Having good posture is essential for looking and feeling good, for maximizing your physical performance, and for preventing joint-related injuries.
Posture is the position your body assumes while standing, sitting, and lying down. Having good posture results in putting the least amount of strain on muscles, tendons, and ligaments, especially when you’re involved in physical load-bearing activities.
Good posture also contributes to optimal blood flow, muscle flexibility, optimal joint motion, and positive self-esteem. Ideal posture correlates with a spine that displays the three natural curves, when viewed from the side, and which is completely vertical when viewed from the front or back.
If you want to evaluate your own posture, you’ll need three things:
Friend to snap pictures
A plumb line is a string with a weight on one end that is attached to the ceiling above you. When the line hangs still, it displays a perfectly vertical line.
Get into your underwear or into a swimsuit and stand behind the plumb line, so that the weight is exactly midway between your feet. Then have your friend photograph you.
Turn around and stand with the weight exactly midway between your feet, and have your friend photograph you again from the back. Then turn 90 degrees and stand so that the plumb line is hanging along your side, with the weight next to your ankle bone. Have your friend photograph you again.
These three photographs will show you in what ways your body is imbalanced and misaligned from ideal. If you have ideal posture, your navel and your nose should be bisected by the plumb line. From the side view, your shoulder and hip joint should be bisected by the line.
If you repeat these three photographs periodically, say monthly, you will see that your posture changes. So, posture is a dynamic feature of our physiology. These changes do not result from changes in our bones (except in very rare cases), but from changes in our soft connective tissues; ligaments, tendons, and muscles. These changes are caused by physical stress, emotional stress, diet, environment, and physical trauma.
Healthy connective tissue is the key to good posture
Ligaments attach bone to bone and are very rigid. Changes in ligaments can be caused by poor nutrition in some instances, but are more likely caused by activity-related trauma.
Tendons connect muscle to bone. Changes and deterioration of tendons are more common than ligament-related problems, and can result from physical stress and injury, and also from poor nutrition.
Muscles are the primary contributor to changes in our posture. You can think of your 600 structural muscles as a network of rubber bands that stretch and contract. As they change, they tug our body in various ways, side to side, and front to back. It is primarily these muscular changes that cause changes in our posture.
There is a fourth connective tissue that is integrated into our muscles known as myofascia. Fascia is like a skin that wraps muscle fibers and bundles of fibers. If you look at a slab of beef, you can see the whitish fascia skin-like tissue integrated in with the muscle.
When muscles contract over a period of time due to stress, the myofascia responds by holding the muscle in that new, contracted position. This results in chronic muscle tension. Various muscles that are chronically contracted, or shortened, cause the network of 600 structural muscles to go out of balance, resulting in changes in your posture.
Fascia, and all connective tissue, is largely comprised of collagen. Therefore, from a nutritional perspective, nutrients that support the health and regeneration of collagen are important to our posture.
Those nutrients include:
- Manganese: Nuts, legumes, seeds, whole grains and leafy green veggies
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Fish oils and algae oil
- Vitamin A: Liver, carrots, sweet potato, kale, spinach, apricots, broccoli and winter squash
- Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, grapes, guava, red pepper, kiwi, bell peppers, berries and pineapple
- Sulfur: Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, turnips, brussel sprouts), allium veggies (garlic, onion, leeks, chives), eggs, fish and poultry
- Brown Rice
Another highly effective therapy for maintaining ideal posture is deep muscle massage. Deep muscle massage, when performed properly by a license professional, helps to ‘iron out’ the muscles, and especially the fascia within the muscle, resulting in relief from chronic muscle tension.
Deep muscle massage techniques were originally developed by osteopaths in Europe in the early twentieth century. They were imported into the United States by a natural health pioneer named Ida Rolf. In the 1960’s, Rolf founded an institute to teach these methods to therapists. Today, deep muscle techniques are taught by the majority of professional massage therapy institutes in the U.S.