Good posture broken down…
We all are aware that posture is important but the reasoning behind why it is so important is often unexplained in simple terms.
As you see in the picture below, ideal posture is created when all joints are in a neutral position, allowing the forces of gravity to be evenly distributed throughout the body.
The points of the body through which the plumb line of optimal alignment falls are:
the ear lobethe cervical vertebrae (neck)
the tip of the shoulder
dividing the thorax (ribcage) in half
the lumbar vertebrae
slightly behind the hip joint
slightly infront of the centre of the knee joint
slightly infront of the outside ankle bone
When the optimal alignment is achieved, the wear and tear on these major joints and the muscles surrounding them will be minimal.
Correct muscle length will be maintained and the stabilising muscles will be utilised properly.
Stabilising muscles explained…The stabilising muscles are the deep postural muscles supporting the spine. As we go about our daily activities; from walking up escalator stairs to reaching for an object on a shelf, it is the following stabilising muscles that support each and every movement we make in life:
Lower Transverse Abdominis – Uddiyana Bandha or Core
The pelvic floor muscles – Mula Bandha
Multifidis (deep stabiliser muscles along the spine)
Movement and posture habits stick!
The body sends muscle-recruitment messages to the brain, which recognises patterns of movement and locks them into its memory banks. Whether it is good or bad posture, if a pattern of behaviour is repeated a number of times it sends a message to the nervous system which accepts them as the ‘normal’ or ‘default’ way. The body automatically reverts to that posture when our body-awareness is low and we are operating from the mind only. Notice how your posture suffers when sitting for long periods of time, the shoulders round and your head juts forward of your neck and spine.
Back, neck or shoulder ache?
Aches, pains and injuries occur when these deep stabilising muscles are not working correctly. When the body is held out of it’s correct alignment for sustained periods of time, due to the body recognising and recreating a certain habit of posture, the stabilising muscles are weakened and other muscles are forced to take control of stabilising the body.
Someone else’s job…
The other muscle group is the mobiliser muscles, closer to the surface of our body, whose main job is to move the limbs around. These superficial muscles take on a job they shouldn’t be doing – Stabilising – and this can cause tension of the neck, shoulders and lower back.
Ever wondered what the knots in your back are?
The muscles around the neck and shoulders are working harder to hold your head up if you have a tendency to jut your head forward. If the head is aligned on top of the neck (cervical vertebrae) then this lessens the load dramatically and mobiliser muscles in the upper back area are not forced to stabilise.
The hamstrings are a prime example of mobiliser muscles that have taken on the job of stabilising the body at the detriment of their own mobilising job, changing their fibre type and no longer working efficiently as movement synergists. The cause is commonly a combination of tightness in the short hip flexors and extensor spinae, weakness in the abdominal and gluteal muscles, which increases the pelvic tilt and makes the hamstrings resist this imbalance in the pelvic girdle above them by shortening and tensing.
Yoga can help change the body’s memory banks…
Tadasana, Mountain Pose, in Yoga encourages optimal alignment of the musculoskeletal system by speaking to each of the major girdles in the body. By recreating this throughout your Yoga practice, new patterns of correct posture are recognised by the brain and nervous system and are saved as the new ‘default’. The practice of Yoga strengthens the three stabiliser muscle groups listed above through use of the bandhas, lengthens the tight and shortened mobiliser muscles and allows a healthy alignment to be created once more.