“By adopting a certain physical posture, a resonant chord is struck in spirit.” — Bruce Lee (1940-1973)
Ideal Posture, Spinal Health, and Psychological Well-Being
Poor posture uses tension to hold you upright. Because poor posture is less biomechanically efficient than proper posture, it takes much more effort to maintain. This inefficiency makes it so that muscles are used even when not needed and so do not get a chance to rest. This places muscles throughout the spine in a state of perpetual fatigue. Over time, the lack of rest pushes these muscles into dormancy, which in turn bends the spine out of shape.
As age advances, the extent of degeneration increases and posture generally worsens. The spine curves into a C-shaped orientation, and spinal mobility declines. Between young adulthood and older age, there is a 20-45% reduction in all planes of neck movement. There is about a 30% reduction in all planes of lower back movement1. But this is not an inevitable consequence of aging. Implementing some additional key postural correctives will ensure that you retain excellent posture. It will also enhance your ability to perform activities of daily living for the rest of your life.
The present chapter provides you with the central principles of proper posture, communicating exactly how to hold your body in space. As with the diaphragm, however, knowing the tenets of proper placement is only half the battle. Like the diaphragm, your postural muscles are stuck in partial contraction, and the only way to release them is to push them through their full range of motion, over and over again. Releasing the muscles from dormancy in this way is the other half of the battle and the focus of the next four chapters.
- Ensures bones and joints are in alignment and working efficiently
- Prevents the spine from being set in destructive abnormal positions
- Prevents fatigue, strain, and overuse
- Decreases wearing of joint surfaces that can result in arthritis
- Increases the ability to generate appropriate levels of force at desired joints
- Stabilizes the body against reactive forces and gravity
- Makes you come across as a predator rather than as prey
We are all born with perfect posture, and many of us maintain it as far as early childhood. It breaks down due to inattention. Postural neglect, or a lack of body awareness, blinds us to our protruding head, rounded back, and uneven hips. Most people are similarly unaware of the soft tissue adaptations that reinforce these bad habits. When poor posture begins to feel normal, the muscle memory for good posture becomes inaccessible. We permit countless blind spots of overuse and underuse that crumple our bodies. These cause incoordination, hinder proprioceptive messages sent to the brain, and speed up the formation of trigger points. Where does poor posture start? We ignore our stooping and make little attempt to correct it because we tacitly assume that any effort to enhance our posture will offend people.
Bad posture is a social signal that communicates defeat. Slouching with head bowed and shoulders forward signifies inferiority in many mammals (especially monkeys and apes). This posture constitutes a mode of operation for looking downward under the eye line of more eminent individuals. It also declares a defective spine and a reluctance to challenge. Primates commonly use poor posture to avoid being attacked2. They are sending a signal that they are already defeated, despondent, and willing to submit to the wills of others. But by impoverishing their posture, nondominant mammals promote the formation of dormant muscles in the spine. This makes them likely to become hunched, distorted, and weak as they grow older.
It is much the same with humans. Most people hold themselves as if a lion is about to attack them. Our slouching is heavily braced. We do this either to appease others or to put them at ease3. We try not to appear like our motions are effortless by attenuating them. We try not to stand to tall by making ourselves look stymied and compacted. This is so commonplace that submissive posturing has become a conventional standard of modern behavior.
Social conflict pressures us to adopt bad posture, which unfortunately leads back to more stress. Trigger points and muscle shortening cause pain, so the more deviated you are from your most biomechanically efficient posture, the more pain messages besiege your brain. Also, because we know that dormant muscles are weak points that will buckle and collapse if loaded improperly, they cause us to move with unease and apprehension. This restricted dynamism makes us feel defenseless and semi-disabled, turning our personality into that of a cornered animal.
