What is good posture? How does our body move out of alignment, and what’s the most effective way to improve your posture? These are some of the questions I answer in this video.
There is so much information available online about posture and in my opinion some of it is good but a lot of it is pretty poor.
To me, having good posture means that your body is structurally in balance.
What does this mean?
Well, from the front view standing up, I want to see that your feet and knees are pointing fairly straight forward, and that your hips/pelvis and shoulders are fairly symmetrical left to right, with your head aligned in the middle. Kind of like the image below.
Remember symmetry equals stability.
From the side view again we want all the major joints, the ankle, knee, hip, shoulder and head to be more or less vertically aligned and the spine to have a beautiful s-curve going through it – a lumbar curve, a thoracic curve and a cervical curve.
Remember, the body is designed to have these three curves in the spine, but we want them at a healthy level for you and so not excessive and not reduced.
Nobody is perfect, but if you stand up and just relax, and you naturally look similar to this then I know that your body is physically in balance, that you feel strong, stable, you’re using your body efficiently when you walk or do any activity, and therefore are most likely to be pain free.
Now I’m not saying it needs to be perfect or that you need to stay in this position for eight hours a day.
Remember good posture doesn’t mean you are rigid.
Our bodies are not designed to be that sedentary, to just sit or stand up straight everyday. We are designed to move and adopt many different positions.
But if you stand up, relax and you look quite different from the ideal posture I described above, then it shows me what imbalances you have in your body.
Those imbalances will be carried forward when you sit, or walk, or run, or pick up a pen off the floor or lift weights.
Over time, those compensations and that wear and tear add up and can be the root cause of pain in so many people. Or you don’t have any pain (yet!) but you are unhappy with how you look.
So that’s what good posture looks like, the next question is what controls your posture?
We can go into a huge amount of complexity about your nervous system and the parts of your brain and the various tissues in your body, but I want to keep it really simple in this course and very practical, and so we’re going to say that what impacts your posture is the balance of your muscles.
So for example with the ideal posture, the muscles are balanced from left to right and from front to back.
The muscles on either side of the spine are doing the same thing, the gluteal muscles or buttock muscles are balanced left to right, and the same throughout the body, and because of this all the joints which those muscles position are aligned and symmetrical.
But if your muscles are out of balance from left to right, or from front to back, then you’ll have one or more postural misalignments.
For example, one shoulder higher than the other, or one hip higher than the other, or the shape of the spine will be altered, or the head will come forward etc.
So to improve your posture we need to focus on getting your muscles back into balance from left to right, and from front to back.
Now to do that, we first need to ask why do those muscles go out of balance in the first place?
Well, put simply, it’s because nowadays we just don’t use our bodies the way they were ever designed to be used.
Think about it, our bodies were designed to function in a world thousands of years ago very different from the world we live in today.
Back then, to survive we had to walk miles every day to get food and water, run from big scary animals, climb, crawl, build our own shelter, and make tools and fires.
We would have used our bodies in a variety of ways from a very young age every single day, and this would have kept all the muscles in our body in balance.
Does this happen nowadays?
Not at all! From a very young age at school, even if we’re very active we still spend hours sitting down behind a desk listening to a teacher, playing with phones, and laptops and watching television on the sofa, and cars and trains and spending time in the office.
We have devices that do everything for us like washing machines, and dish washers, and juicers, and electric toothbrushes and cars and remote controls etc.
From a very young age we just don’t get enough of the correct movement we need to keep our muscles in balance and so slowly over time our posture moves out of alignment, because remember those muscles position the joints, so when the muscles are not balanced, the joints won’t be either.
So let’s quickly recap.
We’ve looked at what good posture looks like, that it’s dependant on the balance of your muscles, and that we lose that balance from a lack of correct movement in our bodies from a young age.
So the next question to ask is why should we care? I answer that in the next video from the course.
You can get the next 3 videos of the course for free here.
Ameet Bhakta BSc, DipHE
I’m a posture specialist in London and Tunbridge Wells certified by the Egoscue Institute, and founder of Health Through Posture.