Most of the clients I work with want to improve their posture because they either want to get pain free, change the way they look, or reduce their risk of future pain and injuries – or sometimes all three!
If you spend a bit of time researching on the internet how to improve your posture, you can quickly become disillusioned because so much of the advice is conflicting and in my opinion doesn’t work!
Here are five myths which are prevalent but not particularly helpful.
Myth No. 1 – To have good posture, you must think about it.
The idea is that having good posture is all about consciously forcing your body into a certain position so that you sit or stand up straighter. But this doesn’t work!
How many times have you tried to sit or stand up straight and then a few moments later you get distracted and end up back in your normal position?
Furthermore, for many people trying to sit or stand up straighter can feel quite uncomfortable and painful because their bodies are not ready to hold them in this position.
Myth No. 2 – Pull your shoulders and head back
This is similar to the thinking in myth no. 1. I do want your shoulders and head to be in a good position, but we need to find out why they are out of alignment in the first place!
There could be many reasons, but one common one is that your upper back has rounded forward, and so is pushing your head and shoulders forward too. In this example, if you just try and pull your shoulders and head back it won’t last, it might feel uncomfortable and how do you know you’re in the so-called right position? A better strategy would be to tackle the upper back rounding!
Myth No. 3 – This is the way you were born
With most of the clients I work with, the postural misalignments they have are the result of habits, stresses and injuries they’ve had during their lives. It’s rarely their DNA and in most cases I think it can be improved.
Myth No. 4 – Pull your stomach in
This is silly. Imagine I told you to tense your biceps constantly as you went along your day – it would be crazy. The same is true with your abdominals. If your body is working the way it should, then the abdominals will engage when they need to.
I often tell my clients not to consciously alter how they walk and move. Your body should know what it’s doing – it’s the creation of millions of years of evolution. Don’t get in the way!
Myth No. 5 – Strengthen your core
The problem is when this advice is given out as a general way to improve posture. In some people it might be a good idea if it’s done in a targeted and safe way, but with many people it would be a really bad idea.
If you had a tall building leaning over to one side with cracks forming, would you just want to put more concrete on it to make it stronger? It might help it withstand the extra stress for a while but then those cracks would appear again. It would make much more sense to get that building into proper alignment first and then add the concrete.
The same is true for your body. I often tell my clients “before you strengthen, you need to get straight”, otherwise you could just be strengthening and locking in your imbalances.
So what should you do to improve your posture?
Well, your posture is affected by the balance and function of your muscles. If they’re working well then your body is likely to be in good alignment.
So a much better approach is to improve the balance of these muscles from left to right, and from front to back.
I give my clients gentle targeted posture correction exercises to do daily. These exercises stretch and strengthen certain parts of their body and over time improve their posture without them even having to think about it!
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Ameet Bhakta BSc, DipHE – I’m a posture correction specialist certified by the Egoscue Institute, and founder of Health Through Posture.