Standing Tall—The perks of good posture

December 2013/January 2014 View more

N2013_12_01_003HEALTWhen Mom told you to stand up straight, she was probably trying to help you appear confident and slim. Both are huge perks of good posture. But there’s more to it. Standing tall offers serious health benefits for your whole body. So, no more slumping over your smart phone or laptop.

Standing Tall

Good posture is just as important as eating right, exercising, and getting enough rest. This means less wear and tear on joints and less fatigue. “Simple things like the way we carry ourselves and the way we pay attention to our breathing can definitely influence our mood and our brain chemistry,” said Dr. Sheela Raja, clinical psychologist and assistant professor at The University of Illinois at Chicago.

Health Benefits

Standing tall can keep your mind alert and your body energized. Slumping compresses your lungs, cutting off an efficient oxygen supply. This can leave you stressed, tired, and in a mental fog.

Good posture equals better digestion. Slouching after eating makes stomach muscles tighten. This pushes stomach acid into your esophagus and can cause heartburn.

If you have frequent headaches, check your posture. Headaches are often tied to too much screen time. Gravity pulls your head forward when you’re staring at the computer. This puts stress on the nerves in the back of your head and cuts off blood flow to the brain.

If you’re constantly hunched while sitting at your computer or traveling in a car or plane, there’s increased pressure on disks in the spine. This leads to a sore back, one that could worsen to herniated disks or pinched nerves. Hip flexors become shorter and less flexible, leading to joint pain.

Strike a power Pose

Power poses are when your body is “opened up” to allow air to fill your chest. We see athletes do it when they win, arms reaching for the sky with an open chest. They look like they feel ten feet tall. These powerful poses can change your body chemistry for the better. “That kind of body language lowers your cortisol levels (stress) and commands more attention from the audience,” said Raja. Medical research has found that power poses can also raise testosterone levels. “It is really a great balance. A lower cortisol level resulting in a lower stress level and having a higher testosterone level leading to increased confidence sends the message to the brain that you can be confident without being threatening. The reduced stress level sends the feedback to the brain that you are not in a stressful situation, so you can be at ease with confidence and power,” said Brooke Tetik, owner of Sundari Power Yoga in Naperville.

Power poses can be done to raise confidence levels, but Raja says try “mirroring” to put others at ease. “This means to look at what the other party is doing, nodding, smiling and leaning in. We can use both power poses and mirroring to build solid relationships.”

Positive Body Language

Tiny tweaks in body language not only changes your body chemistry, but in turn, your behavior changes. “Simply by pulling your shoulder blades down your back and opening your chest sends the message, ‘I am open to engaging with you’, or ‘I am welcoming.’ By being open to new people, conversation and ideas, we create the opportunities to grow and impact others,” said Tetik.

Begin the New Year with powerful posture. “Start by being aware of the way you walk and sit, the positioning of your body when you engage with people, and when you enter a room. Having good posture is the first step to feeling confident with yourself and reinforcing the power you have within to make any changes you desire in your mind, body and life,” said Tetik.