HOW SLOUCHING DESTROYS HEALTH (ISSUE 121)
By Diane Gold
Slouching destroys health. It may stop our breathing, but it can certainly compromise our power and our vitality. Not only do we compress the spine when we slouch, but we limit our respiration and cause our body to atrophy . We don’t usually think about these events, but they are obvious when we do.
Shoulders over the hips is the proper alignment for standing or sitting. This can also be done for people who spend their days in bed, with a small alignment trick below.
HEALTH AND SLOUCHING
One of the ways we stay healthy is to pump lots of fresh oxygen into our systems. The cleaner the air, the better off we are. The freer the airway is, the easier it is for it to flow.
Think about what happens when we have unwanted mucous in our body. We have difficulty breathing. This is because our airway is blocked.
Or think about when someone falls on top of us in gym class or martial arts training; we have a hard time breathing because our lungs get compressed and our oxygen level is restricted.
The same thing happens when we slouch: we restrict our own airway. It does take some effort to hold the torso up without slouching, but our bodies will thank us for the unbounded occasion to suck up oxygen with no obstructions.
MISSING THE OPPORTUNITY TO WORK THAT BODY
Every time we are standing or sitting, or even lying down; we have the opportunity to work the abdominal muscles to hold the torso straight. Every time we don’t use this chance, it goes away.
It feels really good to have strong abs. They can do amazing things. Strong abs allow for a great life and great digestion, too.
We also have the chance to learn how to relax our chins, necks and shoulders with good posture. This, too, goes away if we don’t grab the moment.
PERPETUATING THE HABIT
When we keep slouching, we get used to it and it becomes normal. Unless we take a good long look, there are probably 5 times a day we slouch without noticing it: tidying up, cooking, working, driving, sitting on the toilet are some examples. We know that we develop a habit from a cue. The cue is the urge to relax or the urge to rest. What could possibly be wrong with letting the shoulders go while we are cooking? Isn’t this activity supposed to be mellow and fun?
Carving out relaxation time is crucially important. It doesn’t mean we have to slouch. After the cue, (wanting to relax) we do a behavior (letting the abs, shoulders and butt go out of alignment) that brings us the reward of ending the work it takes to stand, sit or keep the bones aligned. If repeated, this becomes the norm. Thus, we habitually slouch. Until we replace this behavior.
1) USING THE LEGS
When we look at daily activities that require us to carry weight, we have to use our legs to take the pressure off our backs and our knees. Take vacuuming, sweeping, carrying out the recycling bin. These tasks require us to exert effort. When we bend the knees to engage the legs, we can do the pushing, pulling, carrying without compromising our spine. When an object is fairly bulky or awkward, it’s important to use some type of leverage (bent knees, a wagon, a dolly or a partner to avoid slouching the back during this enterprise.
2) USING THE ABS
Funny as it may sound, using the abdominal plate to hold the back erect is the easiest way to insure a healthy posture. This would mean this set of muscles has to be strong enough to endure the weight of the undertaking.
The labor can be as gentle as standing at the mirror to brush our teeth.
I bring this one up because several times this year, I have looked at my posture while grooming my teeth; it was in need of correction. Either my shoulders were slumped, I was leaning over the sink with an out of alignment back or I relaxed my abdominal muscles enough to slouch.
The action step is to notice yourself at tooth brushing time, and get the shoulders over the hips while you brush, floss and tongue brush.
3) TUCKING THE BUTT
So often, when people hear,
“Tuck the butt,”
they tuck the hips forward (which is correct), and they compromise the spine (obviously not correct). The purpose of this butt adjustment is to take the pressure off the joints and the back and place it on the bones which were built to do the heavy lifting (pun intended).
Standing in line is the perfect place to tuck your butt. Since we have decided to stand in this line, rarer and rarer with online banking, taxes and government paperwork; we can use this instance to work on our slouching habit by changing our behavior. It takes just as much effort to stand straight as to slouch, even though we think the opposite; so we might as well maximize our own energy by aligning the body.
Large-chested women will find this particularly helpful as they have the challenge of not leaning too far back or forward to compensate for the weight of the chest.
The action step are these:
a) While standing, feel like a soldier by rotating the belly button forward at the same time as tucking the butt so that the body is in a straight line. If you have strong abs, it’s OK if the torso is slightly forward of the hips.
b) While sitting in your chair or on the couch (or sitting up in bed), tuck the butt so that the lower back presses against the lower back of the chair or couch. If this leaves space between the upper back and the chair or couch back, place a pillow there so that the center of the shoulders stay over the center of the hips.
If you are seated on a seat with no back, tuck the butt in the same way and use the abs to hold the shoulders over the hips with straight back.
c) Especially for people who spend most of their time in bed, tuck the butt while lying down. Press the lower back into the bed. If possible, and for best leverage until you have rock solid abs, bend the knees upward with feet flat on the bed.
Slouching is insidious. It pops into our lives when we least expect and becomes normal unless we manage and fix it. When we are younger, it doesn’t seem like a big deal, except that the earlier on we make our move, the earlier we will develop the habit of an aligned body.
We need our breathing for health, so let’s help it out. We need to train our bones, muscles and tendons to keep us straight.
We feel better when our bodies are in line. There’s no time like the present to make slouching a thing of the past in our lives.
If you wish to share your story, please hit reply in your email program to be contacted.
We value your feedback very much.
Please leave a comment.
Please follow us on Twitter @warriorsoweight.
DIANE GOLD, AUTHOR
Diane Gold, Founder of Warriors of Weight, Turning Habits Into Health, is a mentor in tai chi, kung fu and meditation, a music, fitness and stress expert, dedicated mom, studying plant-based nutrition and habit change.
If she knows one thing better than anything else, it might be how to align the body for maximize health. She says,
“We have lots of time to live and make changes. Our lives will power up once we pay attention to body alignment. It’s as if someone turns a switch on the world; but we have done it. That’s how important posture is.
“It’s climactic. Replacing slouching helps our health. It is poignant. It’s like lighting up our lives because we let in more oxygen when we sit and stand well.
“Do it once. Then do it again. Keep on going.It’s good for all of us and makes us strong.”
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.