Body – Awareness – Posture

Friday, October 17th, 2008 at 8:00 am.
by pre.

As you know, when you use muscles they grow. When you fail to use them they begin to waste away. It’s a fairly complicated process but essentially, some small proportion of muscle cells are damaged with use. That damage releases chemical signalling molecules which cause the surrounding tissue to divide, multiply, and differentiate into new muscle cells. So, assuming you have the time and appropriate nutrients around, for every cell you damage you get many more new cells to repair it.

Now of course the way you stand, your posture, effects which muscles are being used. Particularly the inner core muscles which support and separate the vertebra and the leg muscles which carry your entire weight. Standing up straight, holding the head high, having the appropriate pressure on the knees etc. uses these muscles, and so they grow. Slouching, leaning, and other bad posture habits allow these muscles to relax, to remain unused, not doing enough micro-damage for the repairs to maintain their weight, and so they begin to wither. Worse yet, with the muscles withered it’s harder work to stand up straight, and so you’ll tend to slouch and lean even more.

In this way your posture and the shape of your body are intimately related. The more you hunch your shoulders the more your belly will widen to accommodate your bent back. The higher you hold your ribs the stronger and flatter your stomach will be. When people say things like “if I eat the weight all goes on my hips” they rarely realize that the reason the fat is distributed that way is the varying use of each of the different muscle groups in their every day life, moving and sitting and standing and the way they stand.

Strong core muscles also help to hold the internal organs and guts in place. Like all mammals your gut is supported by a big cellular bag attached to the backbone known as the peritoneum. If we stood in the posture of most mammals, on all fours with our guts hanging down from a horizontal back, this would be just fine. However we stand upright, and thus our guts tend to slip downwards, falling to the bottom of the abdominal cavity. This makes us more prone to hernia than most mammals. The core muscles around the stomach squeeze this bag, pushing the guts backwards, up from the abdominal cavity. Strong abdominal muscles hold the guts and internal organs in place, helping to prevent the pear-shaped body.

Good posture then will naturally increase the strength of your muscles, increasing your metabolic rate and thereby reducing body-fat, toning muscles and shaping your body.

What is good posture?

The key to good posture is to ensure that the back is supported by moderately engaged stomach and back muscles, that your weight distribution is even over the body, and all joints are carried in their ‘neutral’ zone. The first of our excercises simply has you stand up straight, growing as tall as you can. You’ll sense your stomach, gluteal (bottom) and back muscles to properly support the back. You’ll ensure that your feet are flat on the floor, supporting all your weight equally. Ideally an imaginary “plumb line” down the centre of your side-profile would pass just in front of your knee joint, up directly through the thigh-bone, behind the hip-joint (which should be straight and level), straight on through the lower spine and the centre of the chest cavity and into the neck and ear-lobe. There are plenty of images on the web to help you picture this if you search for them.

As mentioned, the first of our excercises simply has you stand in this position and pay particular attention to how that posture feels, letting yourself breathe deeply and opening up your filters to grow more suggestible and let your brain learn. As you learn to know what good posture feels like, you’ll be able to translate that good posture practice into other non-standing positions. You’ll develop a sense, a body-awareness, of the best way to stand to support your back and ensure good balance.

Common Types Of Bad Posture

The Swayback slouch tends to pull the head forward, pushing the neck backwards and curving the spine. This posture uses less muscle-power than standing up straight, and this is of course precisely why it’s bad: You need to use the muscle power so that your muscles continue to be used enough not to waste away. Further, the slouched posture compresses the rib-cage, making proper breathing more difficult and so stealing vigour and vim.

Likewise even a minor Kyphosis, curving the spine rather than pushing it up tall, causes the muscles which support the rib-cage to grow tight and shorten and the shoulders to pull inwards and up towards the ears. This in turns makes standing up straighter more difficult, less likely, warping your entire body shape over time.

Even just too much sitting can tend to shorten your hamstrings thanks to constantly bent knees. This pulls the pelvis backwards and causes tension in the lower back and weakened abdominal muscles. Some of our excercises stretch out those hamstrings to try and compensate for too much inactive sitting.

Posture, then, has repercussions all over the body. Slouching one way can make the muscles on that side shorter, causing yet more slouching on that side. Many older people are bent out of shape not by gravity, but by a lifetime of leaning. Good posture will improve your muscle tone, body shape, and keep you fit and healthy for longer.