Are your neck and shoulders always tight?
...Or is your lower back aching? This could be down to a poor posture. Elina Karimaa - our STOTT Pilates teacher explains...
Posture can be described as the composite of the positions of all the joints of the body at any given moment. It can also be looked at in terms or muscle balance. In an ideal standing posture all the body's joints are in their neutral alignment and the muscles in their optimal length. There is minimal amount of stress and strain on the bones, joints, ligaments and muscles and minimal expenditure of energy. The body is ready to move efficiently and with ease.
However, in reality, it is very hard – if not impossible – to find someone with a perfect posture.
Daily activities shape our posture
The possible causes of poor body alignment can be roughly divided into the following groups:
- Injuries or illness
The first two, unfortunately, cannot be changed but we can all strive for a healthier lifestyle. The best posture is seen in healthy young children. Their bodies still work as they are designed to: effortlessly, efficiently and without discomfort. As we grow older our lives become more sedentary. We stop using our bodies to their full capacity and with time we lose the ability to do so.
As adults we tend to repeat the same actions day after day. Many of us sit for long hours, and sometimes it's our hobbies, like playing a sport or an instrument, that require repetitive movements. Then there are the little things we rarely pay attention to. We might, for example, stand on one leg more than the other or always cross our legs the same way when sitting. All these daily movements and positions, repeated over and over again, will leave their mark. When positions are held for long periods the muscles adapt by shortening and tightening or by lengthening and weakening. This creates postural misalignment's and poor movement patterns that cause strain on the body and can lead to injuries and pain [1,2].
Posture can significantly impact our physical well-being, but did you know that it can affect our emotions too? When feeling depressed we tend to slouch with rounded shoulders. Our mind influences our body, but some research suggests that there is also a reverse connection [4,5,6]. By assuming a tall pose with open chest we may be able to change our emotions and feel more confident and energetic.
What can you do?
You might have found out that you have a poor posture but don't worry, it's not game over yet. Try following these guidelines to improve your posture and your well-being:
Perform your daily tasks in the best possible alignment
- Carry a rucksack instead of a heavy shoulder bag
- Set up your desk ergonomically and use a standing desk when possible
- Avoid asymmetrical positions such as sitting with your legs crossed or carrying your toddler on one hip
- Avoid wearing high heels every day
- Try lifting your smartphone to eye level instead of looking down at it
Exercise is known to have numerous positive health effects ranging from reduced risk of heart disease to improved quality of sleep , and it can also tackle postural problems. It is best to make exercise part of your daily routine. If you're not sure how to get started have a look at these great tips from the NHS.
Any exercise is better than none, but Pilates can be especially helpful for tackling postural problems. The exercises help to re-balance the body's musculature by strengthening the weak muscles and lengthening the tight ones. Pilates builds body awareness and it specifically targets the deep stabilising muscles that are essential for maintaining good alignment.
Massage, chiropractics or other manual therapy can offer valuable help by releasing tensions and realigning the body.This can be especially effective when combined with corrective exercise.
Remember that preventing problems is always easier than fixing them. The sooner you start thinking of your posture the better your chances of living a healthy, pain free life.
In this workshop we will look at:
• common postural problems and their causes
• why good body alignment is essential for our health and wellbeing
• basics of postural analysis; start recognising ideal and faulty alignment in yourself and others
• exercises and techniques that build body awareness and help to bring our bodies back to good alignment
Suitable for all ages and levels of experience
- Muscles, testing and function, 4th edition, by Florence Peterson Kendall
- The Official Body Control Pilates Manual, 2001, by Lynne Robinson, Helge Fisher, Gordon Thomson and Jacqueline Knox