Why Your Posture is so Important
Welcome everyone! The title of this presentation is “Why Your Posture Matters.” My name is Dr. Trish Murray. I am a physician, I am a best-selling author, and I am the Health Catalyst Speaker. I absolutely love supporting people like yourselves that are here who are motivated to take control of your health and transform your lives so you can experience and achieve the goals and aspirations of your dreams.
During this presentation I am going to start out discussing the importance of posture and making some educational points using the slides as we usually do and obviously speaking. But we also have Meghan Vestal with us for this particular webinar. Meghan is the Discover Yoga instructor for our Discover Health Movement Membership, and for the second half of this webinar she is going to discuss posture for a couple of slides in the same way that I am for the first half of the talk. Then we’re going to stop sharing the slides and Meghan is going to demonstrate for you, and have you hopefully experience it with her and do the movements with her, some yoga poses and movements to help you optimize your own posture.
Just to give you a little background for Meghan. Meghan Vestal is a Registered Yoga Teacher at the 500-hour level. She completed both her 200- and 300-hour trainings consecutively through Dragonfly Yoga & Ayurveda in Sandwich, New Hampshire. She teaches a multitude of yoga classes outside, in-studio, and online. Meghan teaches gentle yoga, vinyasa flow, yin yoga, restorative yoga, and beginner yoga. Her philosophy is that everyone can benefit from yoga in some way, and that yoga is ultimately the best practice to connect with body, mind, breath, and spirit. In addition to teaching the physical practice of yoga (called asana), Meghan also provides guided meditation and breath work (pranayama) instruction.
So, why is posture so important? Here’s the thing – most of us were never taught proper posture. If we were, that training more than likely consisted of large-scale school drills telling us to “sit up straight,” “don’t hunch your back,” or “don’t ever carry your school bag on one shoulder even though it’s what all the cool kids are doing.” We were never really taught why.
The majority of us go around unconscious and unaware of the effect that our posture is having on our physical and mental health. Today we’ll discuss the following benefits of correcting your posture:
- Bone and muscular alignment
- Joint surface health
- Optimization of breathing
- Fatigue prevention
- Optimizing circulatory health
- Spine health
- Fitness and workout functionality
- Functional health
Wow! Who knew that posture had all these different categories related to it? Now, how do you feel your posture directly affects your everyday life? What I’d like you to do if you’re willing and I hope you just have a piece of paper and a pencil nearby or a pen if you grab it for just a second. I like to have people check in with themselves at the beginning of these talks so that you can get a sense of what do you want to address for yourself. If you take a scrap piece of paper and write down your answer the following questions. First of all, do you feel your posture could be improved? That’s pretty much a yes or no question, of course. But if you feel it could be improved, list a couple things of how is your posture affecting your daily life? How is your posture affecting your daily life? And finally, write down specifically what aspects of your posture you would like to improve. What do you think needs to be improved?
Now that you’ve answered those questions, let’s get into these categories. One of the major reasons why good posture is important for the human body is to ensure that bones and muscles grow and continue to flourish in the healthiest alignment possible. Particularly for children and young people who have not reached their maximum height or finished the growth stages of development, it’s vital to maintain a healthy posture, especially in the spine.
Think of it in terms of a bone fracture or if you break a bone. In order to ensure the break or fracture heals correctly, it must be held in place, aligned, and maintained in a particular way to ensure it doesn’t heal badly. The same can be said of bones and ligaments which are not fully formed yet.
Positioning the body in its optimal state with regard to gravity and the forces working against us is ultimately what posture describes. It’s key to helping us to heal, grow, and function in the healthiest way possible. This stands true for us in order to age well. The way to fight against the pull of gravity as we age is to maintain our strength, alignment, and balance and working on maintaining optimal posture is one way toward reaching these goals.