There are many methods for increasing stress in lab rats. One of the most effective is to restrain them by shackling their feet. This is known as “restraint stress.” Their stress hormones go through the roof, even when detained for only a few seconds. Looking back, I know that the curved postural restrictions in my spine were equivalent to shackles and were a source of restraint stress for me. As when our face holds a grimace, a stiff, stooped spine affects our unconscious appraisals of the environment.4
Slumping impedes the lungs’ ability to fully inflate. Adopting a stooping stance causes experimental subjects to breathe more shallowly because the diaphragm has less room to descend. This accounts for why those same subjects find it much more challenging to learn how to breathe with the diaphragm when their posture is collapsed instead of erect.5 By suppressing the diaphragm, poor posture also mobilizes the sympathetic nervous system.
As you might have perceived, slumping is common in depression.6 Studies show that slouching tends to increase access to helpless, hopeless, and depressive thoughts.7 Contrastingly, assuming an upright posture results in faster recall of positive memories,8 increased energy levels,9 better body image10 and improved affect.11 This is what we want. So, next, let’s look at the specifics of how to position your body dominantly and optimally.
Self-Assess and Recalibrate Your Posture
Before we discuss the characteristics of optimal posture, take a baseline look at your current posture.
Ideal posture occurs when you use the least amount of energy to balance your body weight. You have three major weights in your body: your head, chest, and pelvis. Whether you are sitting or standing, you want to use the curves in your spine to ensure these three weights are neatly stacked atop one another. You can do this by ensuring that your earlobes are in line with your shoulders, which, in turn, are aligned with your hips.12 If they are not aligned, you will be out of balance and on a path toward pain. You can tell whether they are aligned by examining the pictures you took above, or by placing your back against a wall.
Illustration 13.1: A. Spine from the front; B. Spine and ribs from the back; C. Upper skeleton from the front; D. Spine from the side (facing left) exhibiting the three spinal curves: cervical (neck), thoracic (middle back), and lumbar (lower back).
A “neutral” or properly aligned spine exhibits three curves from the profile (pictured above). These natural curves can be excessively pronounced or not pronounced enough. For most people, they are overly pronounced.13The curves are: 1) a backward curve in the neck region known as “cervical lordosis,” 2) a forward curve in the upper back called “thoracic kyphosis,” and 3) a backward curve in the lower back called “lumbar lordosis.” You had to alter these curves for your head, butt, and shoulder blades to meet the wall in the activity above. To repair these natural curves and ensure that they are not under- or over-pronounced, use the following optimal posture protocol.
These are the five principles of proper standing posture:
- Keep your feet shoulder-width apart, pointing straight forward. Don’t lock your knees; keep them bent slightly.
- Tilt your hips backward by contracting your gluteus muscles. You don’t want your hips tilted forward, your lower back arched, or your butt sticking out.
- Tighten the abdominals and pull your abdomen in slightly.
- Let your arms hang down by your sides. Pull your shoulders back and down, spreading your chest. Lean your midback backward. The goal is to avoid slumping forward in the C-shape while rounding and shrugging your shoulders.
- Pull your head backward. Pull your chin toward your throat. You do not want your head hanging forward or your jaw jutting out.
Illustration 13.2: Four of the five postural fixes: A. Contract the gluteus muscles and allow this action to roll the hips backward and reduce the arch in the lower back; B. Flex the abs and pull the belly button toward the spine; C. Lean the torso back, pulling the shoulders back and down; D. Lean the head backward with the chin tucked in toward the throat. A counteracts excessive lumbar lordosis, B and C counteract excessive thoracic kyphosis, and D counteracts excessive cervical lordosis.
Try to use these postural tenets at least half the time you are standing up. They will feel oppressive and phony at first, but pairing them with full breaths using the upcoming exercises will make them your new set point.
The exercises in this section involve lightly bracing postures that are integral to postural strength. Up to this point, I have vilified bracing. However, the form of bracing used in this section is deliberate, temporary, and not destructive because you will be taking breaks and pairing it with proper breathing.
Unfamiliar muscular contractions increase the stress response. Previously, we discussed that widening the eyes, smiling, and looking up cause sympathetic activity to spike. Standing up straight does this too. It is the same with flexing the buttocks, the abdominals, and even the biceps. This link between firm contraction and stress keeps our muscles from having ideal tone at the joint. This reduction in tone is known as muscle laxity. Forceful contractions make us feel like we are showing off or like we are doing something unnatural. This, in turn, makes us breathe shallowly. This results in countless muscles going lax, and a reluctance to engage physically with the environment. We can reverse it with diaphragmatic breathing.
In general, people who breathe shallowly in response to unfamiliar contractions have the lowest tone and the smallest muscles. On the other hand, people who breathe comfortably, even under heavy loads, tend to be muscular. These tendencies form in childhood, but you can still influence them now. The following exercises will ask you to pair paced breathing with different forms of muscular bracing and loading. When you breathe calmly through the discomfort this causes, you are utilizing the Program Peace “anti-laxity” method.
When performing anti-laxity, you are looking for any unfamiliar loading patterns that cause you to tremble, require great concentration to maintain, or take your breath away. During episodes of anxiety or submission some muscles go lax more than others and feel uncomfortable to contract. These are the muscles you are targeting. An example of this is performing a plank. Most people quiver and experience discomfort when planking. You want to spend time in these kinds of configurations, teaching your body that they are safe, and learning to breathe easily within them, even for several seconds at a time. After 10 cumulative minutes of exerting yourself at a moderate intensity in these loading configurations, they will become familiar, stable, and sound. The chin lock, facial exercises, and eye-widening from previous chapters are all examples of anti-laxity exercises.
- Find a group of muscles you have neglected because you feel uncomfortable or self-conscious contracting them.
- Hold a firm contraction in these muscles for five to 30 seconds until they start to fatigue. Let them rest for twenty seconds and repeat. These contractions are generally meant to be isometric, meaning that they do not involve motion. Without risking strain or injury, alternate between clenching them softly and then very tightly (between 10 and 90% of their maximum).
- These contractions may make you startle or tremble, may require concentration, or may make you breathe shallowly. If it feels shaky, feeble, or wobbly, you know it needs anti-laxity.
In Chapter 5, I said that we lightly brace our hands all day in the form of a claw. However, we are afraid to ball our hands into tight fists because other people may notice and think we are preparing to fight. This is why simply clenching our hands into fists raises our heart and breathing rates. The exercise below will use anti-laxity to heal this, priming your fingers and forearms for building strength. The exercises that follow do the same for other postural systems. Perform each with your breath metronome.
Within a minute of performing the abdominal exercise above, you should notice your back round forward and your chest cave in toward your stomach. You don’t want to reinforce this. Continue to perform the exercise but with your back extended and your chest puffed out (optimal posture tenet four). This will overhaul your tendency to collapse the middle of your back when your abdominal muscles contract. Combining this with a contraction in your glutes will align your ribcage with your pelvis. Combining it with the next two exercise will align these with your neck.
You may want to start out performing exercises 13.4-7 on your back on the floor. This remedial position will help you isolate, relax, and focus. When that feels comfortable, try using all of them simultaneously while standing up as in the next exercise.
Illustration 13.3: Examples of positions and poses you can achieve anti-laxity from.
Good Posture Requires Healthy, Active Spinal Muscles
Most programs aimed at improving posture tell us not to stand unnaturally erect like a soldier. While they are correct in claiming that this can create more tension, they are wrong to think that it should never be done. Tensing and bracing hard within the four postural tenets (Exercises 13.4-7) is the best way to augment posture as long as you limit it to under a minute at a time, allow for ample regenerative breaks, and breathe properly. If you use anti-laxity to repeatedly fatigue your deep postural muscles, and then give them the rest they need, they will gain the strength and endurance to buttress your optimal posture. The following illustrations provide some examples of positions and poses you can perform anti-laxity within.
The spine, also known as the backbone or vertebral column, is a stacked set of bone disks. It gives the trunk stability and protects the spinal cord. The human spine comprises a complex chain of ligaments, fascia, bone, and intervertebral discs, and their health is dependent on the tone of the surrounding spinal muscles. When the tone is either too high or too low, dormancy and damage ensues.
