Sunday 31 May 2015

Problems Sitting?

I recently attended a wonderful family wedding in a fabulous ancient church that offered stone seats and backless benches throughout the ceremony and banquet. This made for some interesting posture watching as I observed how people coped without back support for so many hours.

Some coped beautifully. They were forced to sit on their seat bones. In this position slouching is more difficult and finding that correct position where balance is achieved by the shoulders  being held above the pelvis and the head held directly above the shoulders becomes the easiest  least stressful way to sit.
Others struggled. I call them the C sitters. They sit with the sacrum tucked under their bodies the back is rounded, many of the postural muscles that support the torso are turned off. Such bodies struggle to find balance and become exhausted trying to hold everything up.

I have 2 favourite correction tips for the C sitters.

no 1. Imagine you have a tail. It is a beautiful and sensitive tail and you must NEVER sit on it. So when you approach a seat flick the tail behind you before you sit down. This will take you off the sacrum and onto the bottom of the bowl.

     PASSIVE    ACTIVE     
      no 2. Passive and Active Hanging. Sounds sinister but you will see that I have posted about hanging before. It works so it's always worth reminding people. We are fundamentally apes. We  have the apparatus allowing us to hang and swing from our arms. Like everything else if you don't use it you lose it. Losing power, and in many people even the ability to initiate these muscles, causes a weakness and imbalance that manifests in some difficult and  painful postural issues.

        Passive Hanging is so good for you. It lengthens the muscles attaching the arms to the body and spine. This gives better range and freedom of movement, elasticity to the shoulders and takes the strain off the poor lumbar spine that is often left to soak up the work that the shoulder girdle isn't managing. It also allows a little intervertebral stretch, it opens the space between the chest and pelvis allowing all your organs a sort of breathing space; literally, a chance to stretch out!

        Active hanging means pulling yourself up with the arms kept rigidly straight. It activates and strengthens all of these same muscles and even corrects little uncomfortable vertebral twists.
        You can take as much weight as you want on your feet  until you are strong enough to dangle for 30secs with these little active pull ups.

        To go back to my wedding. One particularly charming young man was having terrible trouble  sitting at the table. When I checked him out he was unable to even initiate the muscle system required to hold up his chest. He couldn't locate the movement pattern in his neural network! But we got the system working again doing moves like those above and I am keen to find out how he is doing now.

        Wednesday 13 May 2015

        Kyphosis and righting it, a HEADS UP!

        Holding up the head is one of the earliest  strength reflex actions. When a baby is left lying on its front it will try to lift its head back from the floor. In doing this it is practising and strengthening its body in preparation for upright posture.
        This early rudimentary positioning, coded in at an early stage should last a lifetime. It is therefore alarming when we see this position distorted.  

        When the head is held in a forward position for a long time, the body does what it does so well, it compensates and makes adjustment. Our ability to do this is the secret to our success as a species; it's how we overcome injuries that would otherwise handicap us. By sitting with our heads in this forward position we literally train our bodies into a new shape. Think of it 8 hours training a day. You can't rebalance that with a 30 min massage or a quick stretch. You take this new position with you in the car, on the bus and into the gym. What this forward held position ultimately does is pull the vertebrae of the upper back and neck forward into a a shape described as kyphosis. There was a time not so long ago when it was associated with an elderly population but now even children of primary school age can be seen to have already lost that natural position and their head hangs forward.

        What to do?
        People think oh I've got round shoulders I just need to pull them back. But no they are wrong pulling the shoulder blades together and the arms backward gives the impression of a straighter spine but under there the vertebrae are still doing and impersonation of the leaning tower of Pisa.
        Strengthening and reprogramming are what is required. Then once you have got it working simple awareness and practice as you move through your daily life will keep it all in place.

        Think of your position as you work in front of a screen, drive, prepare meals or just read.
        It tends to be as in the left drawing (sorry about my artwork). When you lift the head from this position the inclination is to tip it up, as in the middle fellow. You can see the effect this has on the vertebrae and  how that might eventually result in worn joints and slipped discs.
        The chap on the right, below has lifted his neck from the middle vertebrae, he has straightened his spine no damage, clever chap!
        You can practice this move whenever you are upright. To start set yourself straight by ensuring the chin points forward, keep it there and pull the head back. It's a sort of chicken movement. The more often you try the more active the muscles will become. I suggest you put a sticky label on your computer screen and one on the bathroom mirror another on the fridge door. HEADS UP! Do it until you can and keep doing it until it is your natural posture.