As you begin reading this article, what position is your body in? Are you sitting down, standing up, lying down, or walking down the street perhaps? Whatever position you are in, stop and observe your posture. Would you consider this position “good posture”? If not, what would you change and how?
Chances are after reading these questions, you made an adjustment to your posture or at the very least thought about it. Here are two more questions for you.
As a health professional working in the industry for 20 years, I am stunned by the countless people suffering from the posture they are placing themselves in day after day. Of course, though, “bad posture” does not occur overnight, it takes time. Our bodies are built with protective mechanisms that help us unconsciously compensate through postural adjustment for injuries that make it difficult to place our bodies in certain static positions or move through normal ranges of motion. These mechanisms become learned responses that, if the injury requires a longer healing time, move towards becoming an unknown habit.
Take this patient, for example: Jennifer is a typical middle-aged office worker who spends the majority of her work week in a chair staring at a computer screen and sitting in back-to-back meetings. She decided to visit me for neck pain that comes and goes and ranges in severity from a 2 to an 8 out of 10. When she first arrived, I noticed that her head shifted off to one side just slightly, but I did not bring it to her attention right away. Interestingly, the direction her head shifted was towards the same side she was experiencing the neck pain. Later in our conversation, I brought this observation to her attention and she didn’t believe me, until I asked her to look in the mirror. She was absolutely shocked that she never noticed it before and even more shocked that all of the health practitioners she had been to for the pain had not seen it either. It was obviously too subtle for her to notice, and furthermore, it didn’t feel out of the ordinary.
What was the cause? It turns out, while using her computer at work for long periods of time, she would often get tired quickly and lean to the right side onto her desk while she maneuvered the computer mouse with her right hand. Over time, this change in position, due simply to lassitude, unconsciously formed into a debilitating habit. Aside from this, there was no other indication, past or present, that pointed to an event that might have led to the neck pain. Furthermore, she had been at the same job for nearly 15 years. She is lucky that all she had was neck pain!
Our posture determines not only what types of aches and pains develop, it also affects specific aspects of our physical and mental well-being, such as our breathing, our digestion, our balance, and not to mention, our mood. Emotionally, if you feel constantly depressed or upset, your posture will change to reflect this. And by holding on to this emotional stressor, you will find yourself letting go of “good posture”.
In Oriental Medicine, posture will determine the quality of Qi and Blood circulation throughout the body. In the example above, Jennifer experienced one-sided neck pain that began to radiate to other areas like her upper back and affected the big picture of her overall posture forcing her to reposition her body more so to one side rather than being balanced in the center. She allowed for weakness to develop on one side and severe regional tension on the other. Needless to say, the quality of Qi and Blood circulation easily transformed into stagnation and excess on one side with a deficiency on the opposite side. Had we not addressed it when we had, it might have reached the point of stasis or an even worse condition.
As an acupuncturist, I am always analyzing my patients’ posture every time they come for treatment. If something stands out, I tell them directly, and we work on it from head to toe. We look together at how they stand, how they sit, and how they walk. When they lie down on the treatment table, I observe what position they place themselves and also where they end up (on the table) by the end of the session, if the tools being used are not forcing them to remain in one position.
Understanding one’s posture is the key to understanding one’s health. And healthy posture is the gateway to good health in addition to providing you with more energy. Here are a few basic tips for examining posture from head to toe. You can easily do these yourself or prescribe them to your patients.
How do you feel? If you feel slightly uncomfortable, that sounds about right. You probably need a little more practice to help your body adjust to this new “normal”. But over time, you will notice a significant difference in how you feel, the amount of energy you have, and maybe even how you look!
Don’t believe me? Go look in the mirror.
Today over fifteen million Americans regularly practice yoga. It is easy to find a yoga class to fit your needs and your schedule. Why go an extra mile and see a yoga therapist? Who might benefit from that?
Yoga therapy is the application of yogic tools such as physical postures, breathing, chanting and meditation to the specific needs of an individual. In our minds yoga is firmly connected to the class format, but a yoga class is, in fact, a fairly recent phenomenon, dating back to the early 20th century. During that time the yoga of the physical postures (asanas) was gaining popularity in India, partly under the influence of emerging western interest in physical fitness. From India, Yoga was transported to the West, where the class format became the most popular way of practicing yoga.
Before yoga classes gained popularity, yoga was often transmitted one-on-one, from teacher to student. The practice was adapted to the individual, made to address whatever issues the student was dealing with. With most yoga classes around nowadays being highly athletic and physically demanding, there is a movement towards making yoga more accessible. Yoga therapy is part of this movement to make yoga responsive to the needs of the individual, and bring it into the field of integrative healthcare. Here are some of the reasons you may want to see a yoga therapist:
Listen to our "Ask The Expert" Interview with Asya Haikin
Even if you are just dealing with everyday stresses and with life cycle events like pregnancy, or natural effects of aging, yoga therapy can be a great way to support yourself through those life transitions. To find a qualified yoga therapist near you go to: www.yogatherapy.health
About the Author
Asya Haikin is the Owner of Peaceful Mind Yoga Therapy in Falls Church, Virginia. She is a Certified Yoga Therapist working with people with persistent pain to improve wellbeing and quality of life. Her mission is to make yoga safe and accessible, and to raise awareness about the benefits of yoga therapy. Asya has been using mindful movement, breath and body awareness to help individuals move beyond pain for over fifteen years. She has a private yoga therapy practice in Falls Church, VA, and also teaches several public yoga classes in Arlington and Falls Church. Asya is also a Reiki Master, a Tibetan Tones (vibrational sound healing) practitioner, and has an MA from University of Pennsylvania.
To learn more about Asya, visit her website at www.peacefulmindyogatherapy.com
Posted here are...
inspirational ideas on healthy living through eastern medicine, optimism, and possibility through empowerment.