When I think of the spine, I envision an inner worm that wants to stretch out and squirm in all directions. Dormant spinal muscle is like an oppressively tightened straitjacket that warps and restricts the worm’s movement. Large sections of the back, neck, and hips are not just braced in most people; they are splinted, as in a body cast. Due to the discomfort involved, we try to keep these joint configurations as still as possible. We move the rest of the body around these rigid, wounded areas. When we accidentally use them, they force us to startle and take our breath away. Thus, I see the entire spine as a kind of chakra of its own; one capable of holding massive amounts of trauma in the form of painful muscle shortening.
The muscles that encase your spinal column constitute your true “core” and, as a unit, are the ultimate module to rehabilitate. These muscles run up and down your spine, interdigitating between your vertebrae and connecting them to various other body parts. By pushing and pulling against the vertebral bones, spinal muscles help your core bend, twist, and turn. It is difficult to move athletically without a mobile spine because the neck, shoulders, and hips are anchored in the spine, where they provide a base for the head, arms, and legs. Joseph Pilates referred to the neck, shoulders, and hips as the “powerhouse” of the body and insisted that they provide the foundation for all movement. For this reason, spinal dormancy is a primary limiting factor for people trying to build strength in their arms and legs. Are you having trouble putting on muscle or losing fat? You need to rehab your spine first if you want to reap the benefits of exercise.
You want all the minor muscle groups in and around your spine to be capable of contracting entirely, have full range of motion, and articulate effortlessly during everything you do. When the muscles lining your vertebrae are active from top to bottom (atlas to coccyx), you can’t help but move nimbly, hold yourself gracefully, and think confidently. In the previous section we started to train them to hold a specific configuration. In the next section, we will wake them up.
Social apprehension causes us to bend our spine forward (flexion) but rarely backward (extension). This results in difficulty and pain in any motions that require backward bending. Habitual stooping shortens the joint structures in the front of the spine and lengthens those in the back. This creates the characteristic “C” shape.
Illustration 13.3: A. Healthy spine with natural curvature; B. Collapsed unhealthy spine with excessive curvature and exaggerated C-shape.
The best way to override the C-shaped spine is to regularly bend in the opposite direction, creating a backward “C.” There are many poses introduced in upcoming chapters to help with this, but the best way to start is to lie back onto a ball. Start with a large, inflatable stability ball. Spending time lying on your back on top of a stability ball will stretch the compressed muscles in the front of the spine and contract the atrophied muscles in the back.
After a few weeks or months, try this with a foam roller. Lie on your back on the carpet and place the foam roller in different places under your spine. Very carefully move the foam roller to different areas, relaxing and breathing into the stretches. You are spot-treating your backward arch. Once you are accustomed to this, try rolling down the length of your back on the foam roller. Please be careful. The probability of a person with a bad back hurting themselves in this way is so high that foam rollers are rarely advertised for this purpose. You can gravely injure yourself by doing this too aggressively without listening to your body. It should never hurt. Rolling down the length of your spine on top of a basketball is even more ambitious. However, after working up to it, anyone would benefit from performing this daily as in the exercise below.
Illustration 13.4: A. Backward bend on a stability ball; B. Achieving a full backward bend at different spinal segments using a foam roller; C. Rolling down the length of the spine on a basketball.
We have talked about optimal posture while standing. In this section we will discuss it during sleep, and in the next section during sitting. The best sleeping posture is limp and linear. You want to sleep with a straight back and neck. Avoid curling up into the fetal position, which usually involves bracing and reinforces the C-shaped spinal configuration. Attaining proper support can help. When sleeping on your back, try placing a pillow under the knees. When sleeping on the side, place a pillow between the knees. If you sleep predominantly on your side, buy a body pillow and hug it, straddling it with your arms and legs. You also want a firm mattress that does not sag or contour your existing posture. An extra-firm mattress may take weeks to get used to, but it will straighten your spine as you slowly learn not to brace against a flat surface.
Illustration 13.5: A. Woman curled into a C-shape while sleeping; B. Slightly improved sleeping position; C. Much-improved straight sleeping position.
