What does it mean to have "good" posture?

Have you heard of the 90-90-90 rule?

The 90-90-90 rule is when you sit with your hips, knees and ankles at 90 degree angles, as shown in the picture above. This can be a useful starting point but we shouldn't hold ourselves there all day long.

Slouching is not the alternative.

Posture as a form of self-study

Posture is not a static position, but rather it's dynamic and changes every moment of the day. We are meant to move and be in a variety of positions- walk, run, jump, squat, crouch and sit. Sitting is not bad in itself. It's the length of time that we spend sitting and our decreased awareness of how we are sitting that can create problems.

Many people understand that their posture isn't perfect, but the task of 'fixing' their posture seems so daunting that it's easier to carry on with what they're already doing. For a different perspective on posture, watch Amy Cuddy's Ted Talks where she discusses how our body language, or our non-verbal expressions, influence how we feel about ourselves. She shows how our postures are not just important for reducing stress and strain in our body, but also influence how we feel about ourselves. Observe how you feel when you slouch and curl your arms inwards compared to when you stand upright and leave your arms open.

Posture as body awareness

Mary Bond states that upright, head back, shoulder back postures are all "just postures laid on top of our positions laid on top of an organism that is moving and perceiving its environment and responding in the very best way that it can moment to moment." That is exactly what we are doing all day long - reacting and responding to our environment.

So how should we sit during the day? Is there a right or wrong way? There are guidelines to follow, but because we are all so different, often what works for one person may not work for someone else. This is why posture is a form of self-exploration. Your healthcare practitioner can help guide and coach you through positions that are most helpful for you.

Posture with your breath

The diaphragm is our primary breathing muscle located around the bottom of your ribs. Remembering to breathe throughout the day helps relax muscles, reduce tension and improve circulation. Taking frequent breathing breaks to notice how you're breathing and where you're breathing (meaning what is expanding as you breathe in) can be helpful to retrain your breathing patterns and adjust your posture.

Julie Wiebe's video on umbrella breathing gives a starting point for thinking about how you are breathing.

Try this out!

1. Notice how you feel when you slouch. Notice how you feel when you sit or stand upright.

2. Tilt your pelvis forwards and backwards and observe what happens to your posture.

3. Observe your mouth position. Clench your teeth - how do you feel? Relax your jaw by keeping your lips together, teeth apart and tongue on the roof of your mouth - how do you feel?

4. Set a timer when you are sitting and notice how long you spend sitting. Write down how long you have sat in the day and notice any correlations between the length of time sitting and how you feel.

5. Take a moment and look away from your computer screen. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Does this change how you feel?

6. Take a breath. Feel where the breath goes - does your chest expand, shoulders raises? or does your abdomen expand outwards? Feel the difference between breathing into your chest and tensing your shoulders, compared to breathing into your abdomen so it expands outwards (both forwards and to the sides).

7. Move, shake, jiggle, jump!

Part of this blog is available as an educational template on healthSwapp that can be shared with your patients through the app.

Registered Physiotherapist
Co-Founder at healthSwapp