Fix posture – feel better!

As mentioned in an earlier post, our modern day sedentary lifestyle is taxing to our bodies in many ways. Prolonged sitting, inactivity and less and less physical challenges make for low body awareness, atrophied muscles and many cardiovascular conditions. A particularly noticeable outcome of this is a general prevalence of poor posture.

In short: poor posture is an epidemic.

'How_Does_Your_POSTURE_Line_Up'_-_NARA_-_514534
Poor posture malalignment

If you happen to be in a place full of people, just have a look around and observe peoples’ posture while they are sitting and working or even when they are standing or walking. How is the position of their neck and head? How about the curves of their spine? Do the shoulders slouch forward? Are the feet directed forward or do they turn in or outward?

Chances are high that you will be able to observe many things that reveal some severe imbalances in peoples’ muscular-skeletal system, resulting from long years of bad habits and poor movement patterns.
Many people suffer from what is sometimes called the “crossed posture syndrome“.

Have a look at this short video that is introducing the crossed posture syndrome.

Now, why is it that so many of us have poor postural habits?

On one hand, it certainly has to do with the modern day tendency to spend large amounts of time sitting (often in horrible positions), slouching forward, while we are working, writing, eating or watching TV – starting from a very young age, which results in the observation of horrendous muscular imbalances and movement deficits in many children already at primary school level.
Another big factor is stress, since the stress response activates a series of physical mechanisms that can contribute largely to poor posture if they are turned on constantly.

Family_watching_television_1958
Sedentary Lifestyle – 1958

The problem with poor posture is not only that it looks really bad in the mirror and to other people, but also that it can lead to a host of serious health complaints and affect our bodies and minds in a variety of negative ways.

First of all, as mentioned above, some muscles will get hyperactive and tight whereas others will get chronically weak and long.

Undue stress is put on the spine and other joints when the surrounding muscles get out of balance and when pain sets in, the body tries to find ways to ease it, which can lead to even worse posture. Not only will there be increased strain on certain joints, but the imbalances also make for a decreased range of motion (=inferior movement) and an increased occurrence of painful trigger points and tightness in the body.

Look at this informative video of Chicago chiropractor and movement specialist Dr. Evan Osar on posture and sitting:

In short: bad posture is bad news!

Bad_posture
Bad posture = bad news for the body

But, there are also a lot of myths about posture, have a look at some of them in this link to an article of the Huffington Post:

And here another document listing 10 popular myths about posture.

Now, there are several things we can do to do our bodies good and start improving our posture. Generally, this can be summarized into at least four points:

  • Postural awareness and training
  • Stretching of the tight muscles
  • Strengthening of the weak muscles
  • Soft-tissue work to release trigger points and restore normal health/functioning (this can be professional massage treatment or self-massage with tools like foam rollers)

At this point, it is worth mentioning that also around the topic of posture and postural correction there are a lot of different opinions and approaches – as with many topics related to health and well-being. However, the information provided here seem sensible and widely recognized.

First of all, we need to become aware of our postural habits throughout the day and also become conscious of where our problems lie.

Here is a great informative blog post by performance coach Keats Snideman from Arizona, USA, on posture and postural assessment (I can also only recommend his “The other 23-hours-series on his blog which includes posts about various related topics like stress, sleep, posture, microbreaks, rest positions, massage and stretching).

After initially becoming aware of our problems and reminding ourselves throughout the day, we need to then relearn how to move in a more functional and healthy way and there are many different methods to do this, some focus more on relearning certain movement patterns and strengthening weak muscles through specific exercises, others more on awareness and proper alignment during exercises and everyday activities (like Feldenkrais and Alexander Technique).

To help balance out our muscular imbalances, most trainers recommend some sort of a corrective exercise program that helps strengthening weak and stretching out tight muscles.

Maybe most importantly, we have to start adopting better posture during all of our activities during the day, which can be assisted by a corrective exercise program that helps weak muscles to become stronger and tight muscles to become suppler. If we happen to sit a lot in our jobs or studies, we need to find a good, ergonomic way to sit on our computers or desks, as well as adopting the habit of taking frequent breaks from sitting, possibly including some short exercises that can reverse the bad effects of our prolonged periods of sitting.

Have a look at this video, explaining how to have better posture when sitting and working at the computer in an illustrative way:

On the same note, I’ll share an infographic by I found that contains 7 steps to better posture while working. Have a look (click on it for bigger size)!

7-steps-to-better-posture_50f854cc8e9be
Infographic by http://www.furniturewholesalers.com

To provide some further good video and reading material to delve deeper into the topic, I will conclude this blog post by providing several links to videos, pictures and websites that focus on this topic.

First of all, I’d like to recommend two youtube channels that provide a lot of videos on correcting posture.

One channel is by Indiana (USA) based chiropractor Steve Hoffman who provides a lot of videos on improving posture and movement as well as other information like nutrition and wellness. One of his videos was already embedded above.

https://www.youtube.com/user/posturedoc

Here one more detailed introductory video on the crossed posture syndrome by Dr. Steve Hoffman.

And, another very good and informative youtube channel almost exclusively dedicated to posture related topic is the “posturevideos” channel by US chiropractor Dr. Paula Moore.

http://www.youtube.com/user/posturevideos

Look here at the great introductory video series “7 Biggest Posture Mistakes”:

Furthermore, I found another good infographic on the topic that I’m sharing below. Have a look at it and learn more interesting facts related to the topic of posture.

posture1-infographic1
Infographic by Greatist and Voltier Digital

OK, I hope this served as a helpful introduction to the topic and as a motivation for all of us to become conscious of and start to improve our posture. Please share this information and if you discovered that your posture is less than optimal while reading this post, don’t despair (it’s the case for most of us) and don’t be too hard on yourself (look at the effects of feeling bad about oneself in the comic below :-)), but start to be active NOW and soon enjoy the benefits!

