In this post I want to talk a bit about posture…not the kind of Victorian deportment stuff, although that does come into it. What I really want to talk about is the link between posture and how we feel…I think there is in fact a much greater link than people realise.
Firstly, let’s get down to some basic physiology and anatomy…your spine carries all the nerve messages from your brain to the rest of your body, this includes parts of your body which are very important to your mental health, such as your stomach (which in itself produces neurotransmitters although medical science is not entirely sure why) and your adrenal glands. Your spine is very important and you need it to be functioning properly. A poorly aligned spine, brought on by bad posture, can put pressure on your spinal column and cause it to work less efficiently. It’s not just back pain you have to worry about, it’s also anxiety, depression, insomnia, stress and tension headaches, panic attacks etc.
Now, that doesn’t mean you can blame all your emotional problems on poor posture, but it may well be a (significant) part of the problem. And solving posture problems can be a great help towards feeling better.
So, how does one go about improving posture? You can of course seek the help of an osteopath or a chiropractor, and this should definitely be done if you are experiencing pain or have serious postural difficulties.
If however you want to feel more confident and relaxed, and have less anxiety and stress, sleep better and improve your mood, then some simple posture exercises might help you get into the good habits you need re-acquire.
Try standing in front of a mirror. Gently push your shoulders back and down, don’t force anything or push to the point of pain or discomfort. Next, push your hips forward, again, don’t exaggerate it, just push them forward so your bottom is tucked in. Now, without pushing your chest out like a sergeant-major, try to imagine your ears becoming aligned with the centre of your shoulders, hips and ankles, so they all pass through one vertical line.
Now, imagine your body is a string of pearls. Imagine that the top pearl is being held up, this is your head. Imagine it floating up to the ceiling, pulling you taller. As before, don’t force anything and stay within what is comfortable, good posture takes time and practice. So as your head floats up, imagine the rest of your body as the other pearls, pulled gently towards the ground by gravity.
Hold this position for as long as feels comfortable, but more importantly come back to it in your daily life as often as you can imagine, as you walk, work, sit and eat. The more you do it the more habit-forming it will be and the better your posture will become.