I knew I had bad posture when I was a teenager and a fellow teenager commented on it. Although we were all slumped over, apparently, I excelled at it. This was not where I wanted my expertise to be.
Over time, I realized that the advice “sit up straight” doesn’t really work. You need to rebuild the structure from the ground up, so that good posture just happens. It shouldn’t be something that you have to think about, day in and day out. After all, you probably have more important things to think about than the state of your spinal column.
What is Good Posture?
Posture is the orientation of parts, according to biomechanist Katy Bowman. Webster, of dictionary fame, says that posture is the way that your body is positioned when you are sitting or standing. It is not a perfect position you are after, says Ms. Bowman, but rather a set of forces that allows your system to function best as a whole.
Good thing. I am not so into the concept of perfect anyway.
The 4 Benefits of Good Posture
If you are improving on your posture (and there are many ways to do that), here are some benefits that you can expect. I know that I am more likely to do something if someone is dangling a carrot in front of me, and I figure I am not the only one:
1. Stress Relief
A recent study from the University of Auckland found that people sitting upright exhibited a more positive emotional state than those who were slumped, and specifically felt more “enthusiastic, excited and strong.” The researchers theorized that the brain translates the muscular and hormonal signals attached to bodily posture into emotions.
2. Confidence Booster
A famous study looked at people in confident versus doubtful postures. Turns out you can fake it until you make it, because sitting confidently results in feeling more confident. Amy Cuddy became well known for her studies on “power posing,” which can not only display power, but also actually make it happen. Who knew that a positive self-attitude was so deliberately linked to the way that we sit?
3. Lower Your Fear
In a study published in Health Psychology, researchers found that participants who weren’t slouching reported feeling lower feelings of fear. Even so, I will not, I repeat, will not, be watching Season 2 of Stranger Things.
4. Breathe Better
Meditation and yoga teachers often encourage an upright posture (I should know, I’m one of them). We believe it makes it easier to breathe from the diaphragm, helping to enter a relaxed mindset. This isn’t just hippy science. Real studies have proven that bad posture really does affect breathing and lung capacity. Check out this playlist for a soundtrack to use when practicing both yoga and good posture.
Your muscles, tendons and ligaments can become trained by constant slouching, making it all too easy to return to that baseline. Keep a healthy spine, a strong core and a positive attitude and soon you will be sitting like a ballerina!