How exercise and massage can improve your posture
Optimal posture can be defined as “the arrangement of body parts in a state of balance”. Posture is affected by several factors, inherited conditions, lifestyle, muscular development and even our psychological states: for this very reason we need to extend “the state of balance” not merely to our body parts, but towards an effective way of relating our sense of self to our daily life. Our working life can hardly balance out our body needs ― this is for example true for people sitting at their desk all day staring at a computer screen or also of any job that limits the maintenance or development of our motor skills. A stressful job can cause us to sit on an already uncomfortable chair even more painfully, bringing tension to certain body parts and upsetting the overall flow of energy throughout the body: breathing will mirror our feelings and the brain will be the first to be affected by such a protracted uneasy state. It is no wonder that sometimes we feel forced to take a break in order to stretch our body or take a deeper breath to give us some relief. A personal training session should foremost take into consideration how it can “balance out” all of these activities, so that we are given the opportunity to challenge ourselves with exercises that not only complement our daily life, but make it more liveable. For instance, repeating the example of the office job, necessary activities would require you to develop coordination as well as to challenge your cardiovascular system, and specific muscle groups would need to be targeted to ensure optimal posture. You may be telling yourself that you are one of those with a job that already requires a great deal of energy and physical exercise, however I can guarantee you that there are exercises that can definitely improve your performance, and you’d be surprised how much more manageable your day will become if you just learn how to use your body more efficiently. For example, a known benefit of exercise is the improvement of our general health: it is scientifically proven that during intense activities our body releases endorphins – the hormones that cause you to be more enthusiastic – affecting your overall mood; and mood does affect our posture, have you ever noticed how a sad person compared to an overconfident one walks into a room? Feelings have a way of being somatised, just imagine what happens after a prolonged state. Our mood affects our diet too and, at some point, it will also impinge on our posture: unwanted fat will enhance our lordotic curve for example, or upset our overall balance: the centre of gravity will move, causing us to feel not “centred”, that life is chaotic, and some of us will even need to compensate by ingesting more food to feel satiated and “wholer”. Whenever we exercise, we unconsciously need to be in harmony with this “centre”: on a physical level it is evident that protracted imbalance will cause greater pressure on some muscles forcing them to develop more than others. It is for this very reason that most gyms have mirrors: so that you can observe your own body and perfect the movements to the point in which they are performed correctly…. but we can hardly be a good judge of ourselves, simply because we are unable to assess ourselves objectively all of the time, we simply can’t be fully observant of ourselves. Personal training should therefore be a grounding relationship that allows you to enter into a better relationship with your own body, an opportunity to develop a healthier perception of yourself and as consequence of your body.
The spine is a complex structure that provides support as well as acting as a shock absorber and it plays a fundamental role in maintaining balance between all body parts.
This happens when the lordotic curvature is excessive, causing the pelvis to be tilted forward. This condition is present in people who like to wear high heels. The cause may be sometimes having excessive weight around the waist area or it can be caused by exercises being performed incorrectly, and there may be little control of some muscles.
Physical exercise may require you to strengthen the abdominal muscles, glutes, and sometimes hamstrings. There are a great deal of exercises which encourage core control and a neutral position of the spine.
Massage will target the muscles of the legs (the front), and stretching will be applied to certain muscles responsible for the flexion of the hips.
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This is an excessive curvature of the thoracic part of the spine, where the head and shoulders appear to bend forward when we observe a person by profile. This condition will affect the breathing, there will be shoulder instability and some muscles may compensate by becoming stiffer;
Massage and stretching will therefore target the pectorals, neck, and shoulder to extend these muscles. Some soft tissue dysfunctions (or simply some knots) may be required to be released on the upper back.
Physical exercise may focus on the development of the trapezius, and the rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder too may need to be extended and rehabilitated. Motor skills may be needed to be enhanced in order to promote response from the nervous system.
This occurs when a curve of the spine is visible when observed from behind. The cause of this condition, when not genetic, may be due to overdevelopment of one side of the body creating asymmetry between these. Simply carrying a bag on a daily basis may cause an imbalance, we tend to perform certain jobs only with our dominant arm for example. On a psychological level it may reflect an imbalance between our masculine and wilful side and our feminine receptive and nurturing side. Assessment and treatment of this condition may require combined help from an osteopath and a PT, particularly if there is the rotation of the spine.
Exercises prescribed will help you to work the underdeveloped side, while observations will ensure you maintain a healthy balance.
Massage will provide the opportunity to deal with certain soft tissue dysfunctions which cause imbalance, passive stretches will work on helping you to regain greater range of movement