If you’re stuck with aches and pains, or if you’re constantly tense, then someone has probably told you along the way that your poor posture is to blame. Unfortunately, that someone was lying. Your posture isn’t the issue here. Your poor posture is a symptom, but it isn’t the cause. Slap a Band-Aid on if you’d like, but the old ideas of “stacking your body” ultimately miss the mark.
Let’s start by tackling three common myths about this beast we call posture.
There’s No Such Thing
That thing you call posture? Well, it doesn’t really exist—at least not the way you think it does. See, there’s no static position that is inherently good or bad. That perfect posture you’ve been chasing is going to continue to elude you because it isn’t real.
Our ideas of perfect posture are based on the outdated, cadaver-oriented view of anatomical neutral. We seem to think that if we stack our bony bits one on top of the other, then we’ll balance perfectly within the gravitational field. But it just can’t happen that way. What the biomechanical model misses is the fact that your body is constantly in motion. You aren’t made of muscles and bones. You’re made of cells. And you better believe they are constantly shifting position in response to the forces at work around them.
Your Posture Doesn’t Matter
It sounds good in theory, right? Poor posture must lead to poor movement. But posture is just a shape you put your body in. And the shapes you put your body in are only bad if you lack the ability to change those shapes. By all means, tip your pelvis and hunch your shoulders, but only if you can actively un-tip that pelvis and un-hunch your shoulders.
As long as you can still maintain voluntary control over those body parts, it really doesn’t matter what position you put them in. We run into trouble when we lose the ability to move those body parts. That’s what makes “bad posture” bad.
Posture Isn’t Fixed Consciously
Tuck your chin. Shoulders down and back. Stack your ribs. Flat back. What happens when you stop thinking about fixing each of these cues? If you have to constantly think about correcting your posture, you’re missing the point.
Consider how laughable it would be for any other animal to double-check its alignment before, during, and after physical activity.
The thing you call posture is shaped by a tremendous number of forces, from your mobility and neuromuscular tonus, to your social and emotional health. Thinking that a few corrective exercises will fix it is short-sighted and myopic. If you want to improve your quality of movement, if you want to find more ease in your body, then it’s time to start moving—and living—like a human animal again.
Trust your body to handle itself: