Do you suffer from shoulder, neck or back pain? Do you feel like you are looking old before your time?
If you have answered yes to any of the above, it is time to understand why good posture matters.
Posture can be defined as the way we hold our bodies up in space, whether we are sitting, standing or moving around. Those of you reading this who know me well, will understand that I am obsessed with healthy body alignment and functional movement and there is a good reason for this. Posture influences all areas of your health and wellbeing – inside and out.
I understand this fully, as my own experience of chronic back pain and sciatica, was caused by poor postural habits. I think it is important to say at this point, that no one particular posture is bad. The problem begins when we hold one particular body position for long periods of time.
Today I want to share with you 3 main reason as to why posture matters, and how yoga is perfect, for helping us improve our own body holding habits. Read to the end and find a 30 minute posture reset yoga class to enjoy at your leisure.
1. Posture matters as it is the root cause of back, shoulder, neck and jaw pain
Modern life is the enemy of good posture. We are more sedentary than ever before, often spending hours sitting at a desk and/or staring at a computer screen. In the evening we lounge around on comfy sofas and when we travel, many of us use cars or public transport.
Sitting for long periods causes us to slump and it is this tendency which cause the aches and pains in our shoulders, neck and lower back. It is not that slumping is inherently bad, it is just slumping for a long time without moving is. Our bodies are designed to move regularly. When we don’t some muscles start to go to sleep from underuse, and others start to get tight and grumpy because they are being used all the time.
Relience On Our Tech
Our reliance on technology is also putting our bodies in positions whichare not doing us any favours long term.
For example, our mobile devices are causing the rise of text neck – a truly modern phenomenom! If you are reading this on your phone take a moment to sense where your head and neck is in space. I can pretty much guarantee that your head is jutting forward a little bit beyond your shoulders. Be honest (absolutely no judgement here) with yourself; believe me we are all doing it.
Text neck is the biggest cause of shoulder, neck, jaw pain and headaches. Why? Our heads are heavy, 12lbs in fact and for every inch it shifts forward the muscles which hold ourselves upright are having to work much harder. It is no suprise that they can get grumpy, tight and achy as a result.
Word of Warning
When we put our bodies in these not so good positions soon it becomes habitual. So, we may think that our hour of exercise a day will repair the damage that sitting for 6 of them has done, but unfortunately this is not the case. The truth of the matter is that we often take our poor habits into the gym and then wonder why our body shape isn’t changing or we get certain injuries or pains afterwards. It was probably because we exercised with poor body alignment – simple as that.
2. Posture affects how your body works on the inside.
Posture matters because it affects the way our bodies work on the inside. Here are a few things which you may not have been aware of:
Posture affects how well we breathe.
I would like to invite you to slump now – exactly where you are. How is your breathing? Did it get a little tight or shallow? Now do the opposite and sit up, relax the shoulders, and open the chest, take a breath now. Does it feel better, deeper, fuller? When we have good posture, our lungs can expand properly, and the diaphragm can work efficiently. A compressed chest squashes the diaphragm and lungs which means that they cannot expand properly as we inhale. Notice also how breathing deeper can help you feel more awake and energetic as opposed to chest breathing. This is simply due to breathing more efficiently.
Posture can affect how our joints age.
Yea, I hear you – of course our joints will age in time through use. However, if we can keep our posture relatively even, our joints have the best chance of working well for life. When we become uneven, it puts pressure on certain joints more, which lead to more wear and tear and eventually more pain and potentially, conditions such as arthritis.
Posture directly influences our digestive and circulatory systems.
Just as slumping and slouching doesn’t do our breathing any good, neither does it do much for our digestion and circulation. Imagine how squashed our organs must feel when we are slumping about!
Poor posture can cause headaches
As we saw above, poor posture can contribute to problems around the shoulder and neck area. Any tension and tightness can lead to the development of headaches.
Poor posture contributes to poor core stability
There is more to this then just have a flabby tummy. Your core muscles include your pelvic floor and poor postural habits can weaken it. The reason for this is linked with the breath. Our core system relies on the diaphragm to work well, as it is the movement of the diaphragm which helps the core stay strong and flexible. When we chest breathe, the diaphragm doesn’t work so it will not move. When it doesn’t move the abdominals and the pelvic floor don’t either, which will weaken them over time. A weak core leads to all sorts of problems including back pain, stress incontinence, sciactica, to name a few.
3. Poor Posture Affects How Feel and How other People see you
This is a kind of chicken and egg scenario. To begin with, if you walk around with a slumping posture, people are generally going to think that you are not very happy or upbeat about life. On the other side of the scale your individual postural habits can cause certain emotional states too. Think about how you felt the last time you slouched and compare that to how you feel when you are opening up your heart to the world, standing tall and proud. Studies have shown that slouchers tend to report lower self-esteem.
How Can Yoga Help?
When I had my chronic pain difficulties it was not until I found yoga that my life changed for the better and I finally got out of pain.
Yoga works because it trains your body as a whole. You learn how one part of your body influences another part. You become very self aware of how your body moves in space and you can learn how to connect to your deep stabilising core muscles in a way which is natural and unrestrictive. Yoga is a perfect practice to re-train your posture and body alignment.
No other exercise system has helped me the way yoga has (and continues to). Even visits to physios and other health professionals were unsucessful. Although they gave me some temporary relief for a few days, they never fully managed to get me out of pain permenantly.
So, if you want to get out of pain or improve your physical and mental health, it is time to start to taking your postural habits seriously.
Want to start now? Come and join me on the mat for some fun yoga practice and healing movement time. Book a class now
Get a head start by practising the class below