You’ve had a long day at the office in front of the computer. You have a headache, your back hurts and your whole body is stiff. You look in the mirror, notice your poor posture and realize that this lifestyle is taking a toll.
“Good posture used to be more important to people,” says Judith Aston, developer of Aston Kinetics®, an educational system of movement and bodywork that aims to treat each person’s body as unique to that person.
“Now it seems as though it’s gone. When people think about improving their posture, they go on hold. They don’t know what to do about it.”
Poor posture is on the rise because of several factors, including sitting at a desk all day, rushing, carrying a heavy purse or backpack, texting on small screens, wearing poorly designed shoes and sitting on poorly designed furniture. Emotions can also contribute to poor posture.
“Stress, the fast pace, the internet, the bad economy – All of that does not make someone naturally feel at ease and aligned,” Aston says.
Negative emotions like worry, stress, sadness and depression create tension. Tension, in turn, creates fatigue and fatigue decreases muscle tone, which leads to poor posture.
“We’re often far behind or way ahead in our minds, creating tension and poor posture. The easiest and best place for the body is to be present,” she says.
The way you move feeds your body with every step reinforcing it. As range increases, ease increases and, subsequently, strength increases.
If your posture is poor, every step can contribute to weakening the body. Poor posture can decrease breathing and strain the neck and it affects the back, knees, hips, and joints. It can also squeeze the digestive system and compromise the circulatory system.
Aston, recognized as a somatic pioneer in the art and science of human movement, says there are ways to improve posture and incorporate that better stance into your lifestyle.
One of Aston’s main tenets is, “It is not as much about what you do as it is how you do what you do.” Consider, for example, how you sit at your desk. Most chairs put you in a bucket-like position where your bottom is back and deep into the seat.
To better understand how you’re positioned, Aston suggests the following drill: Sit all the way back in the seat in this bucket-like position. Then, note your range of motion as you turn your head to the left and to the right. Now, move to the front of your seat so that you’re sitting on your pelvis. Now look again to the left and right.
Her point is that when you get out of the “bucket” and sit on your pelvis at the front of the seat, your body is in a more neutral position to support your neck and back.
Another example is the design of the shoes you wear. Many shoes are designed with a negative heel, which encourages the body to lean back and put weight on the back of the heel. However, when you lean back, the front of your body collapses and you hunch your back.
The idea that the body should be aligned in a straight line up from the ankle actually lines you up over the back half of your foot, Aston says. She suggests trying an open stance with your toes turned out slightly and your whole body leaning a couple of degrees forward instead of at zero so that your weight falls on the whole foot. As a first step toward improving your posture, she recommends the Aston® Sitting Arcing exercise, a movement designed to massage and align the body. It aims to help you find a place of balance from which to begin other movements like bending and reaching.
According to Aston, “Posture doesn’t have to be effortful. People can claim it.”
Aston has helped people of all ages improve their posture and mobility, including clients in their 90s. “I am always amazed at how resilient the body is once it gets the right information. Don’t give up hope.”
Judith Aston is the author of “Moving Beyond Posture – In Your Body on The Earth,” the “Aston® Postural Assessment Workbook” and the “Walking The New Body DVD.” For more information about these products and more about the Aston paradigm, visit the Aston® Kinetics website at www.astonkinetics.com.
– By Jessica Braun Jessica Braun is a writer and an editor at WholesomeOne. She can be reached at jessica.braun[at]wholesomeone[dot]com.