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Why Posture Matters: Efficiency and Body Language

Many years ago, I found myself at a weekly puppy training class that involved multiple dog owners with their wacky canines wrestling to get their dogs to do anything on command. One of the suggestions that caught my attention was that if your pup had their tail tucked between their legs in despair, you were supposed to hold it up for them until they felt better. 'Does it really work like that?!,' I thought.

Fast forward a few years later, and I am in an adult beginner class at the Richmond Ballet. My teacher was everything you could ask for in a ballet instructor; elderly with a twinkle in her eye and no tolerance for b.s. She was my idol. She stopped mid sentence and told the class to stand with good posture so that it showed that we were engaged and interested in the lesson, even if we actually weren't. Evidently, we weren't showing her the right "signs" during her lecture. None of this arms-crossed mess would do. She explained that if we practice this posture enough times, we may actually become more open and engaged as a result. Very clever!

Why both of these stories matter is because there have been numerous research studies discussing the influence of posture and which hormones we secrete, our perceptions of ourselves, our perceptions of other people, and our heart rate variability level (the window into our autonomic nervous system: sympathetic vs. parasympathetic). Knowing this, think about the posture we portray when we are hooked to one of the most addicting devices of our time: our phones.

The phone posture: forward head, chin down, shoulders forward, and curled trunk. This is a withdrawn/closed down posture that has been hypothesized to be part of the responsibility for feeling glum. Not only is the content of our phones creating "FOMO" and fear but the posture we are in while using them results in physiological changes that relate to feeling low.

Why do we have the postures that we do? This is a super complex topic. Postures come from past experiences (the good, the bad, and the ugly), past and/or current injuries, past and/or current role models, mood, habits, how we feel about who we are interacting with, and beliefs. When we talk about posture in the clinic, we discuss how posture relates to how efficient you are. Posture is efficient when your core has the most successful ability to kick in when it's important. It allows for a synergy of movement with your anatomy as a 3-D system: the front, sides, and back areas of your body are free to move with equal opportunity. Proper "stacking" gives the opportunity for your organs to be "massaged" by the diaphragm. A properly aligned frame allows gravity or weight to travel through your body back into the ground instead of hitting a stress point somewhere in your structure.

When you're interacting with different people throughout the day, take notice of how you stand. Do you challenge your body to be in different shapes, like in yoga, dance, or martial arts? When you're carrying, pushing, or pulling, does your core easily engage? If you would like to dive deeper into the world of efficient posture for your body, come in and let's explore!

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