An old time chiropractor proclaimed, “The three keys to being healthy is to stand up straight; laugh heartily; and have a bowel movement everyday!” While achieving optimal health may be a little more entailed than that…it is a good start. Today let’s focus on the first one: Standing up straight to decrease postural stress.
My job is to help take stress out of you. Sometimes the best way to accomplish this is for you to avoid potential stress. However, there is one inexorable potential stressor you cannot avoid… gravity. Gravity never takes a day off and if you do not enjoy a pleasant relationship with gravity you have to carry that burden around with you whenever you sit, walk and stand. Let’s focus on standing properly to make sure gravity is your ally and not your enemy.
Proper Standing to reduce Postural Stress
- Start by making sure that your weight rests chiefly on your heels. We have all heard the phrase, “Be on your toes.” Standing with your weight forward puts you physiologically into a fight or flight response and creates tension and fatigue in your body. A good guide is to lean back and stop just before it feels like your toes are going to come up off the floor. All your muscles, from your feet to your face, will relax once you put your weight where it belongs, on your large heel bones and not on your much smaller toes. (Another reason why high heel shoes are a chiropractor’s nightmare)
- You want to have a comfortable, stable base. Stand with your feet straight down from your hips, usually a little less than shoulder width apart. Any deviation will put stress on your hip, knee and groin muscles. Your feet should point out about 20 degrees from midline.
- Let your shoulders rest on your rib cage. Do not slouch forward and do not throw them back. Ironically, either of these will cause your neck and shoulder muscles to tighten. This is a common cause of headaches. Let your shoulders rest downwards like two raincoats hanging from a pair of hooks.
- Dangle both arms. Once your shoulders are relaxed let your forearm dangle from your elbow; the hand from the wrist; and the fingers from the palm.
- Imagine your head is a balloon and allow it to move slightly upward and forward. This lengthens the muscles in the back of the neck and literally makes you “light on your feet.” Seriously, raising the position of the head has been found to raise dropped arches. This habit can also prevent you from developing the “hump” in the back of your neck and keep you tall and straight as you get older.
- Once in this position you can augment your perfect posture with proper breathing. Allow the stomach to relax and the bottom of the ribs to widen sideways. Lastly, let the top of the ribs open up as you let air flow into your lungs to nourish your entire body. Remember, we live at the bottom of a sea of air and you are not laboriously sniffing air… you are creating an internal vacuum for life-giving air to flow into you!
There you have it, a simple stress reducing guide to standing properly. It breaks my heart when I walk through the city streets and see people hunched over. I know that if they had this information and received precise spinal manipulations earlier in life they would be straight as an arrow with more vitality and less pain. I may not be able to help them but I can help you. Practice these six points until proper standing is a health giving habit.
To your great health,
Dr. Eugene Charles
For more information on posture you might want to look into The Alexander Technique: