Most of your life is taken up by sitting, lying down, walking or standing. Isn’t it? Therefore important to do these things well? “Well?” you say, “but I just stand and walk the way I’ve always done it.” Yes you do, and like most people, you have back pain, or hip pain, or shoulder pain, or headaches And these things could be made worse by something as simple as poor posture while standing and walking, if not completely caused by it.
Why is posture important?
Well, because it is related to flow. A river that flows freely is going to be more natural and in a better state than one that has a dam added and is having toxic chemicals poured into it. It’s flowing naturally, and in the way a river would be, it is happy. Your body, in its natural, unaltered state, where movement is easy and effortless, is happy and more likely to be pain free.
It isn’t by chance that Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian man fits so cleanly inside a circle with a square placed over it. All patterns and shapes in nature are bound by the laws of geometry. Da Vinci was likely trying to display how our bodies fit into these laws, but as he was a highly spiritual man, I believe he also understood that if our bodies stay in line with these laws, it is ultimately better for us in our lives and he was trying to display this in his work.
So how do we stand up straighter? By strengthening the muscles that help us stand upright, and keeping the muscles that pull us out of a good posture, flexible. It’s that easy. So what areas are those?
- The plantar fascia. Weak, flat soles of the feet will mean you lean forward from the ankles. Try picking up marbles with your feet while watching TV to strengthen the feet.
- The hamstrings. These big posterior chain muscles need to hold you upright from the hip. Weak hammys will cause you to break at the hips, shifting your weight forward of centre. As they work through hip extension, Romanian deadlifts are my favourite for correcting this.
- The Rhomboids, mid/lower traps and external rotator cuff. Weakness here allows the shoulder blades to roll forward, internally rotating the shoulder joints, putting you into a kyphosis through the mid back. Cable face pulls and low rowing type movements are my preferred way of correcting this.
- Quads and Hip Flexors : As you lean and rotate forward, your pelvis will tilt and you’ll be pulled down into the quads and the hip flexors. Lunging type stretches, both with and without the knee flexed, are the best way to lengthen these areas. Hold for over 60 seconds and don’t forget to breathe.
- The chest and upper traps : Tightness here compounds the problems associated with weakness in the rhomboids as mentioned above. A correctly used foam roller is the best way to increase length here, as chest stretches in general are not easy or enjoyable to do and place the shoulder and elbows at risk.
- The sternocleidomastoid : Often ignored, if the head is jutting forward, and trust me, it is, unless you’ve done ballet, gymnastics or yoga for any decent length of time ; the rope like muscles at the front of your neck, either side of the Adam’s Apple, will be tight. Getting yourself into the upward facing dog yoga pose and slowly tilting the head back, is the best way to lengthen these troublesome muscles.
Guest author, Dan Cossins, is a former international sprinter. An experienced personal trainer, strength and conditioning specialist, he has been helping people transform their health for over seven years, as well as coaching track and field athletes to many major championships, including the Olympics. Dan can be contacted at Well holistic therapies centre in Bath.