Be Sweet to Yourself: How to Find Good Alignment
Feb 01, 2013 01:19AM
● By Jonina Turzi
There are plenty of reasons to practice good posture. "The more mechanically distorted a person is, the less energy is available for thinking, metabolism and healing,” noted Dr. Roger Sperry, the Nobel Prize-winning biologist. By simply sitting up straight a person can breathe more efficiently, introducing more vital circulation to the body’s cells. They can improve their mood, digestion, concentration, sense of well-being and immune function.The practice of good alignment in the body can also
reduce physical aches and pains. When the centerline of the spine is elongated, the stress of gravity is minimized throughout the entire system, and important core muscles can engage during everyday movements. In this way, the risk of pain, arthritis, and other inflammatory diseases diminishes.
The challenge comes in knowing how to find and maintain a balanced posture. Often when a person is told to sit or stand up straight, their kinesthetic sense of the midline is distorted after years of aberrant positioning. Sometimes it takes a look in the mirror, a third party to give cues, or a trained professional to identify the ways in which unnecessary holding patterns are preventing a person from reaching their correct posture.
Still, there are a number of specific steps people can take to align themselves sweetly, artfully and quickly. To do this, find a comfortable seat on the front-half of a flat/firm chair and place the feet squarely on the ground under the knees. Then try the following adjustments.
1. Drop Your Pubic Bone For Weight-Bearing. Tip forward until you feel the body's weight shift to the front of the sitting bones and towards the pubic bone itself. As you do this, the curve in the small of the back should increase as the sacrum nods in and the tailbone lifts slightly up and back. This is the critical first step in creating a balanced base of support for the spine to grow tall.
2. Elongate the Sides of the Waist. Keep the pelvic tilt from step one above; now lift the heart and head straight up, and imagine the two lines along the side-seams of your torso getting longer. Feel the skin on the lateral sides of the abdomen and ribs stretching. Breathe and notice how the breath can help you to sustain this action. Keep breathing! (Note: there is a common mistake made here; often we thrust the bottom front ribs forward instead of lifting the sides of the ribs up and away from the hips.) When the correct balance is established, the pelvic tilt from step one can be maintained while the weight of the tailbone simultaneously drops towards the chair.
3. Gather the Bottom Tips of Your Shoulder Blades. Keeping the side-waists long, now see if you can feel the sweetest of squeezes near the back of your heart. Just above the bra line most of us allow the bottom tips of the shoulder blades to float off into space. In balanced, efficient posture, these points are pressing in towards each other slightly and in towards the center of the chest. This is the movement to get the shoulders back, but if you move too quickly, you will thrust the ribs forward again and lose your long side-waists. Sweetly, gently, coalesce in your upper back. Keep breathing.
4. Lift the Roof of Your Mouth and Soften Your Eyes. Let us do a posture check. Do you still have your pubic bone down? Side-waists long? Shoulder blades converging in towards the heart's center? Good work! Now add the final step: Lift the upper palette of the mouth. Straight up is an acceptable trajectory; however, most of us live in a forward-head posture, with the shoulders slumped forward and the head creeping towards the computer screen before you or magazine in your hands. Therefore, it might be helpful to imagine of the roof of the mouth lifting up and then angling slightly towards the back wall of the sinuses. You will notice now that the chin drops and pressure is reduced at the temporal-mandibular joint (TMJ). Soften the face and feel the eyes rest in their sockets. Notice how this allows you to breathe more fully.
The above steps are like a road map to good posture in the spine. Run through the sequence repeatedly until you feel it getting easier to breathe and maintain. You might want to set time aside just for this; treat it as a focused meditation, or see if you can establish these details in your everyday movements like standing in line at the store, brushing your teeth, and walking the dog.
The goal is to be sweet to yourself; that is, to cultivate a peaceful, sustainable efficiency in your body. Healing happens when you make space in your form; as natural processes awaken to their optimal potentials you will start to feel better.
Jonina Turzi holds a doctorate degree in physical therapy as well as a bachelor’s degree in human movement. She blends Functional Manual Physical Therapy with the practice of yoga and offers private yoga instruction as well as alignment and core-focused group yoga classes and seminars at the Evolution Power Yoga, located at 398 Harrisburg Ave., #250 Champion Forge Center, in Lancaster. For more information, email [email protected] or visit JoninaTurzi.com.