The advice to sit up straight or stop slouching is common. Yet, many of us still spend quite a bit of time leaning over phones and computers or slouching and slumping when we sit and stand.
I know I am always much more motivated to care about advice when there’s a good reason to for it. If changing a habit will have a positive effect on my life, I am so much more likely to make it happen.
Here, then, are 3 reasons to care about your posture.
1. Your Neck, Shoulder, and Upper Back Will Hurt Less
A fact that always amazes me is that the human head weighs about 10 pounds. And, for every inch your head leans forward, it adds 10 more pounds of pressure to your neck and shoulders.
So if you lean your head forward just three inches, the weight burden is 40 pounds! This rapidly results in pain, achiness, and fatigue in your neck, shoulders, and upper back. If this is a regular way you hold yourself, you’ll begin to experience chronic knots and tightness. It’s a common occurrence for many of us.
You do have the power to make improvements here. As with so many habitual changes, the power is in consistency. We all fall into poor posture stances time and again, especially when we’re getting tired. Make yourself some reminders to correct how you’re holding yourself throughout the day. You’ll be thanking yourself soon enough for the regular effort.
2. You’ll Be Able to Breathe Better
Poor posture typically takes the form of collapsing forward in the chest and midsection of your body. This compresses your lung cavity, making it difficult if not impossible to take a full breath. It also means you’re probably primarily into your chest.
This shallow chest breathing deprives you of many benefits of full breaths. When we breath completely, it acts like something of an internal massage, stretching and contracting the muscles and connective tissue throughout your torso and along your spine. This helps you from getting stiff and achy.
Deep belly breaths also deliver more oxygen to your body, which helps your entire body function better. And, shallow breathing can kick off anxiety and stress responses; when we are in danger, this is how we breathe. The opposite is also true: full, deep breaths that engage your diaphragm's full range of motion will have a calming effect on your system.
3. You’ll Improve Your Core
This can be a “which came first” problem: Are you slumping and slouching because your core is weak? Or, is your core weak because you slump and slouch?
Whatever the case, when you work on sitting and standing tall, you will be engaging your core. This will help keep all those supportive muscles throughout your torso functioning better.
I find it helpful to think about my posture starting from the very base of my spine and I lift from there. Think of having a bit of a bow in your spine that lifts your chest ever so slightly. This will allow your chest and shoulders to naturally open.
At the top, position your head so that your gaze is on the horizon line, and when you look left to right, your vision remains level. You'll feel how holding your body tall will automatically engage those always useful core muscles.
Be mindful though that there is no need here to clench or tense those muscles. Rather, allow them to stretch, flex, and move as you breathe and adjust throughout the day. Think dynamic lift instead of rigid stance.
You’ll also find that taking deep belly breaths actually requires you to relax your abdominal area, so let it go to allow for that natural movement.
It Just Feels Good
What keeps me most motivated to maintain or reset to good posture is that it feels good. I feel the stress ease in my neck. I feel my breath get bigger. I feel the muscles along my spine and in my lower back move and stretch.
Give it a try. Make it a happy habit.