Similar to ensuring that bones develop and strengthen in the most aligned and positioned way, healthy posture is vital to ensuring the continued growth and development of muscles, too. Our muscular composition is continuously changing as we fluctuate between periods of engagement and non-engagement, and the more the muscles are cultivated in certain movement patterns, the more the muscles will grow and support your overall structure. Thus, it makes sense that repeated muscular engagement in repetitive patterns will cultivate habitual movement and habitual posture, and if these habitual posture and patterns are not correct, it can cause dysfunction over time and eventual risk of, of course, injury.
Now, I love to use the analogy that…what I want you to do is think of your bones as the sticks of a puppet and your muscles and the fascia that surrounds them as the strings of a puppet. The muscles are what support your structure and move your structure, so keeping your muscles and fascia strong, flexible, hydrated, and fluid is extremely important to your posture and overall health.
And as Meghan will show you in a bit, yoga is a great modality to optimize bone and muscle alignment and function. Yoga will strengthen the muscles and help to mobilize, align, and optimize the position of the bones and typically unwind the negative habitual patterns that we develop throughout our typical daily movements or our work patterns.
Joints are formed wherever two bones come together. The surface of your joints and the interaction that bones have when they move in relation to one another is the very foundation of postural health. Correct posture decreases the wear of joint surfaces, which are composed of a substance known as cartilage. Cartilage does not have a very good blood supply, meaning that if you damage it, it actually cannot repair itself very well. This is why it’s so important to place emphasis on healthy movement and optimizing care of your joint structures!
This wearing down of cartilage can occur from poor posture and dysfunctional patterns of movement and dysfunctional patterns when you exercise. Understanding how to move and align the body properly may sound like a basic course of action to combat and prevent the onset of mobility issues, but it’s one that way too many people still neglect. In this way, we can understand how incorrect posture can, over time, lead to the development of diseases such as arthritis, osteoporosis, scoliosis, and more.
Now, the next reason why maintaining correct physical posture is so important. It may not seem initially obvious, but posture will also have a positive or negative effect on our different organ systems. Remember that your connective tissue system is made up of bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia, and this system is what connects everything in your body. That’s why it’s called the connective tissue system. When you realize this, it’s no surprise that the bones of the ribcage, the diaphragm muscle, and the fascia that surrounds everything are vital to optimal breathing.
When breaking down the physiology of breathing, it’s fascinating to learn that the majority of people are only breathing to around 30% of the entire lung capacity! And the reasons behind this stems from a lack of correct what? Posture. Now, singers and public speakers are very aware of the effect that correct posture can have on the efficiency of breathing, and it follows that those who suffer breathing complications would benefit from improving their overall posture. By optimizing one’s spinal posture and reducing imbalance of the pelvis (and by the way, if you missed our talk last month go back and listen to my podcast for the podcast and webinar we did last month on imbalances and how to treat them for the pelvis), we give more freedom to the diaphragm muscle and the rib cage to take deeper breaths. Now, utilizing our lung capacity to its full extent has so many benefits which extend far beyond good posture, but posture is definitely a good place to start!
It’s more than just your breathing that’s affected by bad posture, although this in itself can be the root cause for developing subsequent illness and disease. Poor posture can be responsible for at least a contributing factor to the following complications. These are only a few examples:
- SHOULDER AND BACK PAIN: If your poor posture habits come in the form of upper back and shoulder pain, the cause could be more straightforward to fix than you might think. Tensing the muscles in the upper back for prolonged periods of time can lead to pain and discomfort in this area, especially for those accustomed to sitting at desks or being hunched over for long periods of time.
- GASTROINTESTINAL AND DIGESTIVE DISCOMFORT: If your poor posture involves the leaning of the head too far forward, it could have a direct effect on your digestive system. The compression of the stomach and intestines which occurs during long periods of sitting can ultimately mess with your digestion and make bowel movements more difficult. This is why it’s recommended to move your body as much as possible throughout the day and why the typical office setting of desk jobs needs to be rethought. You could consider a desk that’s work height can be changed from either sitting height or move it so that you can stand at your desk. Also, take movement breaks every hour to at least walk around or do some twisting or yoga movements as Meghan will be showing you later.
