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Posture. Posture. POSTURE!

Posture is how we hold our bodies. There are two different ways of defining this, namely: dynamic and static posture. Dynamic posture is through movement, such as walking, running, or bending over to pick up something. Static posture is how we hold ourselves when we are stable (not moving), such as when we are sitting, standing, or sleeping. Both are equally important when addressing alignment of the joints and bony landmarks and may be understood in terms of muscle balance and function.

Everyday living, our choice of movement patterns, lifestyles, sports we play/do, career paths, genetics, awareness, and many other factors all play a role in our everyday posture. We all have negative movement patterns and habits we do within our bodies. Small changes and corrective movement can make our posture more desirable and functional.

What is good posture:

Good posture is seen as an ideal body position in relation to the Plumb Line. This is best done when evaluating the front, back, and side of the body as well as symmetry. Ideal posture is subjective and maybe something an individual aims to reach but may never be achieved.

What is the Plumb Line:

When looking at an individual from the side we call this the sagittal plane. The Plumb Line is along this axis and starts at the lobe of the ear, it then goes through the bodies of the cervical vertebrae, the shoulder joint, midway through the trunk, through the greater trochanter of the femur, slightly anterior (in front of) the midline of the knee, and then slightly anterior of the lateral malleolus (in front of the ankle bone). From the front and the back of the individual symmetry also needs to be observed. We can use bony landmarks to observe symmetry including the head, shoulders, space between the arms and trunk, the pelvis, the knees, and the feet.

Why do we want good posture:

Not only does good posture look good, but it also places less stress on the spine, bones, joints, ligaments, and muscles. When we are not in alignment the muscles place strain on the skeleton - we are hanging into the joints, creating muscular imbalances, placing strain on our internal organs, inhibiting pain, and creating all sorts of discomforts down the line (and possibility already in our everyday living). Good posture, however, allows the body to have economical muscular movement. The spine works in harmony when it is in alignment with gravity. Ideal alignment of the spine also aids normal and efficient functioning of the inner organs of the body. Good posture makes us feel good.

Our center of gravity plays a role in our posture:

As we are already aware, gravity is a downward pull or force from the earth that is exerted on our body. If we think about this practically, if we do not strengthen our muscles, as we age our skeleton and body composition gets smaller, we start to bend over. Our muscles keep us upright as we fight off gravity. The point where the mass of the body is concentrated is typically where we are most heavy. Gravity in the body is ever so slightly different for the individual but typically speaking it is anterior to the first and second sacral segment in the spine. Consider a heavier man or taller woman with broader shoulders - their center of gravity may be slightly higher if their upper body is heavier. We all move slightly differently through movement because of our center of gravity. Understanding where your center of gravity is in your body may adjust the ideal position for the natural curves of our spine which act as shock absorbers for our body. Aiming for an ideal posture will develop the musculature to support this alignment.

There are a number of classifications of types of faulty posture and there are also often combinations of types of posture. It is important to understand whether the postural patterns are structural, learned (functional), or combinations of these patterns. A postural pattern may begin as structural and evolve into functional, the musculature having adapted to the structural posture deviation which results in muscle imbalances. When looking at posture, it is these types of patterns that are important to address. This is for the reason that posture affects everything that we do as individuals from daily living to sports that we participate in. Addressing the whole person and individual needs makes all the difference to the lifestyle that an individual leads.

Typical faulty postures include:

  1. Hyperlordosis

  2. Flatback

  3. Fatigue

  4. Scoliosis

  5. Genu Recurvatum (hyperextended knees)

  6. Genu Valgum (knock knees)

  7. Gen Varum (bow legs)

Posture needs to be addressed in terms of alignment of joints and muscles as well as considering the individual body and their needs.

Common positions people typically sit and how to make small changes for more desirable posture.

  • Slouching

  • Text neck

  • Crossing legs

  • Arm on a table

  • Rotating to one side more than the other - set up of desk

When we sit, we want to make sure our feet are about a first distance apart (in line with our sitting bones) and pushed into the floor. This will give us an abdominal connection. The knees follow the line of the feet and the hips. The back is upright and the neck is long and ideally in line with the spine. The pelvis is as neutral as possible. A neutral pelvis is when the alignment of both ASIS (Anterior Superior Iliac Spine) and the Pubic Bone (known as the Pubic Symphysis) are in line with each other in the coronal plane when erect. The coronal plane is the plane that divides you in half creating front and back, also known as anterior and posterior. In addition to this, the front hip bones (ASIS), and the back hip bones known as the PSIS (Posterior Superior Iliac Spine) are on the same transverse plane. The transverse plane divides the body from top to bottom. The neutral position of the pelvis is a base point and reference used to compare and describe all other positions. Pushing the spine up and against the back of the chair is good feedback as to where the spine is in space. The weight on the sitting bones and from the right to the left side of the body also needs to be eventually distributed.

Common positions people typically stand and how to fix it.

  • Standing on one leg

  • Hyper extending legs

  • Pushing through pelvis

  • Text neck

When we stand, we want the feet to be about a fist distance apart, the knees are slightly soft and the pelvis is in neutral. The weight is eventually distributed from right to left. The natural gaps are present in the spine and the neck is in line with the spine. The abdominals are drawn up. The shoulders are wide and the upper back is also in a neutral position. Getting a neutral position in the upper back is best done when allowing the scapulae to float between, up and down, and together and apart. A more relaxed pair of shoulders allows an open space between the collar bones.

Change happens through awareness, understanding our body, and where it needs to be in space. This allows for better functional movement and healthier posture no matter the lifestyle we lead. We all lead a different life, with different genetics, movement patterns, jobs, habitual patterns, and the likes. Addressing the individual in Pilates is therefore imperative. Not only does good posture look good, but it also places less stress on the spine, bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, and internal organs. Keeping the body in alignment allows a stronger more efficient body that can work at fighting off gravity.



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