Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Good Posture is More than Standing Up Straight

There is a lot more to good posture than standing up straight. Your default posture (how you stand, sit and move without thinking) is your basic posture. People think you're born with posture or somehow inherit it. The truth about posture is that it is a learned skill.

Our stone age ancestors had to rely on instant athletic movement to save their lives. In order to cover long distances, hunt or avoid being hunted, an athletic body was a necessity. As human kind became more civilized, ideas about movement and culture got in the way of natural movement. For example in the modern United States, fashion models and store manikins are often posed purposely in awkward positions that many young girls emulate.

Also in the U.S. many people do not move their hips while walking. I'm not exactly sure why that is. I've been observing gait for decades and find that many Americans use their hips as a hinge joint rather than the ball-and-socket joint it is, a cultural habit that I think is linked to hip damage in middle-aged adults, particularly athletes that have put many miles on their bodies.

Correct or "good" posture isn't a ramrod straight spine. Good posture is when you can move freely and easily to do anything you need to do instantly. Bad posture is when you lock your joints to brace your skeleton against itself to stay up. This locks out movement and makes any new movement a process of awkward adjustments.

Locking your knees, jutting your neck forwards or slumping your shoulders forwards are all common things people do to "rest" themselves while standing or sitting. Here are some posture tips to get you on the road to healthy posture.
  • The first step to better posture is to develop body awareness through dance, exercise, yoga, martial arts, tai chi, sports -- anything that requires you to learn new movements (therefore becoming conscious of how you move).
  • Now, take that new body knowledge and as much as possible stop yourself during the day and note how you are doing.
  • Most importantly, bend your knees whenever you stand or walk. Never lock your knees no matter how fast you are walking.
  • Keep your abs or core toned and engaged. Think about this when walking and sitting.

There is much more to say about gait and posture, but this is a good start. For personal gait and stance and posture training, contact my office for a half-hour appointment.
Footform Performance Orthotics Center, 345 SW Century Drive, Ste.1, Bend, Oregon

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