by Hannah Aylward: Stand up straight! We’ve all been on the receiving end of that comment (hi mom!)…
Yes, good posture helps us appear put together and confident, but does it offer more? The answer is yes.
Good posture is important to balance: by standing up straight, you center your weight over your feet. This also helps you maintain correct form while exercising, which results in fewer injuries and greater gains. And working on balance can even strengthen your abilities in tennis, golf, running, dancing, skiing — and just about any other sport or activity.
Just walking across the floor or down the block requires good balance. So do rising from a chair, going up and down stairs, toting packages, and even turning to look behind you.
So what is good posture?
We’ve all heard about the importance of good posture, but what does it mean exactly? Here is a breakdown of proper posture when both standing and sitting.
Proper Standing Posture:
Hold your chest high and keep your shoulders back and relaxed. Try not to tilt your head forward, backward or sideways. Engage your abdomen. Distribute your body weight evenly over both of your feet, with your knees in a relaxed and unlocked position. Try to keep your feet parallel.
Proper Sitting Posture:
Sit with your back straight, your body weight distributed evenly over your hips and your shoulders back. Your head should be directly over your shoulders. If you’re in a chair, your buttocks should touch its back. Your knees should be a right angle and your feet flat on the floor, with your ankles slightly in front of your knees.
The Top 11 Benefits of Good Posture
- Back Relief: Your body is designed to stand in a “neutral” position in which your pelvis, head, and torso are in a stacked position. Sitting or standing in a slouched position for prolonged periods of time stresses your lower back. More specifically, it puts pressure on the posterior structures of the spine, including the intervertebral discs, facet points, ligaments, and muscles. When you have good posture, you use the muscles that support your spine properly. Plus, the bones, joints, ligaments, and other connective tissue also all cooperate to keep the entirety of your back feeling less strained and stressed.
- Fewer Headaches: Poor posture can contribute to tension headaches, due to increased muscle tension in the back of the neck. Often if we correct our posture, we can reduce muscle tension and improve our headaches.
- Increased Energy Levels: When you actively hold a good position, your cardiopulmonary system functions properly, supplying oxygenated blood flow to your entire body. Also, when your bones and joints are in correct alignment, it allows the muscles to be used as they’re intended. Basically, the muscles don’t have to work harder than they should to keep up their normal functions. This results in less fatigue and more energy.
- Less Tension In The Neck and Shoulders: We’ve all experienced shoulder and neck pain at some point due to technology usage. A forward head posture, which commonly comes with computer and phone work, puts strain on the upper back, shoulder, and neck areas. With proper alignment, the joints and ligaments are less stressed and less subject to chronic overuse.
- Decreased Risk Of Wear And Tear: Crooked sitting and standing, such as resting on one leg, leads to hip strain. The body is interconnected. Hip strain will almost always lead to pain elsewhere in the body. Your joints wear down naturally over time. If you’re posture is out of alignment, more pain and issues tend to occur.
- Better Breathing: Slouching shortens the muscles at the front of your body and reduces your ability to breathe in fully due to added compression. If you’re sitting and standing taller, your lungs have more space to expand. Standing up tall may actually improve your ability to bring in good old oxygen by as much as 30%.
- Improved Circulation and Digestion: If you’re compressing vital organs, your circulation is poor, and those organs aren’t going to work as well. Healthy blood flow requires proper alignment and avoiding positions which cramp circulation, like crossing your legs. This is why when you get your blood pressure checked, the nurse asks you to uncross your legs.
- When you have good posture, your internal organs align well. That means less compression on your stomach, intestines, and liver, facilitating the free flow of food and digestive juices. A slouched posture inhibits the normal activity of your gastrointestinal system, which makes you vulnerable to digestive distress, like constipation.
- Reduced TMJ (temporomandibular joint) Pain: From an alignment perspective, the human head is intended to sit directly on top of the shoulders. When we have a forward head position, our mandibular joint and jaw muscles experience stress and tension. TMJ pain can be caused by an alignment problem, especially in your neck and shoulders. The temporomandibular joints are delicately balanced and poor posture and alignment can cause the jaw joints to misalign, pop, lock, cramp or even go into spasms.
- Improved Core and Scapular Strength: Maintaining good posture isn’t the easiest thing. It requires muscle strength and basic awareness. Naturally, if you’re holding a good posture, your core and upper back muscles will remain active and engaged. This will help improve core and scapular strength over time. Did you know that pilates can also help improve your posture? Pilates helps strengthen your core muscles, teaches good spinal alignment, improves flexibility, and breeds immense mind-body awareness. These benefits work together to prevent back pain and help you maintain good posture. Try this core-focused yoga flow or this core Pilates class to improve your posture while strengthening your core!
- Improved Form: There are two types of posture. Static posture is how you hold yourself when you are not moving, like when you are sitting or standing. Dynamic posture is how you hold yourself when you are moving, like when you are walking, running, or bending over. Good posture can actually help us improve our form and perform different exercises more effectively. For example, having an engaged core and neutral spine during a squat will help prevent injury and strain. It was also ensure that you are getting the most bang for your buck out of your exercise.
- Appear Taller + More Confident: When people practice good posture, they look taller and slimmer when they have good posture – a pretty good added bonus! Good posture can also increase self confidence. One 2009 study says good posture gives you more confidence in your own thoughts.
So, how do we approach improving our posture to reap all of these amazing benefits?
Yoga is one of the most enjoyable and effective ways to get your posture on your side. Here are some of our