Assess and Improve Your Posture

Working on correcting your posture and spinal alignment will change your life. Really?, you might ask skeptically. Well, would having a spinal surgery change your life? Probably, huh. So we’re going to take some time to talk about good neutral posture and do a postural self assessment.

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. And, good news, both Pilates and yoga help to improve posture. Yay!

Why Is Your Posture Important?

Today, we’re going to discuss how to do a quick postural assessment on yourself. This is important for two reasons.

  1. When I talk about exercises in the future and who could benefit from them, I want you to know if I’m talking to you.
  2. 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 muscle, which pulls on a muscle, which causes you pain in a different muscle entirely. For that reason, trouble shooting bodily pains is challenging.

Your Spine:  The Ultimate Game of Jenga

Jenga puzzle out of alignment

When thinking about the body, I want you to think about a Jenga game. So let’s look at this Jenga.

  • Notice the compensation curve that happens to keep the game 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 in tact, yet the shift in the stack makes them potentially unstable.

 

 

 

neutral standing postureSo 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 is slight enough that we can really get ourselves aligned optimally to counter gravity and keep us 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.

Self Postural Assessment

Here’s how to do a postural assessment on 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, so I’m going to have the suggested corrections following each step in purple.

I highly recommend having a long mirror or adjusting yourself with the mirror you’re using so that 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 and they will thank you for it 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. There will be exercises that we will do to correct this. 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 have to both be rotated or both be rotated the same direction. Everyone is different!
  5. Look at your shoulders. From the side, do the shoulders round forward so that 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.

In your postural assessments, what did you find? Are you having any specific issues that you’d like to see me address in the future? Please comment below.

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Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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