Posture is often overlooked. It is something usually considered as of little or no importance. But the fact is good posture benefits us in a multitude of ways while bad posture can ruin our overall health.
MALEEHA FAIZ, KERALA
SEPTEMBER 29, 2020
Sit straight! Keep your spines erect! Do not hunch! Have not we all heard these pieces of advice at some point in our lives? For sure yes! But it is also true that the more we heard these words, the more we hated them, probably for the ease we felt to be in those lazy postures. However, the fact is posture is something to which a lot of importance is attached, and a poor posture can wreak havoc on our overall health.
Posture, though often overlooked, is directly proportional to long-term health. A simple example might help us understand this better. It is called the ‘circuit breaker’example.
Imagine you are at home, and due to high power or some other electrical system error, the circuit breaker flips and stops the flow of electricity into your house. The television, refrigerator, and light bulbs stop working. In this scenario, would it be of any use if we get a new TV or light bulbs? No. On the contrary, we have to resolve the problem which caused the breaker to flip, and switch on the circuit so that the electricity flow can be restored and the appliances can continue to function.
Correcting the posture is like correcting the circuit breaker. It restores the energy flow to the brain and ensures the proper functioning of all the organs of the body. Before we delve into what we mean by a good posture, let us understand posture, in general, a little better.
What is posture?
The word ‘posture’ comes from the Latin verb ponere, which means “to put or place”. Generally, posture refers to the position in which we carry our bodies as a whole in different positions, or the attitude of the body during the course of muscular activity, like when you are running, walking, or bending over to pick something or while the body tries to maintain stability, like when sitting, standing or sleeping. Here, the latter form of posture can be called as static posture and the former as dynamic posture.
People often think that standing or sitting stiff as a board is considered as the ideal posture. This is not true at all. A good posture is the correct alignment of the body parts in such a way that the least strain is placed on the supporting muscles and ligaments during muscular activity.
There is a multitude of benefits that maintaining a good posture can have, some of which are listed below:
Why is it important to have a good posture?
Bone and joint alignment: An ideal posture keeps our bones and joints in the correct alignment so that the muscles can function properly.
Healthy spine: Maintaining a good posture also helps in the proper positioning of our spine and prevents it from being fixed in abnormal positions.
Proper functioning of internal organs: Though a bit hard to believe, good posture can also help in the proper functioning of our internal organs. It prevents our internal organs from being jammed together, thereby optimizing their function.
Prevents backache: Back pain is a very common and debilitating problem among adults. Bad posture being a major cause leading to it, maintaining the proper posture can minimize the chance of developing backache or muscular pain.
Enhanced personality: Maintaining a good posture also portrays a better and more confident personality. It makes you look slimmer and younger, and your clothes will look better on you too.
Do I maintain a bad posture?
How do we assess our posture? This is something that is usually done by physiatrists, physical therapists, and chiropractors, but still can be done to an extent by yourselves with a few simple tests.
One way is to stand with your back against the wall and see whether you can get your heels, buttocks, shoulder blades, and head to touch the wall without having to look up or down to get your head against the wall.
Another way is to lie down on your back, on a flat surface without a pillow, and check whether you can get your head flat against the surface you are lying on without having to look up.
Another simple test would be to observe yourself in the mirror and check whether your earlobe, shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle are aligned along the same line, to an extent.
Just like facial expressions and gestures, our posture expresses our inner self much more than we actually think it would, such as personality traits, current emotional status, social standing, and interpersonal relations.
From this relationship between our posture and mental attitude, experts have found out that this relation is true even in the reverse.
Occasionally, we all have days in which we feel low and depressed. Everybody goes through such phases in life. But the question here is, have you paid attention to your posture in such situations. You are most probably to be in a slouchy position with your body curved forward and head looking down.
It may be true that you are already sad which had put you in a drooping posture. But it is also true that you are sad because you are slouching. This philosophy is known as embodied cognition. The idea of the philosophy is that the relationship between our body and mind runs both ways. That is, our body reacts to what we think, and our mind reacts to the posture of our body. It is just like how happiness leads to smiling, but at the same time smiling leads to happiness.
So next time you feel low, try to sit up straight, back erect, and head held with chin parallel to the floor and check out how it feels.
The necessity of having a good posture is thus evident, owing to the spheres of health it influences. Though improving your posture is no easy feat, it is worth the effort, as this single change can bring about heaps of improvement in the quality of life and health. Though initially, you would feel it difficult to keep your body from being drooped, regular practice will gradually replace your old posture.
There are plenty of exercises you can do to improve your posture yourself. Any exercise that strengthens your core will make your posture better. In situations where you feel like you need external help, it is always advisable to visit a physical therapist.
The author is an undergraduate physiotherapy student at Yenepoya University, Mangalore.