In this post: A posture assessment is a great way to learn how the muscles and bones in your body are working together in your body to keep you healthy and pain-free.
Correcting your posture and spinal alignment will change your life. That’s a bold statement, I know, but I stand by it.
I remember the first time my Pilates certification class performed a postural assessment on me–locked knees, turned out feet, rounded shoulders, protracted scapulas, forward head. I was a mess, and I had no idea.
What’s funny is, I thought I had really good posture.
I had been practicing Pilates for a while, and I was confident my core muscles would be enough to somehow keep my entire skeletal structure aligned. As it turns out, this is not true. Strong abs will not help you unlock your knees or put your shoulder blades in neutral on your back.
I was astounded by the amount of work I had to do to get my body into a more healthy position. This got me thinking. If this was what my body looked like as a Pilates instructor, what did everyone who worked a desk job look like?
With society tending to be more and more stooped from time spent on computers, at desks, and viewing small personal electronic devices; proper posture is increasingly important. However, as we gradually round forward, our tight muscles and poor form make proper posture more elusive.
This is why it’s crucial for anyone who values good posture, a pain-free body, and optimal health to know how to do a self-assessment. Here’s more about why posture assessments are important and what you need to know to do an honest posture assessment of yourself.
Why Is Posture Assessment Important?
Postural assessments are important for two main reasons:
- You need to know your body and its weaknesses so that you can choose the exercises that are best for you.
- Everything in your body is connected. We all know the catchy song about which bones are connected (even if we don’t remember the correct names of the bones), and it’s the same story with muscles. A tight muscle can pull on a neighboring muscle, which pulls on another muscle, which causes you pain in a different muscle entirely. For that reason, troubleshooting bodily pains is challenging.
Your Spine: The Ultimate Game of Jenga
When thinking about the body, I want you to think about a Jenga game. Take a look at the picture.
- Notice the compensation curve that happens to keep the stacked game pieces upright; a shift to the left must have a shift to the right to balance.
- Let’s also appreciate the base. It appears as if one block is supporting that entire tower!
- I’d also like to point out that there are areas where all the blocks are intact, yet the shift in the stack makes them potentially unstable.
How Jenga Translates to Your Body
Now, let’s think about the human body. Here is a lovely graphic that concisely illustrates neutral standing posture.
- Notice how the natural curve of the spine helps us to be aligned optimally to counter gravity and stay upright. It is worth noting that there is a curve to the spine at both the back of your neck (called the cervical spine) and the low back (called the lumbar spine). These curves are offset by a curve of the spine in the area of the spine behind the rib cage (called the thoracic spine).
- Look at those feet, so lovely and neutral! You can bet that this person is standing evenly on both feet, with both feet facing forward. The feet are the base of your personal Jenga game, so they are extremely important.
- It’s not mentioned in the graphic, but shoulder placement is also important.
How to Do a Posture Assessment of Yourself
In an assessment, you are just checking to see where you are posturally and not worrying about making corrections. And, although self-realization is very important, doing something to correct issues that could be causing you problems is more desirable. Therefore, I’m going to offer corrections following each step in blue.
Before you begin your posture assessment of yourself, I highly recommend having a long mirror handy. If you don’t have a long mirror, adjust yourself so you can see as much of your body as possible.
1. Check your feet.
Are you standing evenly on both feet? Is your weight on the inside, outside, or center of your foot? Is there more weight toward the toe or heel of your foot? You want to feel like the weight of your body is coming down to your foot right in front of your ankle.
2. Look at your knees.
You should be able to see your knee caps. They should not be sunken, level with your shin and thigh. If your knee caps are sunken, put a soft bend in the back of your knee. I know that it will feel like you’re standing around with your knees bent, but most likely, you are returning your knees to neutral. They will thank you for this correction later.
3. Check your hips and pelvis.
Put a pointer finger on each side of the front, top part of your pelvis. Look down. Is one finger more forward than another finger? If yes, your pelvis is rotated. Check out my posts about the internal and external obliques to learn what exercises you can do to bring your pelvis back to neutral.
Now, put your thumbs in that divot that is found on the pelvis, at the base of the spine. Stretch your hands to reach your pointer fingers around to the front of the hips, and try to get the pointer fingers on the spot they just left.
We are checking the tilt of the pelvis here. Is your pointer finger lower or higher in space than your thumb? If your pointer finger is higher, you have an anterior pelvic tilt. If your pointer finger is lower, you have a posterior pelvic tilt. Your goal is to use your abs and glutes to get your pointer fingers and thumbs on the same plane.
4. Check your rib cage.
Find your bottom rib and place your pointer fingers on approximately the same spot on each side. Is one finger in front of the other? If yes, your rib cage is rotated. Your rib cage and pelvis do not necessarily both have to be rotated or even rotated the same direction. Everyone is different!
5. Look at your shoulders.
From the side, do the shoulders round forward so they’re no longer in the midline of the body? If yes, you could have scapula protraction (shoulder blades have moved away from the spine), medial rotation of the humerus (arm is rounded in toward the midline of the body), or a combination of both.
6. Find a way to see a profile of your head placement in the mirror.
Is the center of your ear in line with the center of your shoulder? Now, look at yourself straight on. Is your head level from side to side? Is it rotated? You want your head to be in a perfectly neutral position.
So, What Should You Do with Your Honest Posture Assessment?
Once you’ve completed your posture assessment, you might wonder what to do with this new, insightful information. Honestly, you’ve got a couple of choices.
- You could do nothing. Sometimes, we just need to check in with where we are physically to become more aware of how we carry ourselves throughout the day.
- You could practice Pilates exercises and yoga poses specifically to balance your body and help strengthen areas where you are weak or misaligned. Above, I linked to several posts about muscles. In those posts, I discuss what you can do to strengthen and stretch the specific muscle. This will allow your body to return to a more neutral position, and it will help relieve pain you might be feeling in that specific area.
If you are searching for a way to get rid of hip pain permanently, sign up to receive your copy of this FREE guide. These yoga poses were specifically chosen for their ability to stretch tight hip muscles and provide the relief you crave.
In your postural assessment, what did you find? Are you having any specific issues that you’d like to see me address in the future? Please comment below.