– Or: Y’gotta keep your head up (WOOO~OOOHHH)
So, posture. Funny story. When trying to decide what today’s topic was going to be, I pulled up a handy dandy document file that I keep as a repository for possible subjects. Because the screen was a bit further away than normal – rearranging the desk a bit – I kinda hunched forward to get a better look. Yes, I wear skepticals. I still gotta get closer sometimes.
As I was reviewing the list, felt a bit of a twinge in my left shoulder blade. Looked up and realized: I was completely and fully slouched over the laptop staring at the screen. Think Ebeneezer Scrooge with his quill hunched over a slab of parchment taking account of his riches. Hair on top mostly gone with a longish Picard-fringe, effectively rendering him the perfect protagonist for a possible movie scene. No glitzy hotel high-floor Spire 73 open air club parties for this guy; just wretched and debilitating back pain from years of drooping over his hardware-based accounting system.
Imagine for a moment if he, in all his non-contagonist inglory, were to suddenly sit up straight. Head tall. Look about the world around him and see with new eyes.
Oh wait, that actually happens in the movie. But think about that! Aside from incredible acting, the cosmetic appearance of taller posture alone completely changes so much about his look.
Yes, I got a bit sidetracked there. There was a point to all of it, though. and as soon as I remember what it was, I’ll dump it below.
Let’s talk about the variety of reasons why posture is so important for all of us.
(note: during the course of writing the above paragraph, I caught myself lolling (not the ha ha out loud kind) over the keyboard AGAIN. Like, five times. Maybe I should read my own blog!)
What do I mean when I say “posture?”
I’m guessing that everyone reading this is quite familiar with the notion behind good posture. I’m also willing to bet that most everyone reading this – including me as I write -is being extra vigilant about posture position. (I was thinking of keeping a tally for the number of times I readjust while writing because that would be funny but it also sounds like work. I have this allergy…)
There is much said about what exactly is supposed to be good posture. In my brain it has always come with a concept of rigidity that felt out of place but as it turns out, it’s not supposed to feel that way. It only does if you’re not in practice. Which … erm. …. kinda is where I’m at.
The short version of good posture is something like this: it’s all about spinal alignment. It doesn’t mean flat back though! It effectively means that, if you look from the side, you should see a nice, neat, straight line that starts at the top of your head, slices dead center through the ears and shoulders, and ever so slightly behind your knee and right in ront of the center of the ankle. Bam. That is a definition of “standing up straight.”
A few posture things to consider
Not everyone is capable of the above definition of posture for a variety of reasons. There are physical conditions that make this impossible. Challenges that from birth would prevent it. Past injuries that would never allow for anything remotely “proper.” In so many cases, it is a good goal to try and get as close to whatever is best for the individual as possible.
A quick jaunt over to Healthline gives a nice summary of different types of posture and some of the effects of both good and bad. It’s worth checking out for more detailed information.
Outside of physical limitations, we get back to folks like me who just have years of chronic bad posture. But we’re going to get into that in a minute here.
Detrimental effects of bad posture
I’m starting with the detrimental effects of bad posture first because I’d rather end on a high note. So we’re getting the icky stuff out of the way now and coming back to the cool stuff. Sounds good? I sure hope so because that’s where we’re going RIGHT NOW.
That’s right, you heard me. Digestion can be impacted by improper postural presence. When thinking about it, though, it makes sense. Poor posture can cause the intestines to slow their roll and not function at full capacity or speed, which can cause a traffic jam in the stomach. When that happens, acid reflux is the name of the game and ain’t nobody a fan of that show. There are theories that poor spinal alignment can also cause for interference in the nerve clusters that allow the stomach and intestines to effectively do their job. Either way, if you are interested in fooding and you like to participate in the act of fooding, efforts to get into the proper posture game might be worth while.
So right out of the gave, having an effigurate head-to-ankle alignment is going to make your entire food absorption experience more pleasant. Who knew!
It sounds serious because it is serious. That skull thing that contains our keto-friendly fatty computer made out of meat and other various and sundry is kinda heavy! Both in the sense of weight and in the Marty McFly “Back to the Future” contexts. But we’ll stick with measurable weight.
So here’s the thing. Our heads, on average, weigh somewhere in the neighborhood of 11 pounds. Low grade bowling ball. Small boulder. Holiday ham, adult cat, paint bucket, you get the idea. So imagine, if you will, that the head is perfectly aligned with the shoulders that it rests upon. Straight down force allows the body to take on that burden in a fairly straightforward action. It weighs eleven pounds, the end.
So now, counter to everything I’ve said already, stick your neck out a bit and let the head droop a bit. What happens there? The force of gravity shifts from straight down into the spine to straight down over your toes. The spine and shoulders are designed to take on that burden straight on. Tilted forward? The spine is having to try to crank back and compensate for the misalignment, effectively creating a curvature that wasn’t there before. The degree to which the head is pulling the spine out of alignment increases the force it places there that it wasn’t designed to really handle. The further the head is out of alignment, the more force is placed on the spine. Over time and uncorrected, this will cause for a new and permanent curve.