Illustration 13.6: A. Laying stomach, head to the side; B. L-shaped stretch for the hips; C. Pillow under the thoracic spine.
Illustration 13.7: A. Kneeling shoulder shrug with full kyphosis in the neck and lower back; B. Kneeling backward stretch with full lordosis in the neck and lower back; C. Sitting forward stretch with full kyphosis in the middle back.
Sitting with Poor Posture Is Extremely Unhealthy
Most of us sit far too much. Many of us are forced to sit just to earn a living. It is estimated that 90 percent of office workers use computers, with 40 percent reporting usage of at least four hours per day. Unfortunately, using a computer for four or more hours per day greatly increases the risk of musculoskeletal disorders.14 This is one of the reasons office workers who sit in chairs garner more musculoskeletal injuries than any other industry and have the highest risk of heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cancer, and back and neck pain.15 Even people who do not work in an office setting develop misalignments from sitting. This happens at school, in the car, and in front of the television.
Sitting intensifies the rounding of our spines into the C-shape. When the spine is rounded, the weight distribution changes, creating perpendicular shear forces. This “resting tension” compresses the spine and weakens crucial muscles, robbing you of the mobility and strength you need to sit, stand, and walk properly. Worse yet, because your body adapts to the position you assume throughout the day, the more you sit, the more you want to sit.
In his book, Deskbound, physical therapist Kelly Starrett16 calls sitting a “toxic position that feasts on athletic potential.” It truly is. The best recourse is to vary your posture often to get blood to stagnant, poorly perfused muscles. You should shift positions every two minutes from one neutral position to another. Every 20 minutes, straighten your legs, squeeze your thighs together, and flex your glutes. Grab the back of the chair behind you and use it to twist. It is also important to take five-minute breaks during which you walk away from your chair every hour. Don’t be afraid to lie down, take a walk, or stretch during your breaks.
The postural misalignments due to sitting are made worse by shallow breathing. Studies show that people automatically engage in shallow breathing when working at a desk, especially if they are behind a keyboard.17In some studies, every participant who placed their hands on a keyboard demonstrated an increased respiration rate18 and reduced motion of the diaphragm. This happens because sitting positionally inhibits the diaphragm. As mentioned earlier, slumping encroaches on the diaphragm’s natural range of motion, forcing shallow breathing, which in turn causes the release of stress hormones.
Sitting up straight in your chair deepens your breath, as does breathing through your nose. So, you might want to think about taping your mouth at your desk to ensure nasal breathing. I also strongly suggest using a breath metronome at your desk. Remember how hard it was back in Chapter 3 to eat a meal while following a breath metronome for the first time? Trying to do office work while engaged in paced breathing is even more difficult to coordinate at first. It will initially interfere with your concentration.
Most people hold their breath intermittently when trying to focus their attention in what has been called “concentration apnea.”19 As you read in Chapter 7, shallow, distressed breathing helps us focus in the short term due to its association with adrenaline and alertness. However, after using a breath metronome at your desk for a week or two, you can override your tendency toward concentration apnea and develop the ability to focus concertedly while breathing diaphragmatically. Place your phone with the breathing app software running next to your computer monitor and follow it out of the corner of your eye. Don’t be surprised if pairing paced breathing with desk work helps you change your whole attitude about your job while increasing your productivity and work ethic in general. It is much like “whistling while you work.”
The Ideal Sitting Posture
To sit optimally, you must maintain the natural lordosis in your neck and lower back that is present while standing. To do this, sit up in your chair with your back straight. Shoulders should hang straight down. Elbows should not be in front of the torso, and hands should be below the level of the elbows. Place your keyboard accordingly.
When it comes to your lower back and hips, it is essential to distribute your weight equally. Remove anything from your back pockets such as a wallet or phone to assist with this. When sitting, keep your knees a few inches wider than your hips, as this will stabilize your pelvis. Your knees should also be level with or slightly below the hips but not above them. Keep the toes pointed forward, with the feet flat on the floor. If your back is leaning against the chair, press your buttocks against the chair back, too. If not, sit at the edge of the seat placing about 40 percent of your weight is on your feet.