- SHORTNESS OF BREATH: Another complication resulting from over-compression of the rib cage and lung cavity, many people who suffer from shortness of breath would benefit from improving their overall posture.
Now, posture can also directly affect your energy levels. Remember that habitual bad posture, is going to over compress the lungs and prevent them from providing us enough oxygen to convert into energy. Tight or hypertonic muscles are also compressed and will require extra energy to support and move the bones like the puppet. As such, we wind up spending more energy than necessary on muscular support and keeping ourselves upright.
If the muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, and fascia are cultivated through movement we will be well aligned, hydrated, strong, fluid, and then your energy system will benefit rather than be depleted. It might be worth checking in with your postural habits in the workplace and at home to investigate your tendencies. Be mindful of how you are sitting or how you are standing or how you are moving, as they may have a direct effect on your energy levels. It’s interesting to learn that chronic fatigue syndrome often includes posture-correcting exercises in courses of treatment that place emphasis on proper alignment of bones and muscle to ensure an optimized and consistent state of maximized energy.
Now, the circulatory system. Poor circulation can occur as a direct result of what? Poor posture. As we’ve already discussed, contracting the ribcage and diaphragmatic cavity on a regular, unconscious basis can cause a decrease in oxygen supply to the rest of the body. Also, remember that the fascial system or the fascia encases every single blood vessel and every nerve, so if you want your circulatory system and nervous systems to function optimally you must address your connective tissue system and optimize you posture.
And in my latest book, No More Band-Aids 2.0: Finding Answers in a Broken Medical System, which is a collaborative book actually with seven authors, my chapter in the book is entitled “The Missing Link to Healthy Aging.” It explains the fascial system and provides specific steps to take to optimize your fascia. In that chapter, I actually challenge you to a 21-day challenge of doing the exercises I provide you in the chapter and I suggest some very definitive and specific dietary things to follow, and I suggest a very specific amount of water to be drinking every day. If you follow it for the 21 days and you see the differences and you feel better, then hello! That’s going to be hopefully convincing to you that you need to be focused on this connective tissue in your posture and your movement on a regular basis.
Another relatively unexplored facet on the importance of maintaining good posture can be observed in our communication. Relatively speaking, it’s easier to effectively communicate with someone who is calm, relaxed, open, and in a positive frame of mind than someone, of course, who is grouchy, tired, and unwilling to negotiate or discuss ideas. All of these qualities are either consciously or, of course, unconsciously manifested through our body language, which has a direct relation to our posture.
The next time you communicate with someone in a straightforward, pleasant, and relatively easy way, take note of their posture. Chances are it will be good. The flow of blood, oxygen, and energy around their body has ultimately provided them with the most balanced and energized state necessary to conduct productive thought and engage in discussions, instead of someone who might seem stubborn to entertaining ideas or communicate effectively.
Bad posture causes energy to quite literally get stuck in areas of the body which are not designed to hold or process it. Stuck energy has many different ways of manifesting itself – most commonly as negative emotions or unconscious actions. In yoga, these energy centers are referred to as the chakra system, and most practices will focus around balancing out these areas to encourage a steady flow of energy. But you don’t have to be a yogi to understand and smooth out your energy. Simply being more aware of your posture can be an excellent place to start.
The spine is an intricate structure comprised of many webs of nerves, muscles, and important pathways through which energy can travel around the body. [click_to_tweet tweet=”Correct posture is more than just a cosmetic recommendation. It is a vital factor in overall spinal health.” quote=”Correct posture is more than just a cosmetic recommendation. It is a vital factor in overall spinal health.”]
