We’ve always been told by our parents and teachers to “sit up tall”, and not to to “slouch,” but when asked, most people don’t really know why posture is so important. Your posture has an affect on just about everything in your body including, nonverbal communication, breathing, mood & confidence, stress & sex hormones, circulation and Injury, both chronic and acute. But, bad posture is not always what people “picture” in their mind, either. For example, you might have too much of a posterior tilt (picture pink panther’s rear) or too much of an anterior tilt (picture donald duck’s rear) and most people would not recognize these faulty postures on others or themselves, but the stress that they put on the body can be just as damaging, long term.
So, why is Posture so important:
Communication: What are you telling others about yourself with your body language? With rounded shoulders and your head hanging low, you are conveying a lack of confidence and a more depressed mood. Studies have actually shown that how you hold yourself can be the difference of you doing well in an interview and securing a job, even if your qualifications are superior to others. That’s pretty powerful. It’s a chicken-egg situation…If you maintain a bad posture, your body will feel more depressed and you will give off a negative energy to others and back to yourself, continuing the cycle. And vice versa…if you are feeling down, your posture starts changing to a more slumped position. Just by holding your head high and keeping your shoulders back, your mood can start to change and you now convey a confident, happy and capable individual.
Breathing: Poor posture leads to inefficient use of the entire body, but in particular the muscles necessary for proper breathing. Proper breathing actually requires proper posture, thus with a spine that is out of alignment, there is tension created in our respiratory muscles, both primary and secondary. When these muscles are tighter, breathing can become more labored, your body has to work a whole lot harder to take a breath, making the body a lot less efficient and fatiguing the body. You don’t necessarily feel this, as this is all goes on behind the scenes, but what you might experience long term is waking up after a full night’s sleep and still being tired or getting tired quickly throughout the day. Shallow breathing can also lead to anxiety, stress and neck pain. We all know that breathing is essential to life, but proper breathing is essential to health, both mental and physical.
Biomechanics of the body: Let’s face it, the human body is more intricate than any piece of machinery, car or computer system out there, but not many look at it in this way. Injuries, joint pain, headaches, plantar fasciitis, tight hips….you name it…these might all be a sign that your spine is simply out of alignment. We can get manually adjusted all we want, but if our tight muscles are going to pull us right back into our poor positioning, we will return to the same chronic symptoms. Think of a car with four wheels. If your car is out alignment, you can still drive and might not even feel it, but over time, you’ll not only feel a pull, but you will negatively impact the whole system. The more you drive with it out of alignment, the worse it gets. Same thing with the body. Let’s say you’re a runner and you run long distances with an already sub-optimal posture…you are burdening every joint in the body with EVERY step you take, creating mechanical stress and a faster rate of injury while also further driving that poor posture pattern into the neural pathway.
Organs & Hormones: Rounded shoulders, forward head posture, tight chest and neck muscles will eventually and likely lead to a shortened first rib angle which will place a lot of pressure on the organs encased in our ribs. If there is less room for these organs to move and “breathe,” there is less oxygen, blood flow, nutrients and room to do it’s necessary work. This is tremendous stress on the body as it continues to tries to keep everything running smoothly. Studies have shown a great correlation between organ function, hormones and your posture. Let’s take cortisol for example, the stress hormone that is responsible for stress and anxiety; In one study, subjects whose posture was changed by opening shoulders and chests saw a decrease in cortisol by 20% in as little as 2 minutes of maintaining this good posture.
To take it full circle, our hormones affect our mood, our mood affects our posture, our posture affects our breathing, stress level and joint and organ function, which affects our rate of chronic and acute injury, affecting our ability to work and function in the world.
I’d say posture is more important than most people think!