Written by Sarah Loogman
The first world is one of luxury and convenience. The way we live our lives is so intimately woven with the desire for ease and efficiency that aspects of our lost humanity have gone unnoticed, or in the very least the root cause unidentified. Although the conveniences of our modern world have allowed us as a species to evolve and reach out in a number of incredible ways, there are also inherent downfalls of this lifestyle that may impede our abilities to optimize human function and performance.
Our daily lives are often absorbed with near-sightedness – our gaze never doesn’t often extend very far and rarely to the horizon. We’re bent over cell phones and laptops, we’re absorbed in our work space, we engage only with the people nearest to us. The very position, or posture, that humans carry themselves in throughout the day to day has fundamentally changed and it has evolutionarily reshaped the way we move – usually for the worse.
A forward head, downward gaze, slumped shoulders and hunched spine physically changes the way your body rests, recovers and moves. A forward head and hunched spine will weaken the muscles of the neck and upper back meant to stabilize and align the thoracic and cervical spine. The head then falls forward, we lower our gaze, and the muscles in our chest shorten and only further pull us into dysfunction. This forward posture not only affects our mechanical function, but can even affect our breathing patterns and ability to recover between bouts of physical activity or stressful events. Finally, the results of poor posture can lead to chronic and acute injury both in high performance athletes and desk jockeys.
If you’re among the majority of the modern generation plagued by poor posture (if you think you’re not, you’re probably wrong), then here are some practices to help you regain your human posture:
Although you may have the ability to perform 100 sit-ups, the reality is that the majority of the modern first world’s work hours are spent seated and doing little to nothing in terms of movement. The lack of stability in being seated for extended periods of time results in poor midline strength that can contribute to poor posture when the body tires too much to remain upright. Learning to breathe properly with use of the diaphragm, or “belly breathing,” can provide strength to the inner core and provide a better framework by which a person moves. Breathing is the ultimate ab exercise!
Mid Back Activation
Although more major accessory movements such as bent over rows or lat pull downs may come to mind, there is a more fundamental problem in that chronically poor posture will entirely reshape the framework of your your skeleton rests – your bones and joints have forgotten where they belong. Upper back activation must be performed very deliberately in order to retrain the frame itself and resistance exercises such as YTA’s, seated Z-presses, or using a band system such as Crossover Symmetry can help regain physical awareness to the structure of the body. The micro movements associated with good posture are often very slight, so slow and controlled repetitions and light weight are best in these accessory exercises.
Self Myofascial Release
Although most people use mobility implements to simply “roll around” with little to no actual impact, deliberate use of a foam roller, lacrosse ball, or other implement to targeted areas can help release the body to it’s optimal position of function. Areas of the chest, traps, neck, scapula and even abdomen can help achieve more openness in posture and breathing. The more open our body cavities, the better we can practice breathing techniques as well! Mobility is a patient exercise – practice slow movement in a distraction-free setting when using self-myofascial release techniques.
Posture is about more than just being well-mannered and attentive, although it’s every bit a position of confidence as well. But on a physical level and from a perspective of human performance and optimized function, especially to the athlete, it is invaluable and at the very basis to any functional pattern that generates from core to extremity. Regularly “practice” your posture the way you would approach your normal training, diet and recovery routine and learn how to control your body in the ways it is meant to move.