Back and neck pain are two of the most common complaints which are directly caused by poor posture, both of which are associated with the spine being held in asymmetric and dysfunctional positions for prolonged periods of time. Over time, the stress of poor posture can change the anatomical characteristics of the spine, leading to the possibility of constricted blood vessels and nerves, as we’ve talked about, as well as problems with muscles, discs, and joints. All of these can be major contributors to back and neck pain, as well as headaches, fatigue, and possibly even concerns with major organs and, of course as we’ve said, breathing.
In order to optimize posture and improve your ability to move and decrease pain, I am a huge proponent of functional movement as being your focus. So, what does that mean? In order to improve one’s functional movement, diverse whole-body exercises should be implemented. This is why, folks, we have created Discover Health Movement Membership which has weekly online classes in multiple movement modalities to affect your balance, strength, posture, flexibility, and even your mental clarity.
In short, functional movement involves the repetition and engagement of different muscle groups and areas of the body with organic movements. These are designed to access and assess the most fundamental movements of the individual human body. The theory behind it is that our bodies, while they all appear similar in structure, mobility, and function, are in actual fact vastly contrasting from one another and as such will not all benefit from particular exercises in the same way. And if you typically exercise in only one way such as always running or always biking or always weightlifting then your functional movement abilities and performance will not be optimized. You see, movements that integrate the nervous and connective tissue systems in diverse full body exercises will not only help optimize your posture but also your overall health.
There is a surprising amount of correlations between proper posture and elevated mood levels. This is due to a number of reasons, the most evident of which stems from the relatively r[click_to_tweet tweet=”ecent discoveries and studies into the gut-brain relationship. In a situation where the individual is not engaging in proper posture, it’s likely that his or her gastrointestinal tract will be pressured or compressed in one way or another. Recent discoveries and studies into the gut-brain relationship. In a situation where the individual is not engaging in proper posture, it’s likely that his or her gastrointestinal tract will be pressured or compressed in one way or another.”] This can lead to indigestion and complications with nutritional absorption which, of course, occurs in the gut.
This lack of proper digestion and absorption of nutrients in the gut contributes to what has become understood as the gut-brain axis, simply that the gut’s ability to absorb and process nutrients has a direct effect on the neurotransmissions and the neurotransmitters in your brain, which affects your overall sense of wellbeing and positivity. In this way, we can understand how posture and overall happiness are also connected.
It’s not just when we’re sitting down or standing that we should be wary of our posture either. Getting the most out of workouts and ensuring your body stays safe as you strain it and as strain is placed on specific areas during a gym session, for example, comes down to proper alignment and body awareness during exercise. Especially during weightlifting sessions, it’s vital to align the body correctly. Having been a competitive body builder in my twenties and thirties, I was trained and it was drilled into my head, folks, by my trainer that prior to doing any lift to first focus on my feet or my feet and my foundation, then my legs, my pelvis, and then my core before I ever initiated lifting the weight itself. This is imperative to the form of the exercise and kept me from injuring myself over many years of very heavy lifting.
The muscles and ligaments and if they have imbalance that result from poor alignment or imbalanced movement or poor habitual movement whether you’re at work or whether you’re exercising can lead to all sorts of problems including:
- Specific injury or chronic back, neck, and shoulder pain
- Foot, knee, hip, and back injuries
- Muscle atrophy and imbalance or weakness
- Impingement and nerve compression
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
This is why whether you are an elite athlete, a weekend warrior, or a couch potato you need to learn movement techniques and tools that can empower you to align your own spine, unwind your own fascial knots, hydrate your tissues, strengthen your core, and optimize your posture. Now, with all of this in mind I am now going to turn the presentation over to Meghan Vestal, who is our Discover Health Movement Membership yoga instructor.
Yes. Thank you, Trish!
Alright. So, it’s widely thought that the overall most important factor in optimizing our physical posture is simply to cultivate higher levels of body awareness. Studies have shown that those with higher levels of body awareness generally experienced lowered intensities of physical illness than those with lowered body awareness. This supports the theory that simply by being more aware of our bodies, we reduce the likelihood of developing imbalances related to illness and poor posture.
