off your internal organs, and giving your lungs the room they need to expand allowing optimal oxygen for your tissues. When your body feels better, so does your mind, which is why good posture also promotes confidence and mental clarity. Poor posture, on the other hand, puts wear and tear on your muscles and joints, leading to unhealthy movement patterns and pain. The resulting fatigue and discomfort affect you mentally and emotionally as well.
10 Posture Myths Everyone Should Know
You may have been told as a child to stop slouching, stand up straight, or pull your shoulders back. I even have probably instructed you to do so, but while these instructions are well intended, they won’t actually improve your posture.
Good posture is dynamic, not static, and supports movement instead of inhibiting it. So if you want to improve posture, think more about movement than standing still. Here are a few sneaky myths about posture that may be keeping you in pain.
Myth #1 It’s hard to achieve and maintain good posture.
Because it’s more mechanically efficient, good posture actually takes less effort to maintain and is therefore less taxing on your brain than bad posture. Yes, it’s a challenge to change patterns you’ve been stuck in for most of your life, but you can change any habit with enough awareness and dedication. Create measurable and realistic goals to slowly overcome those habits and replace them with better ones.
Myth #2 Tucking your pelvis protects your back.
The natural curves of a neutral spine act like a spring, absorbing force and bearing weight. Tucking your pelvis reverses your lower back’s curve, which makes your spine like a bent spring, unable to absorb any force efficiently. This is exactly why I don’t recommend full sit-ups! Your body is fully capable of doing these movements, but it doesn't mean you should train it to do so. Without sufficient help from the spine, your body starts using unfit backup muscles to complete tasks, and you end up injuring your knees trying to pick up a heavy object or straining your neck while turning your head.
Myth #3 Strong abs equal better posture.
Developing core strength has been trendy for as long as I’ve been studying health, but many people don’t fully understand the term “core.” They think that if they have strong abs, they have a strong core. Your core does include your abdominal muscles, but it also includes your pelvic floor, diaphragm, certain back muscles, the psoas muscle, and more. If your abs are strong but your back muscles are weak, your posture will be inefficient and painful.
Myth #4 Good posture involves pushing your shoulders down and back.
One of the most common overcorrections people make when trying to fix their posture is to throw their shoulders back and hold them there. This actually destabilizes your shoulder joints and tenses your neck. Plus, you’ll soon get tired and let your shoulders slump again. Once you change your postural habits, your shoulders will sit in the right place without effort.
Myth #5 Standing up straight shows good posture.
When you force yourself to stand up straight without awareness of your natural posture, you actually create more tension in your body, not less. Treating your spine like a pillar will only limit your mobility and make you move like a robot. We have curves in our spine to absorb force. Optimizing the alignment and fluidity of movement while maintaining those curves is essential for back health and efficient posture.
Myth #6 Bad posture is genetic and unchangeable.
If you believe you’re stuck where you are, then you will be. Every time a patient tells me their problem is genetic, I get a bad case of Forest Whitaker eye! Look, if your spine problem was genetic, you'd most likely would not be alive as an adult because most “genetic spine” problems result in death 5 years or younger. In fact, it's estimated that less than 2% of health problems today are genetic. If you believe you can work to make a change, then you can. Your brain is adaptable enough to learn new movements and habits at any age; so use it!
Myth #7 Slouching isn’t that bad for you.
Sometimes supermodels get paid to slouch in photo spreads, but in everyday life, the effects of bad posture can be serious. The headaches and back pain that poor posture causes can be debilitating. In fact, bad posture can negatively affect almost everything, from digestion and circulation to mental health.
Myth #8 Working in front of a computer is physically easy.
Sure, you don’t have to swing a hammer or move heavy boxes, but if you hunch over a desk all day, your posture is probably in terrible shape. And as you now know, when your posture is unhealthy, your spine is unhealthy and that means it's harder for your body to be healthy. Luckily, certain strategies like using a standing desk and taking frequent breaks can let you keep both your desk job and your natural posture.
Myth #9 Posture has to be held. If you have to hold it, it’s not sustainable.
Your body is designed for movement, and stability comes from balanced, dynamic movement patterns, not from locking yourself into so-called good posture. Being stuck in one position creates tension and unbalanced movement patterns. Efficient posture, on the other hand, lets you move in any direction freely and spontaneously. Motion is lotion for your joints – so keep'em moving!
Myth #10 Good posture means never slouching.
Slouching and flexing are movements you have available to you. You don’t want to stay in those positions all the time, but it’s good to move through them— it keeps your joints lubricated and mobile. Notice how you’re sitting as you read this. Now round forward as deeply as you can, then press through your feet and lengthen your spine. Do that a few times and notice how your resting posture improves.
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