What does it mean to have a good posture and why is it so important?
Improper posture puts stress on the body and can cause a range of health problems, which, over time, can lead to a number of structural flaws that affect your back, knees, neck and muscles. It may also lead to reduced flexibility and weakened muscles, which can affect your ability to stay mobile.
So, what is considered good posture?
Despite what your primary school teacher may have said, good posture doesn’t simply mean ‘sitting up straight’. It’s actually all about maintaining a natural curve in your lower back. Generally, a healthy posture means having an s-shaped curve in your spine. Having just the right amount of curve is called the neutral position.
You might have noticed small flaws in your own posture. Perhaps your shoulders hunch over when you sit or you lead with your hips when you walk. To have good posture means that your ears, shoulders and hips are in a straight line. Because everyone’s posture is different, good posture is all about being familiar with your own body.
How to correct your posture?
Start by standing side-on in front of a mirror. What problems do you notice? Now, plant your feet shoulder-width apart, engage your stomach muscle to draw in your belly and tilt up your hips. Then, imagine you have a string attached to the top of your head and someone is pulling you upwards. Draw your shoulders down away from your ears and tuck your chin in slightly. In this position, your ears, shoulders and hips are all aligned. In the mirror, you’ll notice you look taller and slimmer. This is good posture.
When sitting, plant your hips right back in the chair and try not to slouch. Think of the back of the chair and the arm rests as offering light support, rather than structures to support your weight.
Once you know what having a good posture looks and feels like, you can start to train yourself to keep this position during all your daily activities. Whether you’re driving, standing at the kitchen sink, sitting in the hairdresser’s chair or doing work around the house, try to be mindful of your posture. Giving yourself little reminders about pulling the string at the top of your head and opening your chest will help to pull your body back into alignment.
You can also do a number of exercises to help strengthen the muscles that support good posture. These muscles include your rhomboids, back and core muscles.
Eventually, with enough practice, you will begin to see and feel improvements, until you no longer have to think about it too much at all.