“In all forms of strategy, it is necessary to maintain the combat stance in everyday life and to make your everyday stance your combat stance. You must research this well.”
-Miyamoto Musashi, A Book of Five Rings, 1645
“It is a fundamental fallacy to think that our human bodies work like the structures that humans have built.”
-Leslie Kaminoff, Yoga Anatomy, 2007
Sometimes in life you come across something, some knowledge or inside information, that seems so simple yet the world fails to pick up on the frequency of it. You’ll run around town, holding the idea up high and yell “Look at THIS!” to deaf ears, because just as you’ve had to open your mind to the idea to accept it so do others.
This is the feeling I got when I made major changes to my “posture,” and by that I mean my understanding of my own bodies bio mechanical systems. Suffering years of a ‘tweaky shoulder’ or hip pain after a run had put me on a fevered pace to find some solution to ending the nagging discomfort. I’ve thrown money at the problem in terms of chiropractors and massage therapy, I’ve worked hard to move through old tissue doing hours upon hours of yoga and stretching, yet in the end it wasn’t fixing a problem so much as not creating one that would flip a switch.
A proper, stable position. Glorious.
The fact of the matter is our bodies have evolved into their current form long before we invented the chair or padded running shoes. We have laws for how we should work, what we should eat, how we should sleep. Instead of breaking those laws and paying the fee it’s better to understand them and stay in the lines.
By far, the biggest change in my understanding of the human body in my life has been grasping posture and optimum position. Just like a Leopard evolved to be able to hunt huge game until they day it dies, we aren’t meant to have hip issues or tweak our shoulders. There are rules that our body works by, ways that are efficient and inefficient. Someone who did gymnastics as a child has rules hard-wired into their brain – for the rest of us, we round our backs when we pick shit up off the floor and stand like the vultures from Disney’s Robin Hood.
The Yogi’s discovered these truths two thousand years ago. Crossfit enthusiasts, often as objective as any when it comes to filtering out the best practices, have made a science out of understanding the optimum position for strenuous lifting and movements. Just as Miyamoto Musashi warns to keep the belly strong where the sword is drawn, keeping a straight spine and engaged core/glutes is a position that develops more power and protects the nervous system.
Taking a Proper Stance, Brandon makes a case for Miss Manners’ “Gentleman of the Year”
As it turns out, the hundreds of dollars I sank into massage therapy and Chiropractics was not wasted. Every session the well-recommend professionals reinforced my posture, warned of sitting and urged me to drink more water. Those three things are their biggest struggle, those little pointers that we think are small-talk before the spine-twisting and knot-beating. It turns out, if I had listened to them the first times I likely wouldn’t have needed a return trip to alleviate a nagging twinge.
Just as I was learning about my Metabolism and Cardio-vascular system I was beginning to grasp my bone structure and nervous system. After spending hundreds of hours of my life sitting a computer I am more aware of the alignment of my spine, making sure to take breaks and engage my trunk while driving. Starting the process can be difficult, as your body may have to unwind a bit before standing properly will feel “normal” – but the change will happen and “Normal” will be healthy again.
There are a million different places to look to improve your posture and understanding of optimum position. I’ll save you the headache and provide a handful of useful tools that I found best helped me in my evolving self-education of my body.
-Stand with your feet pointing forward, head up and shoulder blades pushed together. Pointing your feet out like a pigeon locks the hips, curves the spine and the head drops. Every inch from center your head is, is an average of 10lbs of weight on your neck. Back hurt from stress? I’ll bet. Try standing in Tadasana, and know that is the way we are MEANT to stand. It will take time for your body to adapt to fix all the bad habits, but they WILL fix. When I first started training hard in rock climbing I had massive discomfort in between my scapula. By using my body more properly, keeping my shoulders back instead of rolled during every day activities and training, the problem was completely eliminated.
-While driving it’s important to keep the seat forward so that you can sit up straight to support the natural curvature of the spine (some use a lumbar roll). If I feel fatigue in my back or shoulders, I’ll press my shoulder blades together and press gently against the steering wheel with my palms, elbows in, almost in a “push-up” position. Doing a few sets of 30 seconds of this will keep my body feeling good and aligned for long enough to take a break and walk around. If you are in a swiveling chair, turn your whole body instead of just at the waist.
-Don’t sit! At least avoid sitting, and when it isn’t avoidable make sure to sit with good posture and take breaks. This is a huge problem in our country resulting in massive amounts of discomfort, pain pill addictions, stress and more. Slouching can put an extra 10-15 times the normal pressure, so make sure if you are sitting that the feet are flat on the floor and you look like a dork.
-Kelly Starrett knows what’s up. Check out some of his information including this video.