Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes: What's the Big Deal About Posture?

More and more it seems that our society is plagued with jobs and activities that require prolonged sitting or standing, which can really take a toll on our body over time. Often, we’re encouraged to sit (or stand) with good posture. But what does that actually mean?

Our spine consists of 24 vertebrae, or small bones that are stacked on top of each other. They are meant to move and glide in a number of different directions. The majority of these bones are meant to glide forward, backwards, side to side, and rotate on each other, which offers us the ability to function. Further, these 24 bones are classified into cervical, thoracic or lumbar regions, depending on where they are located.

Naturally, our spine has 3 curves and is shaped like an elongated ‘S’. Typically, good posture is referred to as keeping these curves in the most neutral or aligned position by holding our muscles just right. Realistically throughout the day, it is rare that we are participating in an activity that requires absolute stillness. And, if we are sitting or standing for prolonged times, it’s next to impossible to hold the same position in the spine without experiencing aching and discomfort after just a few minutes.

The way we like to think about posture is not just sitting or standing in one position, but a variety of different positions. Posture is the many different ways that the spine can move. In thinking about it this way, we can change the way we think about prolonged sitting or standing positions. Instead of staying static, we can take our spine through different movements just by simply shifting our weight, reaching upwards or reaching sideways. If done frequently throughout the day, we can avoid the uncomfortable aches and pains that come along with staying static.

Give these 3 seated movements a try and don’t forget to breathe!

- Reach your left hand above your head, towards the ceiling. Really reach up! As high as you can! Exhale as you bring the arm down and switch to reach your right hand above your head in the same way. Repeat 5 times each.

- Cross your arms over your chest. Rotate your chest and shoulders towards the right as you gaze over your left shoulder. Return to centre. Rotate your chest and shoulders towards the left as you gaze over your right shoulder. Return to centre and repeat 5 times each way.

- Place your hands in your lap and sit tall. Inhale and slowly trace your gaze from the baseboards on the floor in front of you, all the way up the wall to the ceiling. As you do this, gently push your chest forward and tilt your hips forward as well. Think about rounding through the low back so that from head to hips, you are creating a gradual curve. As you exhale, slowly trace your gaze back down to where it started, tuck the chin to the chest, and push your chest and hips back as though you are creating a curve in the opposite direction.

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