It is obligatory to sit with most of your weight transferred to the chair through your sitz bones (ischial tuberosities). The sitz bones are two protuberances at the lowest point of the hip bone (pictured below). The cushion on many chairs makes it challenging to find your sitz bones. However, when sitting on a hard surface, you should be able to find them easily. If you cannot feel two hard contact points, one under each gluteus, then you are not sitting on your sitz bones and your spine is likely curved. Curved pillars have little structural integrity. Rock back and forth on your sitz bones to find a sturdy upright posture. This is active sitting. You are more likely to stay seated on your sitz bones when you sit on the edge of the chair, sit on a hard wooden or metal chair, or place a hard object like a book underneath you.
Most people actively avoid sitting on the sitz bones, sitting instead on their tail bone, and tucking the pelvis like a shrimp. This is a form of lumbar kyphosis, also known as “posterior pelvic tilt.” A tucked pelvis inactivates our hip flexors, putting all the strain of sitting on the lower back. Avoid this by pretending you have a vestigial tail extending from the base of your spine. Don’t sit on the base of your tail. Instead, sit below it (on the sitz bones), allowing your imaginary tail to emerge just above the place of contact with your chair.
Illustration 13.8: A. Pelvis with sitz bones at the bottom; B. Pelvis seen from the side, resting on tail bone; C. Pelvis resting on sitz bones; D. Skeleton sitting on sitz bones.
It can be tiring to sit on your sitz bones all day. Therefore, do what postural experts advise against and sink down in your chair, sitting on your tailbone for at least two to five minutes every hour. You can use this position as a brief counterpose. When you do so, stretch lordotically and kyphotically and swivel the hips. Standing is good, too. Many people use standing desks. You might consider placing your laptop on a bookshelf around waist height for a few hours at a time to create your own standing desk.
The design of most chairs conforms to the average person’s poor posture. However, you can avoid this trap by buying an ergonomic, posture-conscious desk chair. You might consider buying a lumbar pillow specially designed to support your lower back. You can also place a roll vertically down your spine, helping you to push your shoulders back. Change the settings on both your chair and car seat frequently to expose your sitting posture to different loading profiles. If your seat reclines, spend a portion of your sitting time leaning back at an angle. The more positions you can use, the better.
Cross and spread your legs more often. Being comfortable sitting with the legs spread is one of the most telling signs of dominance. We must remove the stigma against men crossing their legs and women spreading their legs. Similarly, many people inhibit pronounced flexion and extension of the lower back because they fear others will see it as sexual. We need to feel comfortable assuming these postures in public because they allow us to refresh our hips, groin, and lumbar spine, leading to more postural variation and stronger, more mobile backs.
Daily sitting time is a major risk factor for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.20This is the case even in people who exercise regularly. Studies have shown that even daily exercise cannot counteract the effects of sitting and sedentariness. However, I think that diaphragmatic breathing, postural variation, anti-laxity and anti-rigidity (discussed in the next chapter) may. Remaining in a static sitting position for years on end dramatically reduces circulation and mobility. We can avoid this by using other postures that serve as alternatives to traditional ways of sitting. The figures below offer some for your consideration.
Illustration 13.9: Several different positions for working or reading that are good alternatives to conventional sitting. The oblong ball pictured in the last two illustrations is an “inflatable peanut.”
Our ancestors rarely sat on a raised surface like a chair. Rather, they sat on the ground, knelt, or squatted. In other words, chair sitting is unnatural for humans. Yet Americans sit in chairs or sofas for an average of 13 hours a day.21
Many experts believe that musculoskeletal integrity is much better in countries where people sleep on the floor, use squat toilets, and do not use chairs. This is because they must crouch, kneel, and bend over several times per day.22
Many Americans do not crouch, kneel, or bend over at all.
