“You’re slouching. Stand up straight.”
How many times did you hear your mother say those words when you were a teenager? You probably thought she was just saying it to be irritating, that mothers all over the neighborhood, nay, all around the world, gathered in the dark of night to conspire to figure out new ways to drive their children crazy. Perhaps they did. I know my friends and I, when we gather for a cocktail or five, occasionally make life plans for our children that they don’t fully appreciate. But that is beside the point. The point is, your mother was right. You should stop slouching and stand up straight.
Posture is important for oh, so many reasons. Let me count the ways.
-Balance- Your spine, in case you haven’t noticed, is a pretty central and essential part of your body. When your spine is aligned properly you are best able to balance. Don’t believe me? Remember that time you had the three Screwdrivers and you started swaying right before you fell off the curb? Yup. You were drunk and your spine wasn’t aligned properly. See? Poor posture, (and drinking three Screwdrivers) can be dangerous.
-Breathing- Good posture facilitates good breathing. (And seriously, do you want to risk being a BAD breather?) The average person breathes 12 – 15 times per minute – that’s roughly 20,000 times per day. Let’s get it right, people! If you slouch you are decreasing the space in your chest and abdomen, and limiting your air intake. With your shoulders back and chest up, you can more readily practice diaphragmatic breathing, which has been shown to increase relaxation. And, with such posture, you are more likely to be noticed and served quickly by the bartender when you sashay up to the bar. Zen and a cocktail! Winning!
-Back Pain- 80% of Americans are treated for back pain at some point in their lifetime. And back pain is notoriously difficult to treat. Brook Martin, who teaches orthopedic surgery at Dartmouth said, “There are questions about the safety and efficacy of a surprising number of therapies, including some types of surgery.” Well, thank you very much Dr. Martin, for those encouraging words. The point to take home here is, if possible, it is best to avoid back problems. (How many of you just said, “Tell me something I DON’T know, Gaye?”) Unfortunately some problems can’t be avoided, but many can. “How?” you ask? You guessed it, didn’t you? Good posture!!! Most back problems are a result of muscle and ligament strain and can be prevented by developing a strong core and good posture.
-Headaches and High Blood Pressure- Poor posture often causes tension in the neck and shoulders. This can cause a constriction of blood vessels, which can lead to headaches. AND at the University of Leeds, in England, researchers found a direct neural connection between the neck muscles and the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS). Who knew, right? This part of the brain regulates heart rate and blood pressure. So maintaining proper posture can help alleviate some headaches, and potentially decrease blood pressure.
-Internal organs- Bad posture can constrict your organs. This can cause acid reflux and constipation. Enough said.
If you’re saying, “Health, smealth” then let’s get to the really important issue…vanity.
-Appearance- Want people to see you as taller, thinner, younger, stronger and more confident? Yeah, I thought so. Good posture can do that for you. AND, studies have shown that not only do others see you as more confident and competent, but you are actually more inclined to see yourself that way. The mind-body connection is real, I tell you! You are as you do. I just made that up! (I hope it makes sense.) My point is, good posture makes you feel better about yourself, and that confidence makes an impression on others.
So how do you determine if you have good or bad posture? Men’s Health magazine provided this handy little guide.
Or, you can perform the wall test as performed here by Dr. Allan Mandell.
(Sooner or later I will figure out how to get my own videos up on Youtube, but for now, thanks Allan!)
For those of you who have now discovered that you are the Rock Stars of the Posture World, I offer my hearty congratulations. For those of you who are in the Garage Band of the Posture World, here are a few suggestions. Okay, one suggestion.
That’s it. Be mindful of your posture. Correct when necessary. This is the principle of Alexander Technique. If you’re interested, you can read about it here. http://www.alexandertechnique.com/at.htm
With good posture you can be healthier, and look taller, thinner, younger, and stronger. And it doesn’t cost a thing!
You are welcome.
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