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Stretch actually can increase flexibility, with a lot of work more on this below , for whatever it is worth. Is the near futility of it all the more reason to at least make the effort? Perhaps it is. You are not a good candidate for this process. There are probably a hundred more useful things you could do with your time. The cure can turn out to be worse than the disease. A bad postural habit is not unlike an addiction.
Trying to live with better posture may cause more problems, or be more uncomfortable, than whatever it was that drove you to try to improve your posture in the first place. If Mr.
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Hard to call. However, if you are driven to the idea of postural transformation because of aches and pains, you may be quite motivated by the hope of a partial solution, and the side-effects of challenging new habits may be more worthwhile. You should probably try it, and keep it up for a while to give it an adequate chance, or even just for the sake of experiment. Try to stay interested in the challenge for at least a month. Watch and wait patiently for new developments. Be persistent and give it a fair chance. Give up. What if you give postural change a fair chance, and there are no obvious benefits?
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What if you still seem to be crooked? Or what if you look straighter in the mirror, but it makes no difference to how you feel?
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I am all for trying anything once, and I think postural exercise is worth a shot if you think it might be connected to a pain problem. However, if a reasonable effort fails, I do not recommend a repeat performance. Once again, there are many better things you can do with your time — not just better things in general, but better things you can do to try to solve a pain problem. Irregularity is to be expected in any biological form. Body parts are not interchangeable legos or Ikea furniture pieces made by factory molds. Wonkiness and asymmetry are part of the plan.
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Or, if they do, the need is trumped up, even ridiculous. Similarly, most people do not need to be posturally fit for activities that they will never actually do. Choose goals that make sense for you.
In general, goals for postural fitness are almost indistinguishable from general fitness. Measures of success are primarily subjective. I have witnessed and personally tried many tactics for changing postural habits. There are no rules, no system to which you should devote your life, no right way to do it. This is what most people do. Most people who worry about their posture go through episodes of trying — in no particular way, just mentally straining until their discipline fades. Posture is the product of spinal reflexes and additional tweaking by your brain, all of which occurs — as it must — without the involvement of conscious attention.
While you can always exert conscious control over your posture, you will always revert to the unconscious and reflex-controlled pattern the second your mind wanders. Consciousness is really just a thin scum on top of everything else the brain does. If you are disciplined enough, you can sustain a posture long enough that the habitual, unconscious behaviour begins to change. But such discipline may have a price that not many people want to pay. To the extent that this ever succeeds, it tends to produce rigid, artificial postures — a caricature of posture, an imitation of good posture.
Some problems will make it particularly difficult to improve your posture. Doubtless there are other examples, but you get the idea: make working on posture easier. And so on. Todd Hargove of Better Movement :. It is usually quite obvious to people that changing their thoughts might be a good way to change their mood. Interrupt or remind yourself to pay attention to your goal using timers and buzzers or whatever works. This can be very useful for increasing body awareness.
Similar tricks can be played with signs, alarms, or oddly placed objects around your home or office. This might seem suspiciously similar to trying to improve your posture by force of will, but my suggestion here is more just about triggering self-awareness of a specific issue. For instance, if your specific postural goal is to reduce headache frequency and severity by breaking a bad habit of sitting on the edge of your chair and leaning in too close to a computer screen … then it may be useful to remind yourself — frequently — about the problem.
Some people will relate best to an exercise ritual — strive for your goal repeatedly or continuously until it gets easier. Repetition is required for most kinds of learning.
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It may be useful to slightly exaggerate, as well. Just set up a conscious, well-defined practice time. Physical assistance can sometimes force the issue effectively. To this day, I still need a pillow in my way to prevent me from rolling onto my stomach. Obviously, there is almost no limit to the creative possibilities here. If you have a specific postural challenge, such as a tendency to thrust your head forward at the computer, taping might offer you the best effort-to-reward ratio.
Taping can accomplish the same thing as discipline, but without the force of will. Simply apply medical tape — available in any drugstore — to the skin in such a way that it becomes impossible to position yourself incorrectly. For instance, in a case of head protraction, pull your head backwards and apply a length of tape along your spine from your hairline to between your shoulder blades.
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The moment you try to move your head forward, you will get a nasty yank on your skin. No discipline required! Taping is an irritating but highly effective method of forcing your postural reflexes to adapt. It is useless for more general or subtle postural degeneracy, however. Is being forced to avoid an uncomfortable chair a victory? A lasting one? Or will Mr. Burkeman at revert sooner or later to comfier furniture? Nevertheless, it is an interesting way of trying to change your posture, or any bad habit, and probably as good as any other.
I recall an elaborate demonstration of this principle in massage therapy college. An instructor tied several strings to me to simulate muscles and pulled on them in various patterns to show how tightness could warp my posture. Undoubtedly the best known specific form of this idea is that tight hamstrings cause bad posture , and therefore that stretching them will improve posture.
This was specifically tested in a experiment. Although hamstring extensibility was indeed improved by a fairly ordinary stretching program, it had no effect on posture. The results are probably all the more believable because I strongly suspect the researchers were hoping to prove that stretching hamstrings is good for posture, and researchers are remarkably good at finding what they hope to find. But it seems the data were just not there to exaggerate or distort. If stretching hamstrings has no effect on posture, I doubt any other kind of stretching does either. For many other examples, see Quite a Stretch.
If force of will is the worst way to improve posture, being generally physically active in a variety of ways may be the best: not only somewhat effective, but a good idea for many other reasons too, of course. A sedentary lifestyle contributes significantly to the degeneration of postural reflexes. NASA discovered this while studying the physiological effects of inactivity.
Therefore, probably the simplest cure for eroded postural reflexes is to simply do more with your body — but nothing in particular. While it might make sense to choose activities that are specifically challenging to your posture — and you can certainly do that if you choose see the next section — the spirit of this suggestion is that you can probably get decent bang for buck without focusing on posture-challenging activities.
Just by doing anything you like: salsa dancing, swimming, golf, whatever. A physical challenge like paddling dragon boating , for instance, forces you to learn how to use your upper body very differently. The risk is that you will simply take postural dysfunction into the new activity, but the great potential benefit is that the enthusiasm you feel for the new activity will magically inspire new habits. Many people have permanently broken old habits by taking up an exciting new activity that required being different to enjoy or succeed at.
For instance, sit on an exercise ball or a wobble cushion a funny little balloon pillow that creates an unstable surface instead of a chair while working at the computer. Sand walking and running are particularly exhausting to the postural muscles. Many exercise activities are more obviously challenging to posture than others. Where else but in a yoga class are you going to be asked to stand on one leg? Pilates, taijiquan, dance, martial arts, even a general fitness class — all can specifically demand coordination and stability not ordinarily present in your life.
Posture is the elephant in the corner of the ergonomics room.
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Ergonomics is the science of arranging or designing things for efficient use. Poor ergonomics not only creates direct postural stress challenges — such as reaching too high for a computer mouse — but may also force people to learn bad new habits in order to cope. Computers have made slouchers out of a lot of people.
Extremely poor ergonomic design is usually obvious, but there are many more subtle cases as well.