By Renee’ Fulkerson
In other words, having a body you can trust and living pain-free. With a sustainable body that allows you to imagine all of the endless possibilities well into the future.
Or, having a body you cannot trust and maybe living with discomfort and or pain. A body that limits you from enjoying life and all the activities you love.
Living long and dying short or living short and dying long?
I had first heard this phrase in my first YogAlign Teacher Training. Then again recently in a two-week intensive YogAlign Posture Education Certification Course. I started thinking about the phrase once again and wondered do we have a choice? And, the answer was of course in almost all cases we do have a choice. I feel most certain if people were asked which they would prefer from the above-mentioned phrases living long and dying short would be the most appealing option. I know it would be for me!
Pain knows no age, race, or gender, and becoming aware of bad posture habits is the first step in changing the existing habit.
The most common issues I work with are neck and shoulder discomfort and or pain. Various aches and pains along the entire back body (mostly low back). Also, hip discomfort and or pain is an issue that comes up often.
The first thing we need to look at is our daily posture habits:
How are you standing, walking, and sitting? Do you find it difficult and tiring to stand for even a short period of time (such as doing dishes)?
When walking are you able to walk with ease? Have you ever looked at the bottom of your shoes to see how they are wearing (evenly or unevenly)?
Do you find it difficult to sit comfortably for any period of time? Have you created a sag in the support system of your chair or couch from sitting too much?
How does your posture translate into your workspace and weekend activities? These are all good questions to ask yourself as the answers will be very telling and helpful. And a jumping-off point into good posture. With good posture habits/ body mechanics, your life can be long and prosperous and without maybe uncomfortable and or painful.
Let’s start by looking at some of the reasons for neck, shoulder, back, and hip discomfort and or pain.
We are developed in the womb and birthed from a C shape or the fetal posture. At this point, we do most of our breathing from our bellies. Babies and young children will use their abdominal muscles (bellies) much more to pull the diaphragm down for breathing. The intercostal muscles are not fully developed at the time of birth. The baby has to grow to develop these. Once babies are placed on their tummies curiosity gets the best of them and they begin by lifting their heads to fully see their surroundings. Soon after they can get themselves up on all fours (hands and knees) and start locomoting forward known as crawling. Next pulling themselves up and walking supported by a person or object to eventually walking all on their own. During this process, we are developing the natural Lordotic and kyphotic curves aka shock absorbers in our spines. We are still very comfortable moving from the center of our bodies and bending at the knees with ease when picking something up.
Fast forward to today and as a teen, young adult, adult, or elder take a look in the mirror from your side profile or lateral line and what do you see. Natural Curves in your spine or have you returned to the C shape posture? If your answer is C not to worry we just need to shift some outdated posture habits. Also known as rewiring and updating your body’s posture software. But, before we do that we need to look at why this C posture is creating negative impacts on your breathing, mood, and possibly causing you discomfort and or pain.
Having the body in a perpetual C posture draws your chin to your chest, your pubis to your sternum, rolled forward shoulders, and forward head carriage just to name a few. Your spinal curves aka shock absorbers are non-existent and not putting a much-needed spring in your step. This C posture makes it quite impossible to get a full diaphragm inhale or exhale (as adults we should not be belly breathing). With proper diaphragm breathing, we can work on our good posture habits from the inside out (the diaphragm is a muscle and also needs to be exercised). The C posture puts all the weight onto your knees and can very easily add to those achy, painful, and unstable knee joints. As the body curls forward it puts the front of the body into full-blown flexion. Meaning muscle groups whose actual job is to be stabilizers are not being able to do their job. They instead are being enlisted out of necessity to keep the heavy forward-leaning body up. That forward pressing body is affecting the space for your organs and possibly creating some fear and anxiety emotions/ mood responses.
Meanwhile, the back of the body is stretched out and exhausted. Think of your back like a shirt riding up towards your shoulders and ears. Again take a step in front of the mirror and looking from the side angle or lateral line view are you able to see your vertebral column very close to the surface of the skin? If the answer is yes again the natural curves aka shock absorbers are not being able to do their jobs in keeping you agile and bouncy. The back body is also in need of some extra support to keep your head up as it is falling forward and calls in the fascia. The fascia lays down more fascia in the upper back area usually between the top of the shoulder blades to the Occipital (bulbous part) of the back of the head. Causing those tight and stiff feeling shoulders, neck and causing possible headaches. The lower back is not tight needing to be stretched it is stretched and exhausted in need of support. How does the back get the support it needs? Simple answer proper posture. Believe it or not, you have a muscle corset around your midsection made out of muscles and muscle groups which we call stabilizers. These stabilizing muscles and muscle groups are some of your most important and necessary posture muscles. Unfortunately, as I mentioned above if you are leaning forward in a C shape some of these stabilizer muscles start to work as flexor muscles. Just by getting your body back into its natural curves and proper posture we can tap into our body’s internal back support brace (stabilizers).
All of these above issues and so much more can be addressed and overcome with rewiring and reprogramming of your body’s posture motherboard.
- Breathing from your diaphragm and not your belly
- Balancing the flexor chain or front of the body. With the extensor chain at the back of the body.
- Firing up posture muscles and posture muscle groups that have forgotten how to engage.
- Creating tensegrity or balance throughout the body.
- Being mindful of how we stand, walk, and sit.
- Questioning movement, yoga, and exercise classes that put you intentionally in bad posture (reinforcing bad posture).
- If you tend to be hypermobile creating new habits not to take a posture to your edge ultimately pulling yourself apart.
- Find exercise, yoga, and movement classes that focus on real-life movement (reinforce good posture).
- Create a space for movement, health, fitness, and fun in your life.