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2 Easy Ways to Check Your Posture

2 easy posture checks

Learn 2 easy ways of checking your posture today, so that you can take steps to beat your aches and pains with the ‘right’ yoga practice.

Posture is the key to keeping a happy and healthy body for life, but for most of us, figuring out what our own postural habits are like is not that easy (unless you have the power to pop out of your body and have a good look from above).   Below I describe 2 easy ways of checking your posture, but before I get going, let’s firstly look at what healthy and non-healthy posture looks like, so that by the time you get testing, you will have a good idea on what to look out for.

What Is Healthy Posture?

Posture refers to the shape and position of the spine. The spine has 3 main curves, a gentle forward-facing curve (or backbend) in the neck and lower back, and a mild backward facing curve in the mid/upper back.

These curves work together to help keep us upright and balanced against the pull of gravity.

If any of these curves move out of their happy alignment for long periods of time, then eventually the body (and you) will suffer in some way.   For example, slumping over a computer for several hours without a break or driving a car for long distances are the main root causes of  back, shoulder, neck and jaw pain.

You can perhaps see how it makes sense to check our own posture habits from time to time, to see if they are a contributing fact to our own health issues.  If they are, then a few mindful changes to our movement practice and day to day lifestyle, can work wonders in helping us resolve those issues.


Plumb Line

For our bodies to work well the curves are designed to take on a certain shape and depth.  Their ideal position follows a natural plumb line of the body (a line of stability).  This ideal plumbline is when the ears, stack over the shoulders, the shoulders stack over the hips, the hips, stack over the knees and the knees stack over the ankles.  If the curves move away from this plumbline then we are moving out of our optimal alignment (or posture).

Not So Good Posture Types

Here are some examples of not so good positions for our bodies (aka postural types) which are becoming common because of our modern lifestyle habits.  Take a good look as you will be able to use them as a comparison when trying the 2 posture checks.

When we get into these postural shapes the body cannot work as well causing the aches, pains and other health issues.   You will notice that all the postural types have similarities so you will need to put on your detective cap to work out what your main tendencies are.

Please remember that our bodies take on different shapes as we move about our day and that is meant to happen.  The problem for our bodies starts when we stay in a ‘not so healthy shape’ for prolonged periods of time.

Flat Back – otherwise known as the military stance.  There is hardly any outward curve in the upper back (thoracic spine).

Common issues:

  • Often accompanied by rounded shoulders and forward head posture (not shown).
  • You will tend to tuck your bum under (creating a posterior tilt of the pelvis).
  • The upper back will have no curve or very little curve.
  • The lower back will look flat (due to tucking the bum under).
  • You may have the sensation of falling forward.

Hunchback – this is getting more and more common and shows an excessive rounding of the upper back.

Common issues:

  • Rounded shoulders and forward head posture
  • You will look like you are slumping or slouching all the time.
  • The lower back may have a bigger curve as your pelvis might tilt forward (anterior tilt) to compensate for the increase upper back curve.
  • You may suffer with back, shoulder and neck pain.

Duck Back – this was me for a good long while.

Common issues:

  • The lower back curve will be deeper than normal.
  • Often accompanied by rounded shoulders and forward head.
  • It will appear as though you are sticking your bum out (duck back) and pushing your stomach and ribs forward.
  • If you notice my photo for  the military posture, I had real trouble tucking my pelvis under simply because I am very good at doing the opposite!  Notice how old habits die hard :).

Sway Back – can be confused with duck back as can outwardly look similar but different things are happening with this spinal shape.  Very common posture with teenagers and men.

  • The hips will be in front of the plumb line and your shoulders will tend to be behind.
  • The pelvis may be neutral or there is a tendency to tuck the bum under (posteriorly tilt the pelvis).
  • The stomach will often stick out and the core muscles will have a tendency to be weak.  The back muscles in comparison will be tight.
  • Rounded shoulders and forward head posture are common.
  • The backs of the legs tend to be very tight (i.e. the hamstrings).
  • Low back pain is very common.

2 Easy Posture Checks 

Now you know the different postural types out there (and have good idea about what healthy posture looks like) it is time to work out what your main tendency is.  Let’s get into the 2 easy posture checks.   Try one or do both.

POSTURE TEST 1:  Take a Photo of Yourself Sideways On

Set up a timer on your phone or film yourself doing this.  Make sure that you can fit the whole of your body in the screen.  Once you are happy, take a side shot of you (see photo above).   Save the picture on a photo editing software like Canva (or just print the photo out so that you can draw on it).   From here trace in the plumb line (line from the ear, shoulder, hip, knee and ankle) and see how your side profile fits around that line.  Compare it to the different posture types and see if you can work out which one represents your body the best.

POSTURE TEST 2: The Wall Test

Stand against the wall with the heels just a little way from the skirting board.

Now see if you can (without straining) get the back of the sacrum (see photo), the mid and upper back and the back of the head to touch the wall.  With a normal spinal alignment, only the lower back and neck (cervical spine) will not touch the wall.

What To Ask Yourself:

  • Can you fit more than your flat palm behind your lower back (i.e. your whole fist)?  If the answer is yes you may have a bigger than normal lower back curve.  Notice also if it grows when you try and get your arm bones to the wall.  This is a sign that you may also have some rounding in the upper back.
  • Can the backs of your arms sit on the wall easily or are they rounding forward.  If the answer is no you may have rounded shoulders.
  • Can you touch the back of your head to the wall without lifting your chin?  If the answer is no then you may have text neck (forward head posture).
  • Can you straighten your legs easily whilst keeping the pelvis, shoulders and back of head against the wall? If the answer is no then you are probably a bum tucker.

Prefer watching rather  than reading – you can watch a video of everything I have talked about so far below :

How To Use the Information you Gain with the 2 Posture Checks. 

The 2 posture checks will help you discover what your postural habits are.  Now you know, you can use the information to personalise your yoga practice in a way which will help you improve your posture long term.  Here are 2 simple ideas to get you started and you can find videos on my YouTube channel which will help be both (and more):

Too much lower back curve? You need to focus on strengthening the core and releasing the hip flexors.  Also waking up the back line of your body (glutes and hamstrings) can really help.

Rounded Shoulders or Forward Head – work on strengthening the mid back and deep neck flexor muscles whilst opening through the front of the chest and the lats (batwing back muscles).

Want more help or guidance?  Wny not consider working with me one on one.  I will give you a posture assessment and guide you with the best yoga poses to help you improve quickly.  Contact me here and let’s chat.

In my next blog post I will describe my 3 favourite yoga poses (well one really isn’t a pose as such) which will give you a real head start into improving your posture.  

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