Proper alignment of your body provides the foundation for allowing your muscles to work most effectively, while putting the least amount of stress on your joints.
When your body is in proper alignment, your hip, knee, and ankle joints balance your back’s natural curves when you move making it possible to maintain good posture in any position. Conversely, when your body is out of alignment it can place stress on your low back, hips, knees and ankles.
Poor posture can cause neck and back strain and pain, headaches, and fatigue. It can restrict your oxygen intake and reduce your overall calorie’s burned.
Proper posture helps your body function at peak performance. It promotes movement efficiency and endurance. Good posture makes you look taller, thinner, healthier, younger, and contributes to an overall feeling of wellbeing. According to the National Exercise Trainers Association (NETA), “ posture and good body mechanics are quite possibly the most important considerations in making exercise effective and preventing Injury”.
STANDING: Good posture—when you are standing—is straight vertical alignment of your body from the top of your head, through your body’s center, to the bottom of your feet. The feet should be relaxed with the body’s weight resting on three points: the heel, the base of the big toe, and the little toe.
FRONT VIEW: Good posture shows equal heights of shoulders, hips, and knees. The head is held straight, not tilted or turned to one side.
SIDE VIEW: Good posture can be seen as an imaginary vertical line through the ear, shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle. In addition, the three natural curves in your back can be seen.
BACK VIEW: The spine and head are straight, not curved to the right or left.
NETA provides the following keys to proper alignment:
1. The head must be in line with the ribs and hips
2. The back of the neck is kept long and in line with the spine, neither thrust forward nor back.
3. The upper torso and the shoulders should be relaxed, shoulder blades retracted and depressed.
4. The rib cage should be directly in line with the hips, lifted, but not forced forward.
5. Avoid arching the back as this can put undue stress on the vertebrae.
6. The pelvis is at the midline of the body, neither tucking under nor rotating back.
7. The natural curves of the spine should be neither exaggerated nor entirely flattened out.
8. Contracting the abdominals and lifting the torso will keep pelvic and spinal alignment in neutral.
When the body is carefully stacked in correct alignment, the muscles will use less energy to maintain this position, and there will be less strain on ligaments, bones and muscles. This is known as physiologically efficient posture.
Eleanor Metheny suggests: “There is no single best posture for all individuals. Each person must take the body he/she has and make the best of it. For each person, the best posture is that in which the body segments are balanced in the position of least strain and maximum support. This is an individual matter.”