By observing things like gait, repeated movements, and repeated instances of particular illnesses and imbalances, we cultivate greater body awareness. Other things that improve our ability to accurately observe our bodies on deeper and more personal levels are things such as yoga, pilates, and meditation. The slowed-down, strength and alignment-based movements of these exercises allow practitioners to cultivate a stronger sense of bodily alignment which, over time, can lead to drastic improvements in things such as body awareness and body image.
In anatomy, proprioception refers to the awareness and sense of the relative positioning of one’s physical place in space and the impressions and beliefs of strengths and weaknesses to this.
So, you might be asking yourself, how do I improve my posture? It’s one thing to understand your poor posture and accept that maybe something should change, but it’s another thing to actually know how to safely do so.
As with any physical adjustment and alignment,optimum posture varies for everyone, and it’s incredibly important to ensure that any changes you make are actually beneficial and healthy for your body. There are a number of ways that we can have poor posture, but I’ll go through two specific examples:
- SLOUCHING: If you’re used to slouching in a chair, the exercises to strengthen your core and buttock muscles (along with some back extensions) will help correct a slouching posture. Exercises to correct this slumping or slouching include things like bridges, back extensions, and planks.
- PRONOUNCED LOWER BACK CURVE: If your bottom tends to stick out, you may have hyperlordosis. This kind of looks like a “Donald Duck” posture. So, core and buttock strengthening exercises, hip flexor and thigh stretches, and making a conscious effort to correct your standing posture are recommendations to help correct a sticking out bottom. Exercises to also correct this “Donald Duck” posture include things such as planking, side-lying leg raises, hip flexor stretches, and the standing thigh stretch.
To learn the posture exercises with Meghan Vestal, please watch and follow along with the video of this webinar uploaded to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/OX0VaOk88Fg. These demonstrations begin approximately 34 minutes into the video. You’ll want to have a chair, a mat, a blanket, and a mirror (optional) to participate along with Meghan’s demonstration.
Thank you, Meghan, for your presentation. Awareness – that was a really awesome thing to point out to folks. If we’re not aware, we do so many things in our unconscious, habitual behaviors. What I’d like folks to do right now is look back at maybe the way you answered the questions in the beginning and then ask yourself how do you feel right now compared to the way you did when you signed in to the webinar tonight. I can tell you that I’ve had a very busy day and even though my job is to treat patients with my hands and I’m up and down out of my chair and back in my chair throughout the day, stress and things make my body tight. The wonderful presentation that Meghan just gave…I was sitting originally at my desk here giving this presentation. At first, I did it in my desk chair when we were seated, then I just moved my chair out of the way and did the movements. I feel less stressed, I feel more relaxed, my muscle tightness has reduced, and my posture feels like it’s better! Ask yourself, what did you notice or what do you notice right now that might be different for you if you went through those movements with Meghan. Go ahead and write it down on your own little piece of scrap paper.
Ultimately, folks, good posture is important for so many different aspects of our lives. Optimizing your posture can outshine the effects of many exercises. You see, no amount of working out can fix bad posture.
This is why we created Discover Health Movement Membership. This program provides three online classes per week, one of which is, of course, Discover Yoga with Meghan who just presented her wonderful presentation. The second class each week is Self-Myofascial Release which teaches you how to unwind your own fascial knots and adhesions. The third is Movement for Longevity which educates you on how to optimize the interaction between your nervous system and your connective tissue system.
All of these classes are put together to complement each other in optimizing your physical performance and movement as well as your mental clarity. To learn more about Discover Health Movement Membership you’re going to go to www.discoverhealthfmc.com/#Movement.
I hope you’ve found today’s class to be informative, and if there’s anything more I can do to help you understand the importance of maintaining good posture, please let me know and reach out.
As we age our posture, strength, flexibility, and overall health takes more and more effort to maintain. Our goal at Discover Health Functional Medicine Center and Discover Health Movement Membership is to make this easier by giving you the information and the tools you need to take control of your health so you can transform your life.
