Updated: Oct 20, 2020
Stand to Attention! 💂🏻♂️
"Straight as an arrow, stand to attention!" "Stand up tall." "Pull your shoulders back!"
I want you to try and test out these harsh demands. Sit there, now totally upright, shoulders pulled back with your chest held high.
It takes approximately 10 minutes before we realise that this tactic is not actually helpful and our muscles become sore and painful. Our natural response to sitting like a statue is that we become irritable and fidgety. GOOD your tissues are working how they should.
The idea of having one, set strict posture has come under a great deal of scrutiny by recent science. Despite what has been purported for years there isn't such a thing as being totally still! Monks practise for years upon years to achieve deep meditative states but beneath the surface, beneath the stillness of the skin; their heart still beats dramatically, the rib cage still expands and relaxes, the blood vessels still pump, the lymph is still squeezed around the body. There is life, there is movement even in the stillest of people.
It is true that many of these monks will actually be experiencing great levels of discomfort by maintaining these unnatural static positions. However through rigid mind training they have enabled their attention to be placed elsewhere, usually on the steady exhalation of air. They are able to override the bodies natural impulse to move.
This is not necessarily healthy.
Not nearly because:
• We are built to move, our tissues demand it!
Skeletal muscle needs a constant supply of oxygenated blood. If we sit around for hours compressing the blood vessels, the pain created within the tissue is called ischemia. 🧠 The tissue is not being fed its usual supply of nutrients and will certainly tell you about it. Thus sensory/pain fibres sub-serving the area become very uneasy sending information to your central nervous system that there is a supply/demand issue in the tissue. The brain's next response is to TELL you to shift it! Enter the totally natural phenomenon of; fidgeting, scratching, weight shifting and stretching.
• Fidgeting around and frequent movement is therefore all a part of healthy posture. Perhaps your postural pain is a clever cue to move more? 🤸🏼♂️ Get up and move your body at regular intervals throughout the day, twist, bend and stretch to aid the natural flow and rhythm that makes up the human body.
One attempt to correct posture has been to attain a "neutral spinal" position. This should lie directly in the middle of totally upright and slumped over in a ball. Another common cue is ear, shoulder, hip all in straight alignment .
We should indeed spend most of our time in a comfortable position however this is very subjective and really can only be determined by the individual themselves. The clinician is therefore only a guide here. Anatomically we all differ; my comfortable “neutral” position will look nothing like your own. Teaching all-encompassing “correct”, postural positions is not biologically viable.
So what is the rule?!
“SITTING DISEASE IS A MAJOR CAUSE OF ILL HEALTH- YOU MUST REGULARLY GET OUT OF THE CHAIR AND MOVE- PREFERRABLY GETTING OUT OF BREATH.”
As you can see, our postural pain is often movement dependent. Trying to fix what Louis Gifford would describe as a chemical sensitisation process with static positions has never worked and it never will! We should all be in motion..
That said we can start to bring conscious awareness to our body, tuning in and adapting when we feel uncomfortable. Exploring potential sticking points and areas of tightness. Posture is more about fluidity and switching positions.
Please, leave the standing in line to attention for the trained military personnel!
Isaac over and out.