ME_479_Posture

Sleep or die?

Our new topic is SLEEP.

Often neglected and disregarded, good and sufficient sleep is one of the fundamental pillars of health and well-being.

Sleep is what we all do during approximately one-third of our lives (depending on whether we sleep enough or not ;-D), without even being aware of it (except in rare cases).

It is also a very complex neurophysiological process that includes at least two very basic phases, REM sleep (rapid eye movement) and non-REM sleep.
For more information on the sleep phases and what happens inside of our bodies during those phases, look at the infographic below with the name “The Science of Sleep” (source: overstock.com) and watch either the excellent, but long lecture from the University of California or the shorter video with the title “Healthy Sleeping” on youtube (see below) – both are embedded at the end of this blog post.

To get more information on different aspects of sleep, I gathered some more nice infographics that you can see in their full size when you click on the pictures.

Infographic 2 – The Basics of Sleep (Source: http://www.tastyplacement.com/infographic-basics-of-sleep)
Infographic 3 – Sleep or Die (Source: http://yourlocalsecurity.com/in-good-measure/sleep-or-die)
Infographic 4 – How Sleep Deprivation Impacts Your Brain and Body (Source: http://www.onlinecollege.org/2012/01/30/how-sleep-deprivation-impacts-your-brain-and-body/)
Infographic 5 – Sleep is Awesome (Source: http://inoveryourhead.net/images/sleep-is-awesome.png)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyway, sleep is a major factor in the quality of our lives and also heavily affects how we relate to each other in waking life.
On the other hand, the quality of our waking lives immensely affects the quality of our sleep, which Jiddu Krishnamurti, the founder of Brockwood Park School, points out in an entry (Rome, October 19th 1973) from the personal diary that he took from 1973 to 1975 (Krishnamurti’s Journal). The exact text of K’s journal entry can be found on the last page of the info presentation I put together with short information and pictures on the topic of sleep (see below).

See the info presentation (4 pages) here as a pdf-file (Care for the Body – Sleep – Info Presentation) and below as jpeg-files. Click on the pictures to see the bigger versions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last, but not least, here a couple of interesting videos on the topic of sleep, its importance for health and well-being, and some science behind it. Have fun watching them!

OK, hope this was interesting!
By the way, if you read this after 10pm, you better go to bed and get a good night’s sleep! 🙂
Thomas from Brockwood

Stress – From Savior to Killer?

Our first topic to look at is stress and following the title of a video I found on youtube, I gave this post the headline “Stress – From Savior to Killer?”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stress affects all of us in different ways, is inevitable in life and originally was very necessary for survival, but if it becomes constant and is not dealt with intelligently (as usually the case in the modern world and with our thought-based lifestyle), it becomes a major risk factor for our physical and psychological health.

An original definition of stress (by Hans Selye, who coined the term in its modern connotation in 1936) sees it as the non-specific response of the body to any demand (stressor) made upon it.
Stress is thus an hormonal response to many different causes that threaten to knock the body out of his natural state of homeostasis.

Faced with alarming situations the body produces so called stress hormones, especially adrenaline and cortisol, in order to help cope with the situation (like in the classical fight-or-flight situation that our early human ancestors were often faced with).

Likewise, the same response is triggered when alarming situations are merely anticipated, imagined or thought about, which – living in a society based on thought and time –  leads to constantly raised levels of stress hormones in the body. When produced continuously and in high amounts, those stress hormones lead or contribute to a variety of severe health problems (see graphic “How Stress affects the Body” below).

The ancient overvaluation of thought paired with the complexity and demands of modern day society contribute to an ever increasing amount of stress in people’s lives. This urgently needs to be looked at and dealt with for the benefit of both the individual and society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To delve deeper into the topic, I gathered some interesting infographics and videos that you can see further down.

The infographic on “How Stress Affects the Body” created by heartmath.com shows different effects of stress on the body and additionally lists some important facts on the topic.
Source: http://infographicsmania.com/how-stress-affects-the-body/

There are many different causes of stress (so called “stressors”), some are inevitable and represent challenges that life just presents us with from time to time, but many of them are unhealthy habits. I created a small overview that lists a number of common stressors.

The following videos from youtube inform about different aspects of stress. The first of them is about the research of Stanford professor Robert Sapolsky who also wrote the popular book “Why Zebras don’t get Ulcers” on the topic. It is a kind of trailer for a very interesting and worthwhile longer documentary by National Geographic that can also be found on youtube. Its name is “Stress – Portrait of a Killer”.

I hope this post with all its information could give you a little overview on stress, its causes and effects and help with the understanding why it is so important do deal with stress in a sensible and immediate way.

If you want to investigate more for yourself, here some more tips for further reading:

Book Tip:

Robert M. Sapolsky – Why Zebras don’t get Ulcers

Websites and Articles:

http://www.stress.org/
Official Website of the American Institute of Stress

http://www.mtstcil.org/skills/stress-intro.html/
Online guide about stress

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=taming-stress
Article “Taming Stress” by Robert M. Sapolsky, from: Scientific American (Update 02/11/2012: Unfortunately, the article is no longer visible in its entirety, but only as a preview version.)

See you in the next post,
Thomas from Brockwood