5 Myths About Your Body. ~ Sarah Warren

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There are many myths out there about the human body.

Myth #1: Lumbar supports are good for your back.

Reality: If your lower back is tight, a chair with a good lumbar support feels great. Sitting without a lumbar support can be uncomfortable because your tight back muscles are being pulled and stretched. A lumbar support brings your lower back into an arched position in which your chronically contracted back muscles are being shortened even more.

So while it feels good, the more time you spend sitting with a lumbar support, the tighter your back will get. Your best bet is to sit in a chair with a high, straight back or on an exercise ball.

Myth #2: You get your posture from your mother.

Reality: We like to blame our mother for things—like the helmet-shaped haircut she gave us when we were five—but we can’t blame her for our posture.

While genetics are responsible for our height and bone structure, posture is actually a learned behavior.

Repetitive activities, like spending many hours at your computer or on your iPhone, will eventually lead to a rounded upper back and shoulders. Your emotions, such as being stressed, scared or tired, can also make you slouch.

As a teenager trying to look cool you may have adopted a slouching posture to make it look like you didn’t care, and that posture could have become so deeply learned that it stayed with you into adulthood.

You can even subconsciously mimic the posture of someone you spend a lot of time with—like your husband, best friend…or your mother—to the point that you habituate their posture. The good news is that just as you learned your posture, it can be unlearned.

Myth #3: Supportive running shoes are good for your knees.

Reality: The barefoot running trend has already gone a long way toward disproving this myth. Running shoes with thick, cushiony soles feel great at first, but they make it really easy for you to land on your heels as you run. You would never land on your heels when you’re running barefoot, because it would hurt like hell.

If you’re heel-striking, your knees are probably straight, which means the force of you coming down on the pavement is going right into your knee joints. We are built to absorb shock by allowing our knees, ankles and hips to bend freely as our feet strike the ground, and this can only happen if we’re landing on the middle or balls of our feet.

Ultimately, your running shoe is not the most important thing—it’s your running form.

I know some hard-core runners who wear thick-soled running shoes and have no pain or injuries, and it’s because they have good running form.

Personally, I love the feel of a really thin, flexible sole when I run. It gives me just enough cushioning to be comfortable running on the streets (even the Tarahumara Indians think we’re crazy for running barefoot on pavement) while still allowing the muscles in my feet and the joints in my legs to work as they are meant to.

Myth #4: You have one leg longer than the other.

Reality: Doctors and chiropractors will often diagnose people with leg length discrepancies when what they are really pointing out are apparent leg discrepancy.

Most of us have a dominant side of our body, and we use that side in different ways than we do our non-dominant side.

For example, I’m right-handed, and when I was a ballet dancer I used to practice movements more often on my right side than on my left. I also had the habit of standing with all my weight on my left leg.

In photos of me as a teenager you can see my right hip hiked up much higher than my left, and this posture stayed with me into adulthood. I remember stepping on and wearing away the bottom hem on the left leg of my pants, while the right hem stayed perfect.

A few years ago when I learned how to release the chronic tightness in my obliques (the muscles on the sides of our waist that hike up our hips) my hips evened out, and all of a sudden my legs were miraculously the same length. The pain in my left hip went away too!

Myth #5: You’re going to get shorter as you get older.

Reality: The natural aging process will most likely take a little bit of your height, but not nearly as much as you might think. Your intervertebral discs are composed of 80% water, and some dehydration of the discs naturally occurs as we age. So as the discs lose water and become smaller and flatter, you lose a little bit of height.

The vast majority of changes you experience in your height and your posture as you age are functional rather than structural; meaning that they are a result of the way you use your body.

As you age, you build up chronic muscle tension from repetitive daily habits and movement patterns. In other words, the older you get, the tighter you get.

People tend to get shorter over time because the muscles in their trunks get tighter.

When your obliques, abdominals and back muscles get tight, they pull you down, compressing your spine and actually making you shorter. Staying active and flexible will go a long way toward preserving your height and making you the tallest guy on the shuffleboard court.


The Buddha never considered the Body as separate from the Mind. ~ Frank Berliner

3 Tips for Releasing Hidden Tension in your Body. ~ Carla Ardito



Dr. Mark Hyman tells Waylon his secret to staying healthy:

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Sarah Warren is a Clinical Somatic Educator who works with people who have chronic pain, musculoskeletal conditions, and posture and mobility issues. She is the co-owner and co-founder of Somatic Movement Center in Watertown, MA. Sarah’s passion is helping people work with the underlying cause of their pain, and teaching them how to get rid of their pain for life. Follow Sarah on Twitter @movepainfree and reach her through www.somaticmovementcenter.com.


