Updated: Dec 11, 2020
What is good posture and why is it so important? Doctors, physiotherapists and scientist are still debating on what is good posture. However, many agree that good posture is proper alignment of the shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. Giving a balanced distribution of weight, putting the least amount of weight on our muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones.
During my ten years of teaching dance, I followed a 10-point guideline for good posture. When I was introduced to Essentrics, I was happy to find that the Essentrics program follows a similar criterion. Here it is below.
Essentrics’ specific criteria for good posture:
Every joint in the body should be in perfect alignment.
The spine should follow a natural double S curve, which will vary somewhat in every person.
Every vertebra must have full mobility.
The load path through the spine must flow uninterrupted from the insertion of the spine in the skull, through the legs, ankles and feet.
The full musculature of the body must be equally strong and flexible in order to comfortably support and maintain good posture throughout the day.
The femur (thigh bone) must be angled in clean alignment so that the quadriceps and hamstrings are relaxed when standing upright.
Some people, especially in the younger generation, tend to tilt their thigh bone a little bit forward with slouching in the lower back. This causes the quads and hamstrings to be in constant concentric contraction. A heavy load is placed on the lower back at the L4 and L5. Many will develop the following problems of :
possible hip replacements
arthritis of the lower spin
slipped, bulging, or herniated discs
Why is good posture important?
Good posture is important for our bodies to function at its best. With proper posture, our organs have space to function, our lungs have room to expand, to take in vital oxygen and to expel the toxins. Slouching makes all of this difficult as the space between our shoulders and hips is reduced. A variety of mild to serious health issues can be caused as a result of slouching, including an ineffective digestive system.
Something I didn’t know and that you may find shocking… What we refer to as a “tummy” may in fact be the intestines protruding! Yikes! This lack of space I mention above makes it extremely difficult to recruit and strengthen our stomach muscle.
I used to think osteoporosis caused poor posture. It is poor posture that can lead to osteoporosis, causing the vertebra to disintegrate. Strong spine muscles and good posture strengthen the vertebra (spine bones) and help reverse osteoporosis.
What causes poor posture?
Like my mother says to me, sitting is the new smoking. Whether it is at work or at home, we tend to sit for many hours at a time. We work at our computer, slouching over a screen. Watch our favourite show curled up in a chair. Stand hunched over our phones as we scroll through our news feed, text messages, etc. Slouching has become a large part of our lifestyle.
Slouching is what causes poor posture. We drop the shoulders forward, over-stretching and underusing the upper body muscles. Our chest muscles cave in and our rib cage falls forward. This causes the pectorals, trapezius, rhomboids, and deltoids to shrink and atrophy creating a permanent slouch.
What is atrophy?
Let me quote Miranda Esmonde-White here as I find her explanation easy to understand. — “Muscle atrophy is a frightening reality. There is a reduction of blood circulating in atrophied muscles. The lack of circulation causes protein cells to dry up and collapse from lack of nourishment and moisture. Without stimulation and exercise, the entire muscle slowly decays. When complete atrophy occurs, the muscle is beyond resurrection and can never be rejuvenated. Luckily, atrophy is a slow process and can usually be reversed with correct, regular exercises.”
How can I improve my posture?
When some muscles are overbuilt while others are ignored, there will be an imbalance in the muscles causing all sorts of problems.
Our body has about 650 muscles. All of which, both small and large, need to be equally flexible and strong in order to achieve good posture. We need to rebalance the full musculature in order to improve posture. Our entire torso needs to be stretched and strengthened. Good posture requires making a conscious effort of exercising regularly throughout our lives. This includes stretching and strengthening the entire torso, keeping the muscles healthy and well-nourished. (think blood flow and healthy fascia)
If you find yourself standing in one place for more than a few minutes, shift your weight off of one foot to the other foot every so often. I also like to sway my hips side-to-side a few times or do a pelvic tuck to relieve my lower back.
When in bed, use a rolled-up towel or pillow behind your head, back and under the knees to keep your spine straight.
When sitting, use a lumbar pillow to support your lower back and remember not to slouch.
Find an exercise program that has all stiff and weak muscles equally engaged in every workout. That loosens tightness and frees up locked, rigid muscles through flexibility.
Try an Essentrics class near you. Or sign up for Essentrics TV at Essentrics.com. It costs $14.95 Canadian a month (+tax). They have videos for all levels that are between 5 to 60 minutes long.