Did you know your spine has 3 natural curves?
So all those years at school and home when you were told to sit with a straight back was infact misleading. The natural curves of the spine provide strength and support so we can stand upright and move with ease in all directions. Unfortunately sitting in chairs and sedentary lifestyle causes the natural curves of the spine to change.
Poor posture can cause problems including back pain, spinal dysfunction, joint degeneration, rounded shoulders and a potbelly. Changes to the spinal joints can also lead to impingement and compression of spinal nerves which can affect the functioning of the body and internal organs.
” If you want an example of good posture, just look at a young child – their back shows a graceful ‘S’ curve and their movements are easy and effortless. As we get older, bad habits such as slouching and inactivity cause muscle fatigue and tension that ultimately lead to poor posture ” (Reference 1).
Yoga provides a great way to correct poor posture and maintain good alignment of the spine. This is achieved by stretching and strengthening the muscles of the body, moving the spine in a controlled manner and most importantly increasing our awareness of our body and how we use it.
Symptoms of poor posture (Reference 1)
Symptoms can include:
- Rounded shoulders
- Bent knees when standing or walking
- Head that either leans forward or backward
- Back pain
- Body aches and pains
- Muscle fatigue
Poor posture interferes with a number of the body’s postural mechanisms including:
- ‘Slow twitch’ and ‘fast twitch’ muscle fibres
- Muscle strength and length
- Nervous system feedback on the body’s position in space.
Two types of muscle fibres
Skeletal muscle is made up of two types of muscle fibre – static (often called ‘slow twitch’) and phasic (often called ‘fast twitch’). Generally, static muscle fibres are found in the deeper muscle layers. They help us to maintain posture without too much effort and contribute to balance by ‘sensing’ our position and relaying this information to the brain. Phasic muscle fibres are used for movement and activity. Static fibres burn energy slowly and can keep working for a long time without tiring. However, phasic fibres quickly run out of steam. Poor posture causes muscle fatigue because it calls on the phasic fibres instead of static fibres to maintain the body’s position.
Muscle strength and length
Over time, poor posture that demands support from phasic fibres causes the deeper supporting muscles to waste away from lack of use. Weak, unused muscles tend to tighten and this shortening of muscle length can compact the bones of the spine (vertebrae) and worsen posture.
Nervous system feedback on the body’s position in space
The deeper layers of muscle are concerned with ‘sensing’ our position in space and relaying this information to the brain. If this function is taken over by muscles that mainly contain phasic fibres, the brain gets an incomplete picture. The brain assumes that the body needs to be propped up to counteract the effects of gravity, so it triggers further muscle contraction. This adds to the general fatigue and pain felt by the person with poor posture.
Reference 1: Better health Channel, Victoria State Government. http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/