Do you think of your bones as unchangeable? Or maybe you believe that they do change, but only in the direction of degradation?
That’s not how your body works.
You have cells that help build bone (osteoblasts) and others that help break it down (osteoclasts). While it’s true that production of osteoblasts can slow down with age, the way you use your body continues to exert an influence on the formation and resiliency of your bones.
This also holds true for your joints and muscles, as well.
Your posture—while standing and moving—creates either virtuous or vicious circles, meaning that as your posture affects your body’s health and appearance, so will those factors then influence your posture.
This is why practice doesn’t always make perfect. Doing the same thing over and over reinforces that particular behavior, regardless of whether it’s beneficial to you or not.
Kelly Starrett, cofounder of Crossfit and MobilityWOD states it perfectly: “Your body adapts to the position you assume for most of the day. In turn, this impacts the ways we move throughout the day.”
An obvious example of this is the hunched-over posture that’s encouraged by the use of computers, phones, and modern chairs (ugh, especially car seats). As you regularly adopt this posture, certain muscles lengthen and others shorten which pull on your joints and bones in various ways. Over time, your bones will begin to take the rounded-shoulder shape and you may even develop kyphosis (excessive upper back rounding, aka a “hunch”).
If you’ve noticed this in your mirror, all is not lost. You can change your posture.
When you think this will take time and effort, you’r right. Thankfully, it’s only initial time and effort. Eventually, your practice makes it permanent—as long as you maintain this beneficial habit, that is.
5-step checklist for good standing posture—try it NOW!
FEET Look down at your feet. Align them under your hips (If you’re unsure how far apart, think about two fists’ worth of space). Make sure they’re parallel and pointing straight forward.
HIPS Feel like you’re rotating your hips open, almost like you’re trying to open your toes out like a ballerina—except nothing moves. You’ll feel your glutes (butt muscles) engage, but don’t squeeze them together. Remember, nothing actually moves as you do this.
CORE Stack your spine directly above your hips and lock this into place by lightly engaging your abs. Imagine that a big friendly dog is about to jump up on you—your core muscles should naturally brace for the impact. This won’t require much effort or hinder your breathing if done properly.
SHOULDERS Just as you rotated your hips out, you’ll do the same thing with your shoulders. There may be some movement and you’ll feel the muscles between your shoulder blades engage. Another way of thinking about this is to broaden through your collarbones.
HEAD Stack this over your spine. Imagine a string at the crown of your head, lifting you up and taking all pressure off your neck.. Your chin will be in a neutral position (not lifted up).
You got it?
Then I have a quick question: Are you rigid or relaxed?
If you’re not relaxed, loosen up! There is ease in good posture. That doesn’t mean that it will automatically feel natural to you—depending on how you’ve been regularly standing, it might not. The next step is to practice moving with good posture. And don’t forget to breathe!
Next week, I’ll share some range-of-motion assessments with you—and ways to help you regain your natural, pain-free suppleness!