Posture is something that most people become aware of and want to improve at some point in their lives. Having good posture enables us to minimise the stress on our connective tissues, reduce the stress on our spine, and importantly allows our organs to function at 100%.
When we think about good posture we often try to stand up tall and to pull our shoulders back, however there is one simple thing that we often neglect that can make a world of difference – breathing! How we breathe greatly affects our posture and the body positions that we adopt. While this link may seem quite unusual, looking deeper into how we breathe can help to uncover why this is the case.
Let’s start by looking at what happens when we don’t have the correct breathing mechanics. To draw air in we hitch our shoulders up which tenses all of the muscles that round our shoulders and bring our neck forward. These are the same muscles that often feel very tight and tense when they are overloaded by poor posture. One of the most important muscles we rely on for normal breathing is the diaphragm. The diaphragm has multiple attachments including to the ribs, lower back, pelvic muscles and when it is used properly it can greatly assist us in keeping our spine supported and upright.
Let’s not forget our rib cage which moves in different ways depending on our breathing patterns. As well as protecting our vital organs, our rib cage creates a link between the upper back and the pelvic via our muscles. In addition our shoulder blades are positioned to glide along the rib cage as the arms move. When the ribs are dysfunctional (as is what happens when we breathe poorly), our spinal stability can be compromised and our shoulder position and function is affected.
How should we breathe?
The easiest way to try and breathe correctly is to lie on your stomach with your head resting on your forearms. In this position, take a deep breath in trying to push your stomach into the ground and allowing your lower back to rise. As you breathe out your back will lower to its starting position as the air is pushed out of your lungs. Your chest area shouldn’t change too much. Spending a bit of time each day working on the way you breathe can have a positive impact on most aspects of your life – even your posture!