Posture is not just something for stuffy mothers to scold their kids over; bad posture can be a real pain in the neck. Learn to stand tall.
I am from Venezuela, a country of tropical beauty, full of exuberant women and where the school of beauty queens has become part of the culture of the country. Elegance is a key aspect that stands out in the ideal girl who wears the banner of each province. The graceful walk demonstrates confidence that leads to triumph even without words being spoken. The girls spend hours practicing how to walk erect, with beauty experts using rigorous tools like books on top of their heads that balance their body weight. The added difficulty of wearing heels increases ankle flexion which tightens calves and creates a stimulus in the buttocks and lower back. This is sometimes a painful experience. As a bodybuilding competitor in the bikini category, I have experienced all of this.
Walking gracefully is an art, and like all art, with practice and patience, it can be perfected. Because of daily routines with our work, we develop neural trauma stress from sitting in front of the computer, attending meetings, standing for long periods of time, carrying portfolios with one arm, or carrying backpacks on one side. As a result, the body develops degenerated muscles that create an imbalance in the spine, which perpetuates the human condition of slouching forward with our shoulders and pelvic area.
Posture determines not only the anatomical structure of the spine but how we project ourselves to the world. When we see someone with a hump, hunched over with their head down, we make automatic assumptions about the person. The slouch invites the judgments that the person is disinterested, unengaged, maybe lazy, or even ill. You cannot imagine how posture defines you. By standing tall and straight, and by maintaining proper posture, people will view us as athletic, healthy and confident.
The question remains; however. How do we know if we have good posture?
When we look in the mirror, our eyes, shoulders and hips should be aligned and from sideways we should be able to draw a vertical line from our ears to the shoulders and the hips. If you find this difficult to do, just ask a relative or friends who will be honest when describing you. Do not worry about the results though, since identifying an imbalance gives us one more reason to exercise on a daily basis and eliminate the compensation that we have developed on one side or the other.
A common problem is to have one’s head forward, since our head can weigh up to 15 kilos; imagine the damage this can cause to the muscles of the neck. This can lead to intense neck pain, pain in the trapezius muscle, and even pain in the lower spinal column. When the head is positioned forward more than it should be, the muscles of the lower back become tight and overstretched. This debilitation and degeneration of this area makes correct posture more difficult to achieve, further complicating the problem.
Bad habits acquired through working in an incorrect position or posture can take years to correct, though through an action plan it is possible to improve these bad habits. People say it takes 21 days to break a habit. In human beings, posture plays a very important role in communicating nonverbal and emotional signals. Psychological studies have shown the effects of posture on body emotions. Charles Darwin conducted studies in which he investigated emotion and movement in humans and animals. Studies have shown that certain positions are a reflection of specific emotions, such as when a person is upset, their body tends to lean forward, however a person who feels depressed or is normally introspective has their shoulders down and their neck lowered.
Posture and body language are closely related when we present ourselves to the world. We can project everything from trust to insecurity. Naturally, body language, facial expressions, and gestures reflect much more than we think. This is why others perceive us by how we move in the world. An important element in my previous article where I described how I overcame my problem of scoliosis is that proper posture was crucial for my improvement. Prior to focusing on yoga and developing my abdominal trunk muscles, I walked with a hump with my hips angled forward. My mother, a tall woman with a great deal of elegance, tried correcting my shoulder position, but I took her advice the wrong way and did nothing to correct my mistake. I continued to forget to straighten myself.
In school, I was not the most physically attractive of the group, and this was influenced greatly by my posture. The beauty of working with and recognizing the weaknesses in your own body is that this work comes from the inside out in all aspects. I began to value myself more as a person and love myself for who I am and what I offer to the world. When I release myself from mental pressure, I relieve myself of the physical demands of carrying that pressure as well.
From the moment I wake up, my body feels compact and strong from the core out, and so when I open a door and arrive at any event or place, I walk with confidence and greet everyone with respect. By improving posture, you become taller. Now, I walk straight and am happy to represent Venezuela abroad, helping and sharing moments of happiness with my clients and students of Yoga and Pilates around the world.
For these reasons and more, as a personal trainer, Yoga instructor, and Pilates and fitness professional I never allow any of my clients or students to hunch at any time during my hour of work and exercises. I always ensure that their spine is aligned with each motion and movement.
If you noticed that you have a hunched position or back pain while reading this article, I’m sure that you have corrected it several times by now. Those corrections are the first steps to improvement. Every time you find yourself in front of a mirror, stand tall and remember to always gracefully and decisively look forward. By so doing, your dreams and tall attitude will take you wherever you imagine.