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Alignment vs Posture

November 9, 2013

What is Posture?

Posture relates to posing, body language, emotional feelings, or an impression that we give to others.  Some postures say, “I’m laid back,” or “I’m demure.”  Others scream “I’m in charge!” or “Come at me, bro!

There’s a lot of cultural influence on what good posture looks like.

image

Ideas of posture and gait first form from the examples around you as a small child. Then, as a teenager, you probably heard your parents say, “Stand tall! Shoulders back! Lift your chest!” Your grandma would point out the beautiful postures of military men and ballerinas, while you were probably noting the cool slouch of models and rock stars.

image

Posture is subjective, cultural, and a sign of the times. Desirable posture in 1900 is different from the desirable posture of today, and a pleasing posture in North America is different from what is currently pleasing in Asia.

The High Fashion Slump of the West and the Pigeon Toe look of Japan.

The High Fashion Slump of the West and the Pigeon Toe look of Japan.

Whether you cultivated the proud posture of a ROTC boy, the lofty yet slew-footed posture of a ballerina, or the slouchy posture of the too-cool-for-school kid, none of that is what I mean by alignment. 

What is Alignment?

The human body is a complex machine that needs movement to stay alive and be healthy.  And just like any complex machine, your body is optimally maintained when:

  • the engineering is respected
  • the parts are geometrically well positioned
  • the entire machine is consistently used (moved) within those parameters

Alignment is when bony landmarks are positioned in a way that protects your central nervous system and spine while creating the least amount of wear and tear on your joints.  It also increases the speed of your brain/muscle connection for optimal responsiveness.

A mindful alignment practice that keeps the engineering of your body in mind while standing, walking, squatting, and climbing will ensure the best flow of oxygen, blood, and lymph.

Alignment keeps the geometries of your bodily systems in the ideal place. For example, making sure your head is properly aligned over your spine helps maintain a smooth flow in all the tubes that transfer food, oxygen, and brain correspondence from your head to the rest of your body.  (It also helps your neck be pain-free.)

In the lower body, alignment of the pelvis over your legs will maintain the space your internal organs need to work well. Common mechanical ailments such as hernias and incontinence are often the result of mis-alignments in the lower trunk and leg.

Alignment also stacks your bones in a position that maximizes bone density for your spine and legs. Without optimal alignment, the commonly prescribed “weight-bearing” exercise won’t be as effective.

Alignment is objective.  It has nothing to do with what is culturally pleasing or needed for a specific sport.  Optimal alignment is often different from what we culturally think of as good posture.

I have a client who learned the “military posture” as a child.  She was a repeat winner of the “best posture” award while in boarding school, and took great pride in maintaining this valued posture into her fifties. However, she has painful degeneration in both knees and her neck.  While some of the degeneration isn’t reversible, she reports that much of her pain has alleviated since working towards optimal alignment.

Relatively speaking, there are few variations in body engineering from human to human. However, what we regularly do with our body initiates change in our human form.  With our current modern lifestyle, these changes are usually not for the better.  We sit too much, we wear shoes too much, we try to make up for it with short but intense bouts of exercise, and we’re almost in a constant state of stress.  All of these things can incrementally change your alignment and your health.

Here’s a drawing by Katy Bowman, a Bio-mechanics Scientist.  She lists 25 landmarks in the body for consideration when searching for optimal function and health through better alignment.  If your body came with an instruction manual, these landmarks would be on the first page.  They also serve as the starting point in Restorative Exercise™.

Alignment Matters!

Alignment Matters!

 
 
photo credits:
www.dance.net
www.90shiphop.com
www.acesandeigths.co
www.asiaphiles.blogspot.com
 
 
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8 Comments
  1. Well illustrated! Fantastic!

  2. Really interesting read. Loved the illustrations thank you.,

  3. Hi Leslie,
    Just found your blog and I really like this article. You used really good images to show people that what they think of as “good posture” really isn’t. When someone achieves good posture or alignment their body is pain free and able to do everything they ask of it. If someone cannot do everything they ask without pain, they do not have good alignment, regardless of whether they feel they have “good posture”.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Posture vs Alignment | Deborah Redfern
  2. When “Good Posture” is Actually Bad for You | WELLINEA
  3. Posture vs Alignment – Ageless and Well

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