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Guide to Good Posture

What is Posture?

Posture is the position of the parts of your body in relation to each other. Your posture constantly changes depending on the activity; but no matter what your are doing, there is a way of holding and moving your body that is balanced and efficient. This way is called good posture.

Your posture is second nature to you, a taken-for-granted habit. If you have poor posture, probably other are more aware of it than you are; they may think you are lazy or lacking in self-esteem. You may be aware only of chronic fatigue, headaches or backaches which can stem from poor posture. Poor posture causes muscular strain, particularily of the spinal muscles and therefore wastes energy. It may cause crowding of the heart, lungs and abdominal organs causing impaired function. It produces uneven stress on spinal joints and discs and may cause permanent damage.

When postural habits are good, you can work and play longer without fatigue because your muscles work more efficiently. Your spine has a chance to develop normally and your internal organs function better. You look healthier and happier; your clothes fit better; and you make a better impression on others. Inside you will find some examples of good and bad posture.

Anatomy of the Low Back

When you stand, your lower back should curve slightly. This curve called a lordosis helps to distribute your weight properly through the spine and pelvis. The discs located between each of the vertebrae act as shock absorbers. Excessive pressure within the discs may, when sitting, cause damage, but this can be avoided through proper posture.

Stand Tall

The knees should be straight but not locked, stomach flat, ribs raised, shoulders and head erect. Pretend you are balancing a book on your head. Your weight should be evenly distributed on both legs.

Walk tall

Walk tall with your feet pointing straight ahead. Your arms should swing freely from your sides. Lood straight ahead; never down.

Sit Tall

As you sit, your pelvis rotates and the lordosis is flattened. Good seats and proper sitting posture help reduce this effect and ease the pressure on the discs. Sit tall with both feet flat on the floor, your whole back against the chair back, and your head erect. Your weight should be evenly distributed on both buttocks.

  • Good Seats and How to use them...
    • home: Make sure your back is supported comfortably. Use arm rests if available. If you are sitting for long periods, shift your position from time to time.
    • work: Avoid hunching forward. If using a stool, place it close to your work surface, so as to rest your arms comfortably. Also use the height adjustment if available to assure comfortable positioning.
    • ...while driving: Move the seat far enough forward to allow knees and elbows to be slightly bent as you reach for the steering wheel and pedals. Use added low back supports if needed and available.
  • Avoid:
    1. using straight back chairs with no low back support;
    2. slouching while driving;
    3. using soft seats, such as sofas;
    4. using flat stools with hard surfaces and no height adjustments;
    5. reaching for your work; instead move your stool close enough to the work surface to allow comfortable positioning;
    6. putting seat to far back or forward;
    7. using flat seat backs unless a supportive cushion can be used.

Sleep on your side or back. Do not sleep on your stomach as this will aggravate "sway back" and forcibly turn the head to one side. Your pillow should be just high enough to keep your head in line with the rest of your spine. The mattress should be soft enough to fit the normal curves of the body, yet firm enough not to sag generally.

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