You’re probably sitting down to watch this video and read these words. Take a minute to check in with your body. What position are you in? Are you leaning back? Are you hunching forward? Are your legs crossed? Are your shoulders up around your ears? Is there any spot that is feeling a little sore?
Most of us don’t spend much time thinking about our posture until we’ve done something that makes our body hurt. But Dr. Sean Cailteux, a doctor of chiropractic at Your Wellness Connection specializing in posture and low-back pain, thinks about it often.
Why is posture important to our overall well-being?
Posture’s first impact is on our physical health through the spine and the joints of our body. Dr. Cailteux tells us that our spine is there to protect the nervous system. Good posture protects the spine and it supports good neurology. Good neurology feeds the brain which then communicates to all the cells of the body.
The analogy of a tree can help describe the importance of spinal health. Just like a tree pulls nutrients from the soil that must travel up to the leaves, and the leaves make nutrients with the sun that have to travel to the roots, our body needs to transmit information throughout the whole system. The spinal column is the super highway because it is the path for the transmission of information through the body. Your body sends signals to the brain and then the brain responds. If your body is properly aligned, then those messages get through. If your body is not properly aligned, the message could be delayed or blocked.
As Dr. Cailteux says, if you protect your spine with good posture, this system will function properly, and you’ll express optimal health.
In addition to being the super highway for transmitting information, your spine is designed to support the weight of your body. When standing, your center of gravity should be balanced over your feet. This allows your spine and joints to be in the proper alignment without stressing the muscles that help hold them.
With poor posture, we feel a wide variety of physical pains. Dr. Cailteux says that his chiropractic clients come to him with headaches, neck pain, back pain, and also with jaw pain, or jaw disorders, and with organ dysfunction. You may be surprised by the variety of ways poor posture manifests, particularly the organ dysfunction. But consider how people sit to work on a laptop. You might notice this particularly at coffee shops or while you are waiting at the airport. People working on laptops hunch over, curling their shoulders, and thrusting their heads forward to see the screen better. In this position, their torso is almost folded in half. It gives less room to their internal organs. The strain of working with less room can cause organ dysfunction.
Dr. Cailteux also mentions that posture impacts our emotional health. Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist and Harvard researcher, gave a TED Talk called, “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are.” She describes several studies she conducted that show that people with good posture feel more confident and have better emotional health.
In her talk, she highlights several specific positions that she calls “high-power poses” and says that if you will practice a high-power pose for two minutes every day, it will impact your brain chemistry and you will feel more confident. High-power poses are standing like Wonder Woman, with your feet spread apart and your hands on your hips, or sitting with your feet propped on the desk and your hands up behind your head.
While propping your feet up on a desk might not be the first thing you think of when you think of good posture, what these poses all have in common is that the head is directly over the shoulders, the shoulders are back and away from the ears, and the spine is aligned. The spine has a natural S curve, and in these high-power poses, the natural curve is expressed rather than shifting into a C curve like the laptop users.
Amy Cuddy says that practicing these poses gives us the chance to show people who we are, even in a high-pressure situation like an important job interview. We can “fake it until we become it” and our increased confidence will improve our emotional health.
What Does Good Posture Look Like?
In a standing position, good posture means that the head is centered so you could draw a straight line from the top of the head, through the face, to the center of the feet. The shoulders are level, one is not closer to the ears. The arms are the same distance from the body, and the thumbs face forward. From the side, you could draw a straight line from the ear, to the front of the shoulder, to the back of the hip, to the ankle.
Now that we know what we are aiming for, we can begin to make small changes that will improve our posture and put the odds in our favor.
How do you feel about your posture right now? Let us know in the comments.