“The Buddha is found in the posture.”
Whether or not you believe in Buddhism or not, the quote sticks in your mind. By connecting to our body, sitting and moving in a way that is open and upright, it changes us for the better and in truly profound ways.
Why Posture Matters so much
“A good stance and posture reflect a proper state of mind.”-Morihei Ueshiba
The next time you’re feeling low energy or depressed, bring some awareness to your posture. Are you slouched over, with a bad case of “text-neck”? According to cognitive scientists, this is probably going to be the case. When our body is slouched, our mind, thoughts and emotions are often slouched.
With poor posture our…
- Breathing becomes compromised
- We are perceived negatively
- Natural flows such as blood, nerve, and oxygen are restricted
- Concentration diminishes
- Muscles and connective tissues become strained
When we work on our posture:
- Our mind and body flows more freely
- Balance is improved
- We gain a renewed sense of dignity
- We are taken more seriously
- Stress is reduced and so are stress related body chemicals like cortisol, a hormone associated with suppressed immunity, hypertension, high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), insulin resistance, carbohydrate cravings, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, fat deposits on the face, neck, and belly, and reduced libido.
- Our mind, body and spirit become aligned
The Benefits of Good Posture
According the Cleveland Clinic, good posture alignment:
- Keeps bones and joints in the correct alignment so that muscles are being used properly.
- Helps decrease the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces that could result in arthritis.
- Decreases the stress on the ligaments holding the joints of the spine together.
- Prevents the spine from becoming fixed in abnormal positions.
- Prevents fatigue because muscles are being used more efficiently, allowing the body to use less energy.
- Prevents strain or overuse problems.
- Prevents backache and muscular pain.
- Contributes to a good appearance.
Based on a recent article in Fast Company, Eric Peper, Professor of Psychology at San Francisco State University stated, “Emotions and thoughts affect our posture and energy levels; conversely, posture and energy affect our emotions and thoughts,” and two minutes of skipping versus walking in a slouched position can make a significant difference on our energy levels. Peper’s research finds that it only takes two minutes to change your hormones, meaning you can basically change the chemistry in your brain while waiting for your food to heat up in the microwave.
Practicing Good Posture
“Posture is the position in which you hold your body upright against gravity while standing, sitting or lying down. Good posture involves training your body to stand, walk, sit and lie in positions where the least strain is placed on supporting muscles and ligaments during movement or weight-bearing activities.”-The Cleveland Clinic
The way one carries and takes care of their body is a critical step, and is an often overlooked key to peak performance. According to Harvard Health, good posture means:
- chin parallel to the floor
- shoulders even (roll your shoulders up, back, and down to help achieve this)
- neutral spine (no flexing or arching to overemphasize the curve in your lower back)
- arms at your sides with elbows straight and even
- abdominal muscles braced
- hips even
- knees even and pointing straight ahead
- body weight distributed evenly on both feet.
Below, our CEO, Rick Breden, provides you with his steps to establish a good standing and seated posture.
Always building from the ground up:
- Feet are placed firmly on the ground, approximately shoulder width apart. This gives you a really stable place to start anything; Your weight is evenly distributed over the body, causing no strain and effort on the muscles and joints.
- For men, I recommend that your feet are facing straight in front of you and parallel.
- Because of the pelvic structure of women, you may consider opening your feet just slightly for a more relaxed posture.
- Knees are never rigid & locked, but instead slightly bent.
- You’re never hunched over or leaning back ,or standing up at attention with your chest popping out. In general, a good posture is upright and erect with a straight spine, Imagine a string coming from the top of your head and reaching up to the sky.
- Hands are relaxed at the side.
- At this point, you’re in a very solid foundational posture. Now, I like to connect the mind and body with an easy breathing in & out practice.
The simple act of drawing your attention to the body and toward this posture in this way will help you secure an alignment that is open, receptive and alert-all essentials for peak performance.
Probably most important to people in the workplace is establishing a good seated posture. So many of us lean forward into our work and end up with a sore neck and shoulders by the end of the day. By bringing awareness to various parts of your body, you can establish a good seated posture that is upright and allows you to flow freely throughout the day.
- Sit down and start noticing your body-bring awareness to your feet or other parts of the body. Move however feels good to you, but awareness is key.
- Again, starting with the feet. Create a straight line from the hips down to the feet to avoid the legs splaying outwards or inwards.
- Notice how it feels to lean forward and back in your chair, and from side to side.
- Then, I’ll do a spiral with my upper body until I find my center; Where my spine and head feels upright but relaxed. I’lll usually lift my shoulders here to feel what it feels like to be tense and then drop them to see what it feels like when they’re relaxed.
- Again, once you’ve established a good seated posture I like to do an easy breathing in and out practice.
We encourage you to make this your own and find what feels best in your own body. The simple act of becoming aware of your posture increases your mindfulness and creates a foundation for flow and balance at work and in your life in general that is essential to peak performance.