Compromised posture places limitations on the expansion of the chest. Non-optimal body alignment impedes the response of respiratory muscles to signals from the brain / nervous system control centers. The autonomous nature of breathing succumbs to the inadequate posture which, in turn, minimizes the total amount of air / oxygen that could be made available to the body. What becomes important is to make optimal posture a ‘conscious act’. It is through consistently performing basic movements that optimal posture, and more full breathing by proxy, becomes an advantageous habit.
If one really observes their surroundings, they find many examples of inadequate posture . The conveniences of chairs, cars, buses, escalators, computers, cell phones, etc . . . all contribute to the degrading of posture. Cars, chairs, buses facilitate inactivity of the core. Computers and cell phones encourage a forward head syndrome. Escalators take away for the use of the largest muscles in the body, the legs and hips; those muscles that enable one to stand and to move. Postural challenges abound all of these situations.
Postural challenges can hamper the muscular response to signals from the brain. The brain (nervous system) induces an automatic breathing response. This is to say that breathing happens on the periphery of ‘awareness’. The body will breath ‘just enough’ to maintain life. Indulging bad posture is akin to encouraging inadequate breathing. Inadequate posture limits the degree to which the lungs can bring in oxygen to and expel carbon dioxide from the body. Thus, the dynamic of maximizing fresh oxygen uptake and expelling maximal amounts of carbon dioxide is never fully actualized.
Can optimal posture be made a ‘conscious act’? Can breathing, by proxy, become fuller due to better posture? The answer on both accounts is ‘yes’. Posture is a direct result of the activity of voluntary muscles. The very muscles that allow us to stand up, twist right or left, to reach, to move to and fro are the very muscles involved with maintaining posture. The effort to engage the musculature in the maintaining of optimal posture must become ‘habitual’. One may not, from minute to minute have great posture. Yet, it can be returned to good form when inadequacy is detected. Better breathing will naturally follow suit.
The good news is that posture can improve with a few simple exercises. Balance-specific workouts address posture. Exercises that build strength where needed and stretches that loosen tight muscles will address structural challenges to optimal posture. Quick posture checks in the mirror before and during balance exercises can also help one to get the most from regular workouts. Also, increasing flexibility and core strength can help improve posture noticeably.
Good posture means:
- chin parallel to the floor
- shoulders even (roll your shoulders up, back, and down to help achieve this)
- neutral spine (no flexing or arching to overemphasize the curve in your lower back)
- arms at your sides with elbows straight and even
- abdominal muscles braced
- hips even
- knees even and pointing straight ahead
- body weight distributed evenly on both feet
- keep weight on the corners of the feet
- keep knees slightly bent
- feet positioned about shoulder-width apart
- arms hang naturally at the sides
- legs should be straight but not locked
- push feet into the floor
- lengthen your spine
- ears, shoulders, hips and knees line up