Editor: Carolyn Gilligan

With famous natural runner Scott Jurek on how to run, and how to eat:

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anonymous Dec 24, 2014 8:40pm

Pretty decent article! I would just like to point out a few things. It is anatomically impossible for your obliques to cause “hip hiking.” A weak gluteus medius or hypertonic/”tight” quadratus lumborum on the other hand can have this effect. Also posture becomes compromised as a result of an individuals inability to cope with the force of Gravity.

anonymous Aug 27, 2014 10:10pm

Posture- I have curvature of the spine. I did not learn my bad posture. I may not have inherited it from my mother, but it came from my genes, not from wanting to slouch or mimic anyone.

Getting shorter-if you have osteoporosis of the spine, you can have bone fractures and lose up to 6 inches in height.

anonymous Jun 24, 2014 6:06am

An educated MD measures the legs by boney landmarks. There are legitimate leg length differences that are not muscular. This article is opinion, not fact – as others have commented already on the points made.

anonymous Aug 14, 2013 3:38am

Stating that keeping the low back in a curve with the lumbar support leads to chronically tightened low back muscles is bunk! When the low back loses it's curve the muscle spindle fibers communicate to the brain that the low back has lost it's curve and the brain protects by contracting these muscles. Conversely when the low back is in it's optimal curve these muscles will release. For many people who have developed the pattern of flattening their low back including myself lumbar supports that bring the curve to the low back are life savers for long driving trips where maintaining proper posture for a long time is difficult.

anonymous Sep 23, 2012 10:26am

[…] alone, and the shame, remorse or guilt that arises is part of the pattern. You just need a little TLC for your financial […]

anonymous Sep 22, 2012 10:54am

These myths are NOT myths.
You contradict yourself regarding height loss. Your assertions about walking correctly are just that! assertions, not necessarily fact. proposing that we all just start walking in little nonsupported shoes is unsafe for many who became accustomed to a certain style of shoe. Many have nto had the benefit of learning how to shoe their feet. Immediate barefoot walkign on the foot ball of course . in the conference troom fo ra large corporate ob will get some feedback re appearance and appropriate attire.. Immediate using ball of foot to walk or run will cause some Pain. You made sweeping general 'facts' with no suggestion how to improve or change. Drama for drama sake.

anonymous Sep 19, 2012 11:58am

The thing about a tight lower back is that a lot of people don’t realize that tight hamstrings also contribute to this. If you start stretching your hamstrings, then a lot of lower back problems can be helped.

anonymous Sep 19, 2012 9:24am

[…] was just reading an article “Five Myths About Your Body” on Elephant Journal (do you read Elephant Journal? There are often some […]

anonymous Sep 18, 2012 7:13pm

Good article. I've been consciously working on my posture – I'm 51 and see people my age and younger who are slouching and getting dowager humpy. I won't let that happen. I recall that I had a lovely, (demanding) 80-something year old woman as a voice teacher in my youth. She was all about the perfect posture and standing tall.

anonymous Sep 18, 2012 6:50pm

I question some of thi sinformation. The new barefoot running info is a bit faddish and not necessarily right fo rall. You do NOT just take a 50 or 68 or 74 year old person an dmake them run barefoot striking their foot balls.

Myth5 You will get shorter.. then you debunk it with you will get a little shorter.

anonymous Sep 18, 2012 10:04am

Good stuff. I am a runner and have been considering delving into the minimal shoes- this just gave me the push I need!

    anonymous Sep 18, 2012 1:36pm

    How did you release the chronic tightness in your obliques to correct the "short leg"? Thanks!

      anonymous Sep 19, 2012 5:52am

      Hi Kuru – I used a neuromuscular re-education technique called Clinical Somatic Education. Here is a list of practitioners if you want to look into it: http://www.somaticmovementcenter.com/find-a-pract

        anonymous Sep 28, 2012 10:02am

        As a chiropractor, I don't think that throwing us all under the bus for telling people they have a "short leg" is professional. As you may know, a short leg is an indication that there is something affecting the nervous system therefore we use it as a tool to help find and correct subluxations. So whereas medical doctors may like to tell people they have unfixable uneven legs, doctors of chiropractic, as a whole, simply use it as a window into the nervous system. When we affect the whole system, the legs switch and/or become even indicating that we are integrating experiences into the system.

          anonymous Feb 21, 2015 9:58am

          Thank you, Brenna — I scrolled down to the comments for the express purpose of making the distinction you just did. 🙂 I am not a chiropractor, but my boyfriend is and I have learned a lot about it from him, and from the adjustments I have been receiving regularly for the last four years.