The Power of posture
WHAT IS POSTURE?
Posture is the alignment and position your body adopts, at any given moment based on what your brain is telling it to do.
Another way to think of posture, is that it is your ‘default’ position at any moment.
Statistics show us that less than 10% of the population corresponds to the criteria for a normal orthopaedic posture.
CLASSIFICATION OF POSTURE
Posture can be seen as either ‘static’ or ‘dynamic’, as in, you are either still or moving.
In reality you have a sitting, standing, carrying, listening, walking, talking, submissive, aggressive and loving posture – one for every mood or activity.
Every thought, action and emotion has an effect on your ‘state’ or ‘stance’.
Therefore chronic conditions and chronic ways of thinking become etched into the posture you see in the mirror today.
TASK- let’s look around the room and casually observe people’s postures. 5 min.
POSTURE IS ESSENTIALLY CREATED BY OUR CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM
Postures tend to be so engrained, and become automatic motor responses originating in the brain and then effect skeletal musculature.
Posture indicates what the Nervous System is doing at the involuntary/subconscious level. When we assess posture we are in actuality assessing our subconscious brain activity, or our autonomic nervous function.
Good posture could also be characterized by having our spine perfectly aligned to withstand the pull of gravity, which affects our energy expenditure, hormone production, breathing, digestion, elimination, quality of life and hormonal homeostasis.
Poor posture could be defined as a defect in the processing of the sensory information coming from one or more of the sensory systems (muscles, joints, skin).
This then causes the body to adapt to the faulty information it’s receiving from our peripheral nervous system via our GTO and muscle spindles.
The constant perceived threats detected by our proprioceptors via our PNS, gives a constant stream of ‘false flag events’, which when interpreted by our CNS creates a POSTURE that can handle it.
CORTISOL RELEASE AND FATLOSS
If you posture is misaligned, then your body could be in a state of chronic inflammation, where the body starts producing more cortisol in response to stress.
At the same time, it reduces testosterone production, instead dedicating energy to the production of cortisol, adrenaline and other stress hormones, so that enough will be available in response to the perceived threat/stress.
Ie, we are operating more from the sympathetic nervous system.
Surely then, our task as trainers, is to override these autonomic postures that hold us in a perpetual state of fight or flight, by introducing counter measures or power postures!
TASK- Practice POWER POSTURES, and discuss how they make you feel! 20 min.
EMBODIED COGNITION – THE EMOTION OR THE POSTURE?
This is essesntially when the brain receives muscular and hormonal signals with information about bodily posture, it then translates those signals into emotions.
Think about it like this:
“If I’m feeling sad and stressed, I am more likely to sit in a slumped position. And if I’m sitting in a slumped position, I am more likely to be sad and stressed.”
This philosophy, known as ’embodied cognition’, is the idea that the relationship between our mind and body runs both ways, meaning our mind influences the way our body reacts, and our body also influences our mind and its reactions.
* It can be difficult to distinguish real confidence from confidence that comes from adopting a strong posture, the same way that happiness leads to smiling, but also smiling leads to happiness.
* Emotions and thoughts affect our posture and energy levels, conversely posture and energy affect our emotions and thoughts as well.
* The brain in fact, cannot distinguish between perceived threat and actual threat and so in the case of a poor posture, your endocrine system is constantly out of balance.
* This in turn creates a cascade of hormonal and chemical reactions ultimately leading to sympathetic dominance, stress, cortisol release, muscle catabolism and FAT LOSS.
TASK- discuss ways to change chronic thought patterns, emotional states, physical issues by faking it till we become it! 15 min.
HOMEWORK- get your clients in front of a mirrror and practice these techniques of improved posture. You’ll see them instantly lose weight, feel better about themselves and become more aware of the task at hand.
BOWING TO YOUR NEW MASTER
The sharp increase of sitting in front of our computer to looking down at our smartphones, have not only led to a serious decline in postural health, but has also led to a rise depression, anxiety and other stress related disorders in recent years.
Our neurology is having a hard time keeping up with technology, and these stressors effect our brain chemistry (Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, and Endorphins), our stress hormone levels ( cortisol Norepinephrine, adrenaline) via the sympathetic ‘fight or flight’ respond to stress Our posture ( the physical manifestation of the state of all our bodies systems) is our visual representation of where we are at psychologically, emotionally as well as the obvious physicality.
