Moving Your Way to Health with Jenny Bertrand :
Have you checked in with your posture today? As you read this blog, do you notice it? Do you feel any stiffness or tightening in your upper back/shoulders or neck? Is your lower back feeling tight or cramped? Do you have any idea what your body is feeling? Does it even really matter?
I think posture does matter and based on research I’ve done and what I’ve personally seen with hundreds of Essentrics clients, we can adopt habits and develop strength and flexibility to balance the body and promote healthy posture throughout life.
Helen Miren said an interview in 2014 about her role as Madam Mallory in The Hundred Foot Journey, “Posture is everything. And it’s nice to play a role where you have to remember to stand up straight. But in general, posture is just one of the secrets of life and longevity, I think.”
Posture and Mental Health
Can how we carry ourselves really contribute to life and longevity? It seems worth exploring. What do we have to lose? After all, as Maya Angelou wrote, “Stand up straight, and realize who you are, that you tower over your circumstances.” It’s not just about standing like a superhero for two minutes; it’s about carrying yourself with power and pride and poise, as you deserve to do.”
Amy Cuddy, Social psychologist and bestselling author explains in her 2012 TED talk “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are,” that studies show adopting expansive poses increases people’s feelings of power and confidence. And feeling powerful is a critical psychological variable. According to Cuddy, “when our body language is confident and open, other people respond in kind, unconsciously reinforcing not only their perception of us but also our perception of ourselves.”
Posture and Physical Health and Appearance
Healthy posture and posture awareness is also critical to physical health and appearance. In our society, however, forward head posture is common, and this causes serious physical consequences. “For every inch of Forward Head Posture, it can increase the weight of the head on the spine by an additional 10 pounds.” -Kapandji, Physiology of Joints, Vol. 3. To support this extra weight and misalignment of spine, muscles become imbalanced, some chronically shortened, others chronically lengthened, and have to work overtime just to keep us upright. This is exhausting and painful.
I recently read an article in The New York Times, “Trying the Feldenkrais Method for Chronic Pain.” In the article, Feldenkrais Practitioner Mark Wyszysnki explains, “Good posture allows the skeleton to hold up and support the body without expending unnecessary energy despite the pull of gravity. However, with poor posture, the muscles are doing part of the job of the bones, and with poor skeletal support, the muscles have to remain contracted to prevent the body from falling.”
Rounded head posture, where muscles are having to remain contracted to keep the body upright, is associated with headaches, neck pain, TMJ, shoulder pain and injury, lower back pain, compressed hips and hip pain, reduced energy, and on and on.
Digestion and breathing are also impacted by posture. “Proper posture allows the internal organs in the abdomen to assume their natural position without undue compression.” Compression can interfere with the flow and function of digestion. When digestive organs are compressed due to weak posture, we may suffer from conditions like constipation and acid reflux, for example. A more thorough explanation of this can be found at iposture.com
Just as the digestive organs can be compressed due to rounded posture, so can the lungs and diaphragm. This can result in a loss of as much as 30 percent vital lung capacity. Click here for more.
Let’s Work on Our Posture
Okay, so what are we going to do about it? There are many suggested ways to improve posture. You can do an internet search and see for yourself. If you are thinking about posture, you are probably already making improvements just by sitting up or standing a little taller. A big part of improving posture is being aware of it. Basic alignment, ears over shoulders, over centered pelvis, over center of the feet (as shown above). Alignment, combined with strong AND flexible muscles (balance), is critical to maintaining good posture.
As I wrote in my January 2018 blog, the health of our bodies, including posture, is a lifetime commitment, and needs daily attention, and intentional movement can be very beneficial. As an Essentrics teacher who has personally seen many people of all ages improve their posture with Essentrics exercises, I suggest giving this mini posture workout a try. It works every muscle of the body to create healthy, balanced muscles and joints. The emphasis on spinal movement is excellent for rebalancing the muscles supporting the spine. Watch this video! As with any new exercise, be sure to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise.
Live classes are an excellent way to learn more about doing the exercises correctly and to ask questions if you’re not sure about how to do certain movements. You can find my list of live classes at www.jennybertrandfit.weebly.com.
About the Author
Jenny Bertrand is a Master Essentrics Instructor, teaching Essentrics since 2012. She found Classical Stretch powered by Essentrics on Rocky Mountain PBS in 2002 shortly after having her first child. Since Essentrics is a gentle, nurturing exercise program, she did not expect to find so many fitness benefits, but she fell in love with the exercise program when her aches and pains from old athletic injuries melted away, her baby belly flattened, and her posture improved. Ten years later, she introduced live Essentrics classes to the Denver area, and has led thousands of people in Essentrics classes. Jenny earned both her undergraduate degree and Masters in Business Administration from the University of Colorado. This Colorado native loves spending time with her husband and three children, helping people feel better in their own bodies and finding her way to a beach every now and then. You can find out more about Jenny’s Essentrics classes at www.jennybertrandfit.weebly.com and on Facebook at Facebook.com/EssentricsDenver.