Good posture is a foundation for good health.
Lunch Hour Lesson #17
Back issues, shoulder pain, and neck pain can be made worse by poor posture. Digestive issues are even relevant, because poor posture means we’re compressing all the digestive organs and not allowing them the space they need to function properly.
Good posture isn’t everything – there are many things that can be done to improve back, shoulder, and neck discomfort, but if posture isn’t optimized in the first place, none can be as effective as possible. I consider good posture to be a foundation for optimal health, just like drinking enough water, which we’ll talk about next week.
About 7 years ago I learned about a book called 8 Steps To A Pain Free Back by an acupuncturist named Esther Gokhale. Her journey to write the book started with debilitating back pain resulting from injuries, sciatica, and herniated discs. After back surgery did not alleviate the pain, she was determined to find a way to feel better. So she became certified in anthropologically-based posture modification.
The theory is that “we in industrialized countries don’t use our bodies well, that this misuse can cause pain and damage, and that we have much to learn from people in traditional cultures” (Gokhale 2007). She visited almost every continent to observe, document, and interview people without back pain.
Based on her findings, she wrote her book and also leads in-person workshops in Stanford, CA. Her back pain is a thing of the past.
Even if back pain is not an issue for you, we all know that having bad posture is something to be avoided, mostly for attractiveness reasons. Those with poor posture are often told to “stand up straight” because it looks better and we seem more confident when doing so.
“Stand up straight” is great advice, if we know how to do it right. Most people throw their shoulders back, stick their chest out, and tuck their pelvis under. This is an unsustainable posture which does nothing for our health, and over time may compromise it.
I will be there to address any questions that arise.
If you like books with lots of pictures, I really recommend checking out Esther’s book; she has illustrations of good posture and step-by-step instructions on how to achieve it. I’d like to highlight a couple tips now to get you started on the right track:
- To stand up straight, anchor your ribs down, so they are not jutting forward.
- Imagine you have a string running up from your spine out the top of your head, and it is pulling you up.
- Your chin has a downward slant, but it is not tucked under nor protruding out.
- Your shoulders are rotated down and back. When your arms are relaxed at your side, your thumbs point forward, not inward.
- Your pelvis is tipped forward, not tucked under, but do not allow your back to sway. Keep the ribs anchored down.
- When sitting, you can maintain this forward tipped pelvis by imagining that you have a long tail. Don’t sit on it!
- When bending over, hinge from your hips, rather from your lower back. This will involve hamstring flexibility, so try to stretch them every day.
You can test foods around the house that you commonly eat, even if you don’t suspect them of causing reactions. Some may surprise you. I had a client who had a large pulse increase with milk, but he had not suspected that milk was stressful to his body.
Pay attention to your ribs this weekend. When you reach your hands over your head to wash your hair, do not sway your back and let your ribs jut forward. Instead keep them anchored down and use your core muscles to support your arms.
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