A good posture is not a static position. It is a state of balance that accounts for all factors that alter your functional balance.
This implies constant reactivation of each and every one of your muscles. The goal is to find the point at which you use the least effort required for the activity you are performing. For your spine, that point is when your vertebrae are stacked on top of each other in a natural, effortlessly manner, and your head is balancing on top. A good posture is in other words an effortless balance.
Imagine that your head is bowling ball. It puts a lot of stress on your neck if the gravity point is a bit off. Hence, most people would benefit from bringing the neck and head a bit backwards.
The link between a bad posture and health
A common postural habit is excessive kyphosis, a term used to describe an upper back that is too rounded, often combined with a head-forward position. It is a bad habit because it puts a lot of stress on your back and neck muscles. Whilst there is a clear correlation between a head forward position and pain (Haughle 1995), this is disputed in the case of kyphosis.
In their study from 1994, Ettinger et al conclude that there is no link between kyphosis and pain. The very opposite has been found by other scientists (Ensrud et al 1997). Furthermore, the latter study revealed that older women with kyphosis have a higher risk of osteoporosis and thoracic fractures in addition to chronic upper and middle back pain.
Dr. Kado goes even further and claims, based upon his cohort study, that there is a clear correlation between the extent of kyphosis and overall mortality (Kado et al 2009).
How does one treat a bad posture and upper back pain?
Cramer et al 2013 claim that yoga has the potential to ease neck pain. Moreover, their study reveals that yoga significantly improves both functional disability and decreases pain more than home exercise. Unfortunately this study does not assess the causes of neck pain among the participants. It could have been due to bad posture, but it could also have been other underlying reasons.
In another study of excessive kyphosis among elderly, scientists found that yoga significantly improves the degree of kyphosis (Greendale et al 2009).
Moreover, it turns out that a powerful posture alters your hormone levels, with greater performance at job interviews as a result (Cuddy 2012). A confident position may bring about new levels of energy that should not be underestimated.
A powerful posture may increase your performance in job interviews!
The best posture
So what is a good posture? – The best posture is not necessarily a straight, aligned posture. It it is dynamic. It is dependent on the activation of new muscles. It implies balance.
Yoga is one tool that can contribute to increased awareness, and in turn improved posture. Among other benefits, the asana practice involves stretching of tight hamstrings and strengthening of weak core muscles, which are key to a good posture (McCall 2007). Moreover, yoga may increase your awareness. Noticing that your shoulders are climbing up towards your ears during stressful situations is a golden opportunity to remind yourself to relax and release this tension.
Whilst yoga is an effective way of improving your posture, it is not the only option. In fact, most forms of physical exercise will benefit your posture. Balancing on a line will definitely improve your awareness and increase your balance. What makes your posture dynamic and safe?