It’s not pleasant.
Decreased respiratory function
So, we’re into the whole breathing aspect of what keeps us alive. You know, minor things like that. Inhaling and exhaling is kind of a vital part of our day-to-day. Poor posture has been found via study to actually decrease the ability to breathe properly. The decrease in lower-thorax mobility impacts the ability to take a deep breath.
Go ahead, give it a shot. For reals.
Fully slouch over and then try to take a nice deep belly breath. Now sit up perfectly straight and try to do the same thing. Do you feel the difference? I sure hope so! If not, maybe schedule a visit with a respiratory therapist post haste. Rule #1 is DON’T DEATH and breathing is one of the best ways to avoid breaking that rule.
Ok, that’s enough of that. Let’s move onto the good part.
Benefits of better posture
There are so many benefits of better posture and I’m going to graze over several of them here in an effort to be all motivational and stuff.
Our spine is pretty much the gateway to everything we ever want to do ever. Sit, stand, eat, drink, dance, instrumentate, argue with the neighbors, build the fence between you and the neighbors, crank the Marshall amp to 11 when the neighbors decide that leaf blowing at 7am is cool. You know, stuff. And things.
Taking proper care of the things that allows all of those nerve clusters to do their jobs and perform the aforementioned things and stuffs is a nice way to live a life. Better posture and spinal alignment will allow for much more longevity in activities that we enjoy.
It makes sense, right? When you’re kinda down in the dumps, your posture tends to go with it. If you’re feeling happy, your posture is probably a bit more upright. The brain body connection is kinda like the rainbow connection except more tangible. And with fewer frogs. Ok so it’s not like the rainbow connection at all but GO WITH ME ON THIS. The two things work together and one can influence the other fairly easily. If you’re feeling a bit down on a given day, try extra hard to keep the posture up and see if it might help increase the mood to a less despairing level.
Reduce neck and back pain
I mean …. it’s kinda self-explanatory, isn’t it? Bad posture will create neck and back pain. Better posture will help fix and maybe even prevent it. As once intoned by Jayne Cobb: “Pain is scary.” Since we don’t like pain, we should probably do things to help avoid pain, right? So there we have it. That one is a gimme.
Ok so yeah. Reduction in some kinds of headaches. Increased muscle stiffness in the neck can be a cause of tension headaches. Which nobody likes. If you’re in a position where headaches could be directly related to neck tension, consult with a physician and find out if there are exercises that you can do that will help to alleviate that tension. It’s a grand idea; I highly recommend it.
Imagine, if you will, a clear pathway from bottom to top to just let air escape while singing instead of forcing things out and straining every note. Like -I- do. Posture can help with that too! When everything is in alignment, singing can be so much more effortless. Talking probably as well. Doing anything vocally without strain is generally a good idea! Every singing coach will tell you that standing up as straight as possible – long neck in the back, short in the front – is going to allow you to sing for longer periods of time without fatigue. Seems like a no brainer!
Ways to correct deviating postural tendencies
(i don’t even know what that means)
There are some who would argue that “physical therapy” is just a really long four-letter word. There might be some truth to that. Having said that, if you’re in a position where it has gone on for a long time (like me), it’s possible that getting a physical therapist involved in correction is going to be a really good idea.
For me, I know that in order to do things to correct spinal alignment – or at least get them back into some semblance of making the bowling ball weigh slightly less in extra force – I’m going to need to do lots of back and shoulder exercises. Which I’ve already started (exercise will probably be another blog for another time) and can already feel in impact from after just a few weeks. Slowly but surely.
Take a look at the desk that you’re working at. How far in front of you do you have to reach in order to gently caress the keys of your computer entry device? How far away from your viewing orbs is the monitor you stare at? If either of those things are too far away, you’re going to find yourself hunching over to reach or see. Or both. All day long. Day in and day out.
Does the chair that you sit in all day long day after day promote good posture or is it just a seat-stump? There are a variety of chairs worth looking into that might help encourage better posture while sitting. If you’re sitting in one of those fancy gaming chairs and your spine is aligned properly and you can’t reach your keyboard or see the monitor, move the keyboard and monitor, not your face!
There are plenty more than the above but that might be a great start for any of you who – like me – sit behind a keyboard all the live long day.
The short answer is “fix yer posture.” If only it was so easy!
Keeping in mind: Rome didn’t fall in a day, either. For those without preexisting physical limitations, postural alignment doesn’t slip out over night. It’s one of those nefarious things that sneaks up on you over the years when you’re not looking. Which tracks: you’re not looking because you can’t see yourself from the side or from behind very easily without the aid of photographic devices. And really, who wants to have their souls swallowed by the lens of one of those evil picture-capturing devices? Not I, said the goose!
For those who still have the opportunity, fixing posture consistency is such an important part of our long-term life. It gives your spine the chance to thrive the way it was designed instead of opting for a crippling nope-out. Definitely worth the effort if the chance is there.
Until next week!
-= george =-