Three Posture Myths, Debunked!
When you think of "good posture" what comes to mind? Shoulders back? Chin up? Straight spine? While good intentioned, this language doesn't paint a complete picture of what it means to have healthy posture. In fact, posture is more than just the physical body looking a certain way. It's an elegantly complex system that includes the body, the breath, and the mind.
Mindfulness and yoga provide an excellent framework for how to reshape our understanding what good posture is, and what it isn't. Spoiler alert ... your spine is NOT straight, nor should it be. This lead us to our first posture myth...
Posture Myth 1: Your Spine Should Be Straight
To fully understand why this is a myth, let's begin with some basic anatomy of the spine. Your spine has three main segments: the lumbar spine (lower back), the thoracic spine (mid/upper back), and the cervical spine (neck). Each of these segments contains vertebrae (spinal bones), facet joints (how the vertebrae connect), and a whole host of soft tissues that work together to mobilize and stabilize the spine itself including disks, ligaments, and muscles.
As mentioned above, the spine is not straight. Rather, it is comprised of two types of curves, lordotic and kyphotic, Your lumber spine has a lordotic curve (curves inward). Your thoracic spine has a kyphotic curve (curves outward). Your cervical spine has another lordotic curve (curves inward).
These three curves create an "S" shape when you look at your spine from the side (just like the image of the spine shown below). They allow for movement, flexibility, and evenly distribute weight. Learn more about how the spine moves through its different ranges of motion here. Movement and variability are two keys to spinal health, which brings us to our second posture myth...
Posture Myth 2: You Need A Fancy Ergonomic Chair
Chair ergonomics were 2.76 BILLION dollar industry in 2020. Don't get me wrong, I love a fancy work chair with all the bells a whistles. They have the capacity to support the curves in the spine - hello lumbar cushion! They nurture proper pelvic alignment through the ability to tilt the chair base and raise it up and down. Head rests prevent things like tech neck and eye strain.
I could go on and on about the benefits of a good quality office chair, but the truth of the matter is that you don't need one. In fact, a healthy spine is one that MOVES. If you're locked into one way of sitting at your desk all day, you're missing out on opportunities to keep your spine healthy, which obviously impacts your posture.
Additionally, just because you have fancy chair does NOT imply that you're using it properly. This is where mindfulness comes into play. Are you actually sitting well? Are your feet on the floor? Is your lower back supported? Are you rounding your shoulders despite your ergonomically designed chair?
All that said, if you DO have an ergonomic chair that you love, great! Keep using it and do so intentionally. Try mixing up your work day with some office friendly chair yoga like our Happy Spine Sequence. If possible, try working in different places for short amounts of time. In fact, desk workers don't need to be limited to desks. If you want to really mix things up, try getting down onto the floor to read a few emails and see what happens.
Posture Myth 3: Good Posture Is Only Physical
While the physical health of your spine is critical to creating good posture, there are many more factors at play. The mind-body connection is constantly in action. Our breath, thoughts, feelings, and emotions all impact how we hold bodies and how present ourselves to the world.
Consider the last time you felt tired or sad. Chances are, you where not sitting with perfect posture, ready to take on the day. Rather, you were slumped and slouched. There is nothing wrong with feeling sad, and there is nothing wrong with slouching into a big comfy couch when you need to rest.
Slouching is not inherently bad. But it becomes problematic if it's habitual because it creates imbalances that cause postural discomforts like neck tension and low back pain. Additionally, if you're slouching all the time, you might find yourself unintentionally dampening your energy levels and mood.
The good news is you can use the mind-body connection as a vehicle to improve your mood. The next time you find yourself feeling low, try to observe it without judgment. Take a deep breath, move your spine a little, and sit tall. You might find that your mood improves simply by changing the way you hold yourself. Change your posture, change your mind! How cool is that!
We've created a totally free 10-Minute Tune-Up: Posture RX, to support your journey to sustainable spine health (video above). This class address three common posture pitfalls and how to avoid them with a few simple poses, right at your desk. Empower yourself to improve your posture by understanding how it works.
If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our newsletter to receive weekly 10-Minute Tune-Ups and wellbeing inspiration. These classes are quick office-friendly chair yoga and meditation breaks to get you moving, breathing, and de-stressed - no change of clothing or equipment needed. Happy moving. :)
Katie Rowe Mitchell