Tag: good habits

The Power of Proper Posture

As a wind instrumentalist, I’ve yet to encounter an instructor who doesn’t stress the importance of proper posture. From duration to phrasing to tone, nearly every aspect of playing a wind instrument depends on how straight your spine is. Improper posture means that your body is out of alignment with its own structure, preventing your lungs from expanding to their fullest potential.

With this background information, I wasn’t surprised in the slightest to learn that a person’s posture is critical to their physical, mental, and even social health. Healthy posture allows your spine to do what it was designed to do- provide strength and stability to your skeletal structure. When we slouch or stoop regularly, our muscles are put in the position of working overtime to keep us balanced.

Whether we are sitting, standing, sleeping, or walking, the curvature of our backbone has a strong effect on how these activities serve us. In an age where computers are necessary to a majority of the workforce and “computer slouch” is a subsequent epidemic, paying attention to our posture requires daily vigilance.

The body’s skeletal system can become accustomed to being misaligned, leading to conditions such as arthritis, constipation, poor circulation, persistent aches and stress. Feelings of fatigue are all-too-common today, which can be linked to people’s inefficient muscle use due to poor posture. Your posture can convey a great deal about you to other people as well.

The old adage of communication being heavily influenced by body language rings truest through the way you carry yourself. There is a reason weak, sniveling characters are referred to as “spineless”.  Evolutionarily-imbedded assumptions are formed by others when we trudge through our daily lives in a slump, and studies have shown slouching deepens depression.

Fortunately like any habit, poor posture can be remedied by mindful practice. Fixing our posture is the quickest and cheapest (read: free) way to improve our physique from the inside out. Here is a list of techniques from the American Chiropractic Association to correct your posture and to cure the dreaded computer slouch:

When sitting, be sure that your back is straight and your shoulders are pulled back, with your butt touching the back of your chair. Distribute your weight evenly on both hips and keep your feet flat to the floor.

When sleeping, try placing a pillow between your legs if you tend to sleep on your side. If you sleep on your back, place a pillow underneath your knees. And if you’re the type that enjoys sleeping on your stomach, do what you can to change your sleeping habits as this is an unnatural curvature for your spine.

When standing, keep your shoulders back and your head level, not forward or back. Your earlobes should be in line with your shoulders.

When working, make your work come to you! Do not lean in or strain yourself to read your papers/computer screen/etc., but try sitting closer or bringing it near to your face. If you do heavy lifting on the job, it’s all in the legs. Avoid bending forward with your knees straight and absolutely no jerking movements.

Outside of everyday habits, there are good practices to improve posture as well. Tai-Qi Walking is a very useful method of improving balance and posture at the same time. The Wall Test is a good way to measure your posture and keep it correct throughout your day. And as for that computer slouch, try these stretches out regularly.

Ironically, good posture practices will actually feel foreign and uncomfortable at first- keep at it! In the words of social psychologist Amy Cuddy, “Fake it ’til you become it”.