August 28, 2013

Exercise for Good Posture, Not Good Posing. ~ Michaelle Edwards

Many fitness positions reinforce bad posture and go against our natural curves.

Chronic pain is directly related to poor posture. In fact, according to Cedar Sinai Spinal Institute, 95% of pain is a result of dysfunctional alignment. Many a sore back is blamed on too much time sitting at a desk, but exercises that put our body in right angle positions that simulate the chair shape are just as harmful.

These exercises make up a large percentage of our current Yoga, Pilates and fitness exercises.

With a little bit of awareness, we can avoid distorting our natural shape and instead move with the curves of our body.

Two simple tests may determine whether an exercise or yoga pose serves the human design: it should allow the spine to have its natural curves, and it should not cause restricted breathing.

These are common positions and exercises that distort our natural alignment, creating more pain and joint destabilization:

• Sitting in chairs with poor posture. This puts the spine in a C-shape with its natural curves reversed.

• Toe-touching with knees straight while standing or sitting, like the yoga forward bend. Try walking around without bending your knees! It’s like driving with your parking brake on.

• Forced abdominal exercises that direct us to keep the navel drawn in to tighten the six-pack. Chronically tight, short abs can inhibit movement and distort posture, breathing and digestion.

• Positions that create a right angle, such as the yoga staff pose, straight leg standing or seated bends, and the yoga shoulder stand and plow pose. These are non-functional body positions that can overstretch nerves and ligaments, as well as compress spinal discs. Our spine is not made to bend like this. Keep your curves, and bend your knees when doing any forward bending. Ask any toddler how, they are the posture gurus.

• Cycling, paddling and spinning with your spine in a C shape. Why would you want to strengthen poor posture habits?

• Tucking the tailbone requires one to draw in the abs, creating chronic shortness of the trunk, compressed lumbar spine and a flat butt. Tuck your tailbone and try running a marathon!

There are no straight lines in nature.

The human spine is curved to provide shock absorption, protect our nerves and joints, and also allow us to move with fluidity. When we do exercises that flatten our spine, we are overriding our natural design. Because man likes to build in straight lines and right angles, we have begun to think the body is flat as well.

We have built chairs, but everyone hates to sit for a long time because our trunk is not designed to be static in a right angle shape, so we fall into a supported slouch. This pushes our head forward, and we strain our upper neck and shoulder muscles to support the weight. The strain culminates in chronic pain, headaches and countless other maladies.

There are hidden dangers in right angle positions.

The right angle position drains our energy, as muscles are engaged to perform functions they are not designed to do. Many of us get very dysfunctional upper shoulder breathing habits when we sit or exercise this way.

Many yoga poses and fitness exercises put us in a similar poor postural alignment, and then we work hard to train our body to hold the abnormal tension of the positions. Yoga and stretching injuries are on the rise because many of the poses go against our natural shape and curves. This leads to abnormal levels of flexibility and joint destabilization, especially in the lumbar/sacral region. Hip replacement surgeries are happening to more and more yoga and fitness practitioners.

YogAlign is based on eliminating unnecessary tension in the body and waking up dormant postural forces that align you from the inside out. No need to do painful stretches or toe-touching poses as this makes no anatomical sense.

We need to learn how to balance tension forces in the body, rather than pulling on our parts in an attempt to balance the big posture picture.

The six-pack is highly overrated and can lead to more pain.

Popular abdominal exercises are designed to make our belly strong, sexy, and tight. Culture places heavy focus on our outer belly—our six-pack. Toning the six-pack to be flat, however, can inadvertently create an unnatural shortened tension that brings our breastbone towards our pubic bone and draws our head and shoulders forward in misalignment.

The shorter we make the front, the more strained and exhausted our back muscles are. Forward head carriage is a national epidemic, a bad posture habit that leads to chronic pain.

To be pain-free, one can use breathing exercises to strengthen the “K.E.G.” or ribcage muscles, which has far more functional value.

Good posture is a natural result of doing exercises and poses that simulate your body’s innate curving shape.

It is imperative in the daily movements through which we live in our bodies. When alignment is not balanced, the whole body suffers from pain, tension, and eventually the deterioration of the joints.

To be pain-free, you need to learn to engage your body in its natural design, sit with actively curved spine engagement, but also make sure that your exercise supports good posture and not good poses.

Align, don’t contort.


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Asst. Ed.: Moira Madden / Ed: Catherine Monkman

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Michaelle Edwards