These stressors have a profound effect on our physiology and psychology, and literally hardwires our bodies via neuropeptides ( part of our next workshop!), into certain postures, and mental/ emotional state.
We become conditioned, used to and even addicted to certain deviations from our ideal postural.
TASK- take out your phones and look at how you hold / use them. Discuss stress, overwhelm and anxiety. 10 min.
CARRYING THE WEIGHT OF THE WORLD
“For every inch of Forward Head Posture, it can increase the weight of the head on the spine by an additional 10 pounds.” -Kapandji.
Poor posture over time can cause deterioration in the musculoskeletal system’s health and this cascades into other systems such as the nervous, cardiovascular, digestive and endocrine system.
Slouched standing and sitting postures can decrease bowel motility (movement) and result in diarrhoea or constipation and can also cause sciatica (sciatic nerve impingement), impact lung capacity and function and even effect the heart.
TASK- discuss events that may trigger a postural abnormality, be it physical conditioning, emotional or mental trauma etc. 20.
ASSESSING AND CREATING AWARENESS OF POSTURES
The major postural abnormalities are the kyphotic, lordotic, flat back and sway back.
Posture can also be seen as is a symptom of both your environment, and the way you’ve learnt to position yourself to ‘deal’ with it, given the condition of your musculoskeletal system at the time.
Most attempts to correct posture are directed toward the spine, shoulders and pelvis.
All are IMPORTANT, but, head position takes precedence over all others.
The body follows the head.
* Therefore, the entire body is best aligned by first restoring proper functional alignment to the head.
The two most relevant postures we will look at today are:
* SEATED POSTURE
* STANDING POSTURE
TASK- analyse each other’s seated and standing posture using plum line. 20 min.
Utilise the app for photo evidence.
TASK- discuss and define the gym and lifestyle based approach ( programming) in correcting postural abnormalities. 30 min.
SYMPATHETIC VS PARASYMPATHETIC
The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) controls homeostasis and the body at rest and is responsible for the body’s “rest and digest” function.
The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) controls the body’s responses to a perceived threat and is responsible for the “fight or flight” response.
Under normal circumstances, after a brief burst of stress, people return to a more normal state of homeostasis. Both cortisol levels and testosterone levels readjust because the stressor is gone.
In the case of POOR POSTURE this cannot actually physically happen.
The subconscious part of our brain (basal ganglia, brainstem, cerebellum) dictates posture by taking in information from sensory receptors of the body via the proprioceptors ( GTO and muscle spindle), as well as the feet and eyes.
Both your feet and eyes provide kinesthetic (sensation) information about the body’s position in space (proprioception).
So, your eye position ( where you look), and placement of feet ( how you stand, and how you walk) are vital to a good posture as well as a way in which to enter into the parasympathetic state.
Once we begin to see posture not as a result solely of biomechanical structure, but as a result of continuous autonomic/ subconscious brain output, we need to adopt a more holistic approach to postural health.
Postures tend to be so engrained, and overtime become automatic motor responses originating in the brain and then effecting skeletal musculature, movement and stance.
Posture therefore, indicates what the Nervous System is doing at the involuntary/autonomic/ subconscious level.
When we assess posture we are literally ssessing subconscious brain activity, and become more aware of where someone is ‘at’ emotionallly and mentally as well as physically.
TASK- discuss ways in which to create more awareness of posture, to become more somatically (consciously) in control.
How do we move toward the parasympathetic and away from the sympathetic. 20 min.
* Assess your posture whilst sitting, lifting, walking, working etc.
* Assess the postures or ‘posturing’ of those around you to see as to whether mirroring is a factor. Use their bad postures as a visual cue to correct yours.
* Create a counter measure programme within your workouts by stretching the tight muscles and training the weak muscles. You are likely to have to focus on the posterior chain of muscles as we tend to focus more on the muscles that we see in the mirror.
* Prioritise posture first, then movement, and finally resistance when designing a workout for anyone with any postural abnormality. Why lift when you can’t even stand correctly? You will be building on a bad foundation.
* Avoid stress, and when confronted with it, enter a power posture before making any decisions. You do NOT want to be making decisions from a stressed / sympathetic state of mind.
* Look into breathing techniques, yoga, Pilates, body balance or any other physical activity that can counter some of the stresses related to more ‘aggressive’ forms of exercise that tend to increase stress/ cortisol.