The main reason older people are placed into nursing homes is that they cannot get off the ground on their own. Indeed, the ability to get up from and down to the floor is a good predictor of overall mortality.23
This should motivate you, whether reading, watching TV, or relaxing, to spend as much time on the ground in as many different positions as possible. Don’t watch TV from the couch. Watch it from a million different positions on the floor. You might start with some of the following:
Illustration 13.10: Several positions for lounging or watching TV.
I believe that in the workplace, in classrooms, and even within families, we are constantly sending each other nonverbal feedback, practically bullying each other into slouching. When someone else stands straight, we have a natural inclination to be offended. Our instinct is to try to pull them back down. What we should do is applaud them while being reminded to better monitor our own posture. If you notice people trying to coerce you back into slouching, just ignore it, and reassure yourself that they are in the wrong.
This chapter guided you to brace within the five tenets of optimal posture and pair this bracing with diaphragmatic breathing. While doing so, you should have noticed that some points within each posture were marked by weakness and pain. Holding your back, neck, and shoulders in firmly upright positions probably feels tight and somewhat intense. It is a brittle, aching pain, almost as if the muscles are asking you to leave them alone—warning you that excessive use will lead to injury. This aching is the signature of dormant muscle and to treat it we need an entirely different technique. The next chapter will show you how to rehab it by contracting into it and breathing through the discomfort using a method I call “anti-rigidity.”
- Mammals signal submission with their body posture. They collapse the spine, which, over time, strains it and causes pain.
- Postural concessions lead the muscles that support confident posture and dominance poses to become frail, shortened, and stuck in partial contraction.
- Stooping to look non-threatening will bend your spine into a forward C-shape over time.
- Backbends repair this forward C-shape by strengthening your backward C.
- Laying backward over an inflatable stability ball, foam roller, or basketball will straighten your spine.
- The five tenets of optimal posture are:
- Space your feet shoulder-width apart with toes pointing forward.
- Roll your hips forward and contract your gluteus muscles.
- Tense your abdomen taut and gently pull your belly button toward the spine.
- Pull your shoulders back and down.
- Tilt your head back and pull your chin toward your throat.
- Building postural muscles can be accomplished by pairing paced breathing with firm contractions in the muscles that support the five tenets above.
- Combining very firm contractions of muscles that are not used to contracting firmly (and may tremble under load), and combining this with paced breathing is a therapeutic method called anti-laxity.
- Vary your position often, whether sitting, standing, or lying down.
- Postural inattention is a major contributor to poor posture, so be mindful of your posture during everyday activities.
- Sitting tense, motionlessly, while shallow breathing is highly detrimental to posture and health in general.
- Sitting directly on the sitz bones rather than the tailbone will support your lower back and keep it strong.
- It is much healthier to sit on the floor in various positions than to sit in a chair or a couch.
- Satariano, W., Guralnik, J. M., Jackson, R. J., Marottoli, R. A., Phelan, E. A., & Prohaska, T. R. (2012). Mobility and aging: New directions for public health action. American Journal of Public Health, 102(8), 1508–1515.
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- Mason, L., Joy, M., Peper, E., & Harvey, R. A. (2017, March). Posture matters [Poster presentation]. 48th Annual Meeting of the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, Chicago, IL.
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- Canales, J. Z., Cordas, T. A., Fiquer, J. T., Cavalcante, A. F., & Moreno, R. A. (2010). Posture and body image in individuals with major depressive disorder: A controlled study. Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria, 32(4), 375–380.
- Wilkes, C., Kydd, R., Sagar, M., & Broadbent, E. (2017). Upright posture improves affect and fatigue in people with depressive symptoms. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 54, 143–149.
- Pavilack, L., & Alstedter, N. (2016). Pain-free posture handbook. Althea Press.
- Bond, M. (2007). The new rules of posture: How to sit, stand and move in the modern world. Healing Arts Press.
- Sjogaard, G., Lundberg, U., & Kadefors, R. (2000) The role of muscle activity and mental load in the development of pain and degenerative processes at the muscle cell level during computer work. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 83(2-3), 99–105.
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