As it relates to our physical well-being and harnessing the strength and power of our bodies, posture and breathing are crucial components and very well could be holding you back from achieving your fitness goals.
What is good posture?
Good posture is a position in which our spine stays in a neutral alignment with natural curves for the low back, upper back and neck. What you can see in the above first 4 postures there are major changes to the natural curves of the spine. These different postures can be due to sustained periods of time in one position, bad habits associated with being in a poor position, injury, sudden changes in the ability of the body to function normal such as surgery or even having a baby.
The idea of good posture is that we can and should still be able to move by flexing, extending, bending and rotating, but we should do so starting and ending in a good position. If we start in a good position we are more likely to go through the movement in a good and stable position. But if we start a movement in a bad position rarely will it getting better, more stable or stronger in the middle or end. This is because we simply are not able to access the strength of our body to its fullest potential as a result of the position.
Imagine walking around in any one of the first 4 postures shown above all day long. How do you think that would impact the body and muscles? Chances are some muscles are going to become very tight and sore. Over time your body will adapt to deal with one change by changing something else and essential mechanical functions that we once used to maintain good posture will be less effective and potentially fail us. In the case of our posture, bad movement habits can create tightness, weakness, pain, and overall dysfunctional movement habits that could prevent you from achieving your fitness goals, or lead to injury.
Good posture is the precursor to all essential movements in the body, which includes breathing. Breathing may seem like the action that must take place first, but without good posture we are physically incapable of breathing effectively. Try sitting in a slouched position and take a big breath in, it should feel more taxing to breath in and then exhale as compared to sitting in a nice tall position. This is because our posture sets the stage for coordinating the foundation for all stability in our body….the CORE!!
Our breathing muscle (the diaphragm) coordinates our deep core muscles which include the pelvic floor, transverse abdominis (deep abdominal muscle), and multifidi (spinal stabilizers). These muscles form a “canister” around our abdominal organs. The top is the formed by the diaphragm, the front and sides by the transverse abdominis, and the bottom by the pelvic floor.
This canister system is activated as soon as we start to allow air to fill our lungs. On an inhale our diaphragm goes down as our lungs fill with air, the pelvic floor relaxes and creates natural pressure into the core. When we exhale air begins to leave our lungs, the diaphragm goes back up and the pelvic floor contracts with the release of the pressure. When we use this system of deep breathing we will naturally strengthen the core and pelvic floor all day long.
This also highlights why coordinating our breathing pattern with our motions during exercise and everyday life is so important. When we exhale to exert ourselves we can harness strength and power from our deep core muscles to help us perform better. Now go get yourself into a good position. keep yourself there, and breath deeply!
Becky Doherty, BSc. Registered Kinesiologist