Please let me know if you have any questions regarding what we’ve covered today. If you think of something later there are numerous ways that you can reach out to us. First of all, you could go to Facebook, and if you’re not already a member of our Discover Health Facebook Group, just go to Discover Health Functional Medicine Center’s Facebook page and request to join our Discover Health Facebook Group. Everyone is welcome! In that group you can ask questions and we also will post all of the resources we used to put this talk together tonight. Another way to reach out is through Health Coach Trish. There’s Dr. Trish and there’s Health Coach Trish. Coach Trish just has a lot more time than I do to receive the emails and then go to the right person to get the answers. Her email is .
And as we typically do after every one of my monthly presentations or webinars, we post in our Discover Health Facebook Group numerous links to the resources that were used to create the presentation. Again, to join our Discover Health Facebook Group, just go to Discover Health Functional Medicine Center on our Facebook page and request to join our group!
So, thank you all for attending today and giving your all. Also, I want to thank Meghan for her awesome presentation and for taking us through some yoga moves that will help us optimize our posture. Just remember – strong posture starts with good body awareness!
And don’t miss next month’s webinar as it will be all about the anatomy and function of the fascia. Lisa Buerk, our Self-Myofascial Release teacher, will be joining me to show you some of the Self-Myofascial Release techniques. You are not going to want to miss it because as I say in my latest book, the fascial system is the missing link to healthy aging.
I want to thank everyone so much for coming. Meghan, thank you so much for presenting. It was wonderful! We will see everyone next month for a focus on the fascial anatomy and self-myofascial release.
Watch this full webinar on our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/OX0VaOk88Fg
Contact Meghan Vestal
For more information on the Discover Health Movement Membership
- Website: https://www.discoverhealthfmc.com/#Movement
- Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/discoverhealthmovement
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/discoverhealthmovement/?hl=en
- To register: https://members.discoverhealthfmc.com/product/discover-movement-membership
- Trish Murray’s newest collaborative book: No More Band-Aids 2.0: Finding Answers in a Broken Medical System
- Last month’s webinar and podcast episode: Strengthening Your Pelvic Floor
- YouTube TEDx talk on postural alignment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrBmsjgpd4E
- Dynamics of posture and natural movement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VEH8u4eI0A
- ACA’s guidelines for good posture: https://acatoday.org/content/posture-power-how-to-correct-your-body-alignment
- Yoga and muscular alignment: https://www.spine-health.com/wellness/yoga-pilates-tai-chi/how-yoga-helps-back
- Articular cartilage in joints: https://www.orthobullets.com/basic-science/9017/articular-cartilage
- Brass players and breathing: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4167884/
- Posture-related health complications: https://www.livestrong.com/article/437366-health-problems-from-bad-posture/
- Posture and fatigue: https://www.spineandhealth.com.au/posture-and-fatigue/
- Circulation and posture: https://www.livestrong.com/article/227977-how-to-sit-to-increase-circulation/
- Body language and communication: https://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/body-language.html
- Spine Health Industry: http://www.thespinehealthinstitute.com/news-room/health-blog/are-you-sitting-pretty
- Posture and spinal health: http://www.ccsu.edu/bdfac/fmps.html
- Gut-Brain connection: https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/the-gut-brain-connection
- Posture and self-image/evaluation study: http://www.psy.ohio-state.edu/petty/documents/2009EJSPBrinolPettyWagner.pdf
- Physical fitness and posture: http://sites.ndtv.com/healthmatters/the-importance-of-good-body-posture-1129/
- Proprioception study: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/00016489309128134
- Posture-correcting exercises: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-15552/6-exercises-to-reverse-bad-posture.html
- Back pain while traveling: https://www.shermanstravel.com/advice/straight-talk-on-better-posture-how-to-avoid-back-pain-while-traveling/
- Overall posture and health tips: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/ben-greenfield/posture-and-health_b_3277058.html
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