It’s undeniable that great posture makes you look more streamlined, feel more confident and be more poised. You move with relative ease, put less strain on your body and generally feel more capable and physically able. When you hold your body in optimal alignment it not only makes you look and feel great, but it also projects a more confident, connected and physically intelligent version of yourself that other people pick up on and admire.
Optimal postural alignment is vital to our wellness as it affects so many interlinked aspects of our health and wellbeing including:
Breathing: lung capacity and patterns of breathing
Connection between core and pelvic floor: pelvic floor function
Position of internal organs: digestive tract & reproductive organs
Efficiency of movement: ease of movements, ability to lift loads and flexibility
Joint health: range of movement, stress placed upon joints
Freedom from pain: myofascial restrictions and adhesions e.g. back pain, neck, shoulder pain etc.
Appearance: core engagement, pelvic position, shoulder girdle position, foot position
Mental state: emotional states, stress levels, positivity and social perception
So, it is vital that we take steps to ensure that our alignment is optimised so that our body works with optimum efficiency but also so that we avoid any potential problems that may occur as a result of postural deviation from the norm.
So, what causes postural deviations? Well in most occurrences it all comes down to how your soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, tendons and fascia interconnect with your bones and the shape and size of the bony structures themselves. It relates to the balance between opposing muscle groups- are muscles on one side of a joint at their optimal length or are they overstretched, lengthened and weak thus unable to hold a body part in its correct optimal position? Or are they shortened, over-tight and strong thus pulling a body part beyond its optimal position.
The causes for these muscular imbalances can be varied including:
Injury to joints, muscles
Work-life postures e.g. sitting at desks, working with machinery etc.
Scar tissue causing myofascial adhesions/restrictions/tightness in tissues preventing full range of movement
Unilateral sports/recreational activities focusing on one side of the body
Poor physical awareness
Optimising your posture can be a relatively simple process based upon being perceptive enough to ascertain what needs to be corrected, creating a programme for correcting it and then applying the strategies regularly and repeatedly until posture has been corrected and is now the new norm.
Carry out a full body alignment screening
Identify areas for postural correction
Identify causes for the deviation
Create a strategy for eliminating the causes
Create a programme for myofascial release
Create a physical programme for correcting muscular imbalances
Review the process
Postural deviations can be the result of long-term ingrained habits and hence they will take a perceptive eye, self-awareness, commitment and time to undo and correct.
One of the quickest ways to start, support and maintain the process is to start with some myofascial release via a stretching routine or massage to create a blank canvas and then to take part in regular physical activity that promotes good posture.
Personal training or group personal training can do wonders for helping you to specifically correct muscular imbalances that are bespoke to your needs. You can also take part in exercise classes or sports that have a focus on correct alignment and work both sides of the body equally such as Barre, Pilates, Yoga etc.
Whichever type of physical activity that you pursue try to ensure that you take that allotted time each week to be mindful of your posture, learn from your instructor and try to take what you have learnt out of the session and into daily living. You will soon find that by regularly repeating the process of awareness, release and retraining that you will soon start to see results and reap the benefits of optimal alignment.
NB: Some postural deviations can occur due to imbalances in the bony structures e.g. one limb being shorter than the other. This is quite common as most of us are not exactly symmetrical and in case where the difference is small we can accommodate them with no ill effect. However, if the deviation is large then this would be best diagnosed and treated by a medical practitioner or physiotherapist so that measures beyond myofascial release and exercise can be considered and implemented for an optimal outcome.