Good posture is essential but what do we actually mean by good posture? Yip et al, 2008 describe proper posture “… to be the state of musculoskeletal balance that involves a minimal amount of stress and strain on the body”
Good posture therefore depends on an awareness of your body’s relationship to gravity. In an optimal upright standing posture your main centre of mass, an area just below the belly button and in towards the spine (in Tai Chi, lower dantien) should be balanced over your contact with the ground.
Moving upwards, the centre of gravity of your ribcage (middle dantien) and head (upper dantien) is balanced over your lower dantien. Take your time to body sense how this feels.
5 Steps to Powerful Standing Posture
- Stand with your feet feet hip-width apart and parallel
- Lengthen the spine and neck gently lifting upwards from the crown of the head
- Focus on your centre of gravity (lower dantien) and balance this directly over your contact with the ground
- Connect the dots now by balancing middle and upper dantien directly above. As a visual guide you can check side on in a mirror and look for ankle hip and shoulder in a vertical line
- Take a moment in this standing posture to focus on the breath. Keeping the lips lightly together and jaw relaxed notice the effortless flow of air in and out through the nose. Follow rather than force the breath.
It is important, however, to realise that posture is not to be considered as a single act or position, but a unique moment in time that captures only one possible postural position. Standing posture is a beginning, not the end to encouraging good postural alignment.
As Katy Bowman highlights in her book Move your DNA “…correct human alignment does not imply that there is one body position that we should be using all the time. In fact, it is often our determination to maintain a ‘good’ fixed posture that is undermining our health”.
I find clients often misunderstand the meaning of a strong core, focusing only on the stomach muscles and over-tensing these to ‘keep the core engaged’ during walking and running. Over-tensing stomach muscles can have a detrimental effect on movement, breath and organs. Muscles deep in the core of the body should be reactive to movement, working accordingly to maintain structural efficiency and ‘the state of musculoskeletal balance that involves a minimal amount of stress and strain on the body’.
Avoid forcing alignment. Your current posture is a result of how you have lived, breathed, moved, played and worked since you were born. Gravitational pull shapes posture as do our emotions, how we think and feel.
Having an awareness of current posture, how our body feels and looks is the starting point. From there you can work with a Chi Running Coach to practice simple exercise, drills and visualisations to help improve alignment.
A good manual therapist such as osteopath, physio, massage therapist and Rolfer is also invaluable as part of your practice. Unfortunately many of us don’t have the budget to see such a specialist on a regular basis. Or we often only approached one in the event of injury or pain rather than for structural maintenance.
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The programme includes a comprehensive online training course and a 4-day practical workshop.