Lead In - speed 2.2
What is posture? Today I am going to describe how muscle, tendon, ligament and bone work together to create a configuration of components that help determine your posture.
When you were a kid your teacher may have told you to sit up straight. Well, a lot of mine did anyway. I'm not sure if that happens at school these days. In our school years, good posture often seems like such a chore and all we want to do is slouch. However some time before, when you were a toddler, posture came easy. When you took your first steps your posture was pristine. As you get older you often lose this natural poise and take on all the baggage of adulthood.
Definition of posture
Posture is defined as the position in which someone holds their body when doing any activity. Underlying our posture is the structure of the body, which is made up of a configuration of muscle, tendon, ligament and bone. This configuration helps define what postures we can take. Bones are rigid and generally do not flex at all, nor do they stretch. They supply unmoving, rigid structure. The tendons and ligaments are elastic. They are the springs in the body, and will stretch slightly when we move but always returning to their original shape. Ligaments join bones together at the joints and tendons join muscle to bone. Muscles themselves are flexible and their main purpose is to supply movement, but they also contribute to our structure by tying different parts together. In short, our structure is maintained by this configuration of muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones and without all of those, will fall apart.
Let's start by taking a look at toddler posture. Not knowing any better, toddlers tend to walk, stand and sit in a manner which is exemplary. This suggests that good posture is innate. Toddlers have an advantage in that they have a lower centre of gravity so they are able to get up and sit down with greater ease than adults, but watching toddlers can provide insights into optimal posture and movement.
We defined posture as the position in which someone holds their body when standing or sitting or doing any activity. The use of the word 'hold' suggests that this is a conscious action that we take. The word 'hold' is a doing word, such as we hold the cup in our hand. To a certain extent this is true: We hold our posture through conscious decision making. However, underlying this conscious decision there are limitations to our muscle, tendon and bone configuration that define what we can consciously do.
As an example, a person with a slouch, if they adopt that position repeatedly and consistently they may end up having it permanently imprinted into their muscle, tendon and bone configuration, making it very difficult to stand up tall and proud. Through habit this person develops a configuration of muscle, tendon and bone that shows as a slouch.
Let's call that configuration the habitual structure, which is the shape our body takes as a result of persistent habit.
The person with the habitual slouch has a sunken habitual structure. When asked to straighten up, they might well be able to change their posture, but it may be hard to retain it since they may be working against this sunken structure, and they will soon return to their default slouch.
Let's now consider if that person took the effort to change their habitual slouch by practising better posture and slowly changing their habitual structure. Doing that would involve holding their body in a different and more improved configuration for long enough and often enough in order to impose the change. We can call that improved posture that the person holds while imposing change, the held structure, which is the configuration we create when we stretch tendons across bones outside the limits of the habitual structure.
I cover habitual and held structure in more detail in the next presentation.
We can also apply the concept of posture to our face. Have you heard of the expression 'resting bitch face', when applied to someone who appears to have a permanent scowl on their face? There is a certain amount of validity in this kind of observation. The person may well have an habitual structure in their face that is an ingrained expression of displeasure. Other people appear to have a permanent smile on their face. How is this so? Do you think it is genetic? If we spend a lot of time feeling sad or angry and letting it show on our face, then over time that expression may become frozen into our muscle, tendon and bone configuration. In a later presentation we cover this in more detail including exercises to help over come it.
We will go into habitual structure and held muscle, tendon, ligament and bone configurations in the next presentation.
Take a break
Technology: Good posture
An internal view of the spine shows that it has an S shape. This S-shape allows the spine to act as a spring to absorb shock and enhance movement, especially for activities involving running and jumping. Any good posture must incorporate this requirement.
There are many definitions of good posture. Some of the best come from Martial Arts. In most Asian hand fighting disciplines the best posture for standing is something similar to the following:
- feet firmly on the ground a shoulder width apart, parallel to each other
- knees lightly bent; they must never be locked
- chest lightly expanded forward and buttocks lightly extended backwards to enhance spinal curvature
- hands either by sides or bent and held forward in loose fist clench
- remain relaxed but able to move easily
The posture described enables readiness for action at a moment's notice. The posture is relevant for any kind of action, not restricted to Martial Arts. The same or similar posture is taught in singing schools, in most sports, and disciplines where high performance is sought. If you think you have bad posture, it might be a good idea to research posture and find a technique that works for you. Certainly there is no harm in learning a Martial Art for a while.
Obtaining a good posture is a matter of practice. The more you consciously work at and adopt good posture, the easier it becomes, until you do it by default. If you want to view more instructional videos on posture and other step by step videos on emotional fitness, then do go to http://practice.emotfit.com and sign up. You may also like to subscribe to the channel here on Youtube.
I remember as a kid having this perception of posture which I later found to be totally erroneous. During pre-teen years I thought that tucking my backside in was the thing to do. I also thought that the abdominal muscles were an essential item of support in lifting heavy objects. I later found that neither of those are particularly helpful and they no doubt contributed to my suffering. We all have these misperceptions of how things should be done. It wasn't until I studied karate and later singing that I started to understand good posture and how to obtain and maintain it.
Our body structure is held together by a configuration of bone, tendons, ligaments and muscle. Good posture is innate, but can be lost over time due to circumstance. A good standing posture involves feet equidistant, curved spine, knees not locked, and ready for action.
Challenge to audience
You only have one life, and your main instrument in life is your body. For your body to work well it has to be in good shape and that is an S-shape which is flexible and ready for action when necessary. My challenge to you is to look at your posture and make a determination to obtain and retain good posture. The benefits of doing so are unlimited.