The Oxford English Dictionary defines posture as – ‘the position in which someone holds their body when standing or sitting’
When I was younger my Grandma was always nagging me to ‘sit straight’ or ‘stand tall’. ‘Why?’, I used to reply and she would respond with, ‘you don’t want to end up like me, all crooked and uncomfortable’. At the time I was like, ‘whatever!’ but as I get older, I’m starting to see her point. Being ‘crooked and uncomfortable’ isn’t so great.
There are some key benefits to ‘sitting straight and standing tall’ or as I call it, having a good posture.
- reduces or prevents pain in the body, mainly back, neck and shoulders
- muscles can work together and in balance preventing over-use injuries
- experience fewer headaches
- increased energy levels
- improved circulation and digestion
- look and feel more confident
- better ability to take an effective breath
- greater connection to the core and pelvic floor
As a women’s health personal trainer and massage therapist, who specialises in core and pelvic floor restoration, the posture is of real importance to me. If a woman I am training is not standing or sitting in optimal alignment, I will know that their ability to connect to their core and pelvic floor is likely to be compromised. But why?
How Your Posture Will Affect Your Core and Pelvic Floor
- Sitting or standing in a slouched position essentially ‘switches off’ the muscles. The muscle is in a slackened state and doesn’t do anything. The longer they stay doing nothing the less responsive they will be when called into action. As a result, other muscles, such as those in the lower back, need to take over. Or you may find you are creating tension in other body parts to create stability and strength. Clenching the jaw is a common default.
- It can lead to or worsen a Diastasis Recti (tummy gap). Diastasis recti (DR) is common after having a baby, as the abdominal wall undergoes a stretch to make way for the growing baby. However, its important to highlight that women who have not birthed a baby and even men can have/get a diastasis. When sitting or standing in a slouched position, it places pressure on the abdominal wall, causing the edges of the rectus abdominis to drift apart or separate further if already existing. If you are not sure whether you have a diastasis, contact me, to book an assessment.
- Activation of the pelvic floor is hugely driven by breathing.
Try this for me…… If you are sitting whilst reading this then I want you to adopt a position where you are slumped forward, back rounded and shoulders forward. Take a breath in and notice your ability to do so.
Now, sit upright in your chair, spine long with shoulders set backwards, opening your chest. Take another breath in and then compare that breath intake with the one before.
Was it easier?
When we slouch, our ‘breathing muscle’, the diaphragm, is unable to move as well as it could preventing us from taking a full breath in. As you can see from the graphic above, our diaphragm is linked to the abdominal wall, our back muscles and down to the basin of our pelvis, the pelvic floor. This is our core unit.
When the core unit is compromised it can create dysfunction, leading eventually to hernias or pelvic organ prolapse.
How to help improve our postures.
- Sit tall – most of us sit for prolonged periods of time so should be mindful of sitting well but comfortably. Try this. Imagine there is a piece of string on the top of your head and someone is pulling you upwards. This will encourage you to lengthen the spine and neck. Ensure the ribcage is in line with the hip bones and open the chest by gently rolling the shoulders up, back and down.
- Adjust your seats – when working at a desk or driving a car it’s important that the seat is in a position that puts your posture in good alignment. Adjust where necessary, or consider a back support. If nursing, use a cushion to support the baby, preventing you from slouching forwards at the shoulders.
- Keep hydrated – the skin contains 64% water and muscles 79%. Without water, these two bodily components cannot work effectively. Aim to drink two litres of water a day, more if exercising or breast feeding.
- Move more – avoid sitting for too long. Set regular breaks throughout the day to get up and move. Walk around or do a few stretches, something that will activate the muscles and release stiffness. In the Holistic Core Restore® Release programme we include releases and mobilisations that can be used at home or at work to help ensure people stay mobile, in good alignment and pain free.