That is a delicate question. We know posture matters, but how much?
There are different lenses through which we can look at posture and its effects. When it comes to training and heavy loading, posture really matters to have that stable base and alignment from which to begin.
If we are to look at it from a strictly biomechanical perspective, we can liken it to the most basic and fundamental component of mechanization: the wheel.
The wheel was the most evolutionary invention of mankind that really shifted society. It came about in 3500BC as a potters wheel, yet it was 300 years before the axle was invented and someone used it on a chariot. How we consider our posture requires a similarly sophisticated upgrade. Being able to identify an ideal zone for one joint is much easier than thinking about how the whole works; yet, if we are to really be able to maximize how we move and what we can carry, we have to think about the totality of the system.
Though it is crucial to have an eye on how the whole body is affected, it is very difficult to train this way. There are literally too many moving parts! So, for the purposes of posture correction, we think global but train local.
Joint centration is a biomechanical concept that describes the sweet spot of positioning of a joint for optimal movement. While we can explore different ranges through movement practices, we can also pay more attention to positions that translate into more efficient use of our bodies and can help prevent injury.
It is also worthwhile to consider that, beyond simply chasing optimum position, being able to maintain certain capacities throughout your lifespan is a more functional and realistic goal. This notion gives us an opportunity to relax, resist the tyranny of misplaced precision, and explore isometric holds and other subtle movements.
Isometric contraction is when we activate a muscle without changing its length—resistance within a static position. While this mode of training doesn’t necessarily fit the typical fitness model, 91% of muscle fibres are recruited in isometric contraction. We can take 10-40 seconds in one position, incorporate our breathing, and be present and strategic in our application of this approach.
We know that complication is a road bump to execution, and one of the goals of Brainfullness is to organize the body. We can make biomechanics and kinematics as complicated as we want, but I think it is more important to focus on making it user-friendly.
There are different ways that we can work with our posture in different areas of our bodies. With that in mind and in looking at the basic foundations, here are some things to do…
- Statically supinate and pronate your feet. That is to roll from the outside of your foot to the inside and feel the effect on your arch and your balance.
- Untether your big toe from your other four toes. This fires up your intrinsic foot muscles and creates more motion within the 33 joints of the foot—separate from the typical motions of gait.
Functionally, the foot is connected to the hip, so there is also an upstream effect for the health of the hip and longevity of walking.
- Fire up your quads at equal strength to feel greater balance in how you are loading your body.
- Anterior and posterior rotation of the pelvis. This mobilizes the spine and explores a variability of movement, while also drawing attention to our postural tendencies.
- Stacking up your thorax on your pelvis allows you to activate your core and have a more balanced posture that does not put unnecessary stress on other areas of your body.
- Reaching your arms up. There is a compressive load in the rotator cuff just from having our arms hanging down at our sides all the time which we can counter by exploring overhead ranges of motion. If we don’t practice the movement of reaching overhead, not only do we run the risk of losing the range but, if we then go to the gym and try chin ups, adding load to an unfamiliar movement, we may be asking too much of our bodies. It is more important to focus on the details in these types of activities. You don’t have to do all of them —even just doing one of these things and practicing active awareness in what happens in the rest of your body can be a gateway to improving your posture. It should be noted that when we sustain injuries we develop protective postures and compensatory movement patterns based on a particular pattern of pain. It is equally important to explore these altered positions and appreciate their value as we heal, but also to exercise that awareness to ensure that we do not carry them forward beyond recovery. And we must also acknowledge that there is a big sociocultural aspect to posture, and there is a challenge between looking at the cultural aesthetic expectation of posture versus the physiological energy efficiency of it. There is also an emotional tag that creates posture and there is a certain vigilance that goes into monitoring those cues for ourselves as well. You tend to shrug and exhibit a more protective posture if you have just received a nasty email from your boss, versus having the more open posture that you may exhibit when playing with your kids. Even being open to new ideas has a posture… We can be nuanced in our approach to health, being more targeted and consistent in how we practice. There is no perfect posture—but there are benefits to complex movements and an importance in how we load our bodies. Just as there is no perfect way to be, just the complexity of our experience and the value in how we live it. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Just maintain it. And make sure we are driving in the right direction.
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Dr. Tabrizi is a chiropractor, osteopath and a passionate member of both the local and scientific community, whose goal is to teach that the pursuit of optimal health and wellness is much more than being symptom-free. His practice is rooted in the philosophy of treating the person rather than just treating the illness or ailment. As a result of his interdisciplinary training, Dr. Tabrizi has developed a neuroscience-based therapeutic education approach to treating his patients, focusing on healing illness from a wider perspective, placing equal responsibility on patient as well as practitioner. Dr. Tabrizi aims to educate his patients and provide them with the tools and framework needed to integrate pain management and healthy living into the fabric of their everyday lives.Check out his instagram at @drt_toronto or visit his website at https://www.brainfullness.org/