Posture is the make-up of the joint and muscle positions within the body. Ideal posture is when the body is aligned properly and evenly balanced. In this situation, the muscles should be working as little as possible as they don’t have to over compensate for bad habits.
Things such as wearing high heels, poor diet and lack of exercise can contribute to unhealthy muscles thus creating misalignment so the pressure is supported by the wrong areas. This can contribute to an overall unhealthy body and unnecessary pain.
Most of the pain- related problems we see in adults are the result of postural misalignments they have had since childhood or adolescence. These misalignments generally have little to do with bones; they are mostly soft- tissue problems. If these problems are long established they may never be completely undone however they can certainly be improved through greater awareness and re- education of the muscles.
A line can be drawn along the line of gravity, through the nose, the sternum (breastbone), the navel, the middle of the pubic bone and end at a point halfway between the feet in a natural and comfortable standing position.
At least that’s the course the line will follow on a well balanced body.
A similar line can be drawn along the side of the body that will pass through the ear, the shoulder joint, the hip joint and just in front of the ankle. One easy way to check these lines on a person is with a plumb line – a string with a weight at the end.
There are other signs of balance:
- The shoulders and shoulder blades should be level and the inner edge of each shoulder blade should be the same distance from the centre of the spine as the other.
- The hips and buttocks should be level and the pelvis should be tilted forward no more than 10 degrees. The shoulders should point forward.
- The kneecaps and the feet should point forward.
- In walking, the legs should swing freely forward without twisting to one side of the other and the arms should swing freely in inverse coordination with the legs.
This is just an idyllic description of a body that is balanced and well- aligned in relation to gravity; that is, a body that is able to use gravity to remain upright and move freely, rather than constantly fighting it.
A body that is out of balance will be using a great deal of energy fighting gravity, and in the end, gravity wins. In addition, the tissues that are pulling and holding the body out of alignment and those enlisted in the constant struggle against gravity are in a state of distress that grows more pronounced over time.
Figure improvement through exercise is a vital part of total body improvement and in order to do so, the body must be properly aligned.
How to re-educate a misaligned body:
There are a variety of approaches to postural massage therapy. The first and simplest would be into teaching approaches, such as Alexander and Feldenkrais and manual approaches such as Rolfing, Hellerwork, neuromuscular therapy, myofascial release and others.
Our opinion, based on experience is that they are mutually supportive rather than mutually exclusive. The Alexander Technique, for example; is an excellent learning experience that re-educates the body in its use of gravity but our experience is that it does not, by itself, resolve well established soft tissue problems.
Our approach to postural massage therapy is just that: our own depending on the therapist you meet techniques are synthesized from the learning.
Postural massage therapy focuses on the body as a whole and the responses of the whole body to all of the work must be observed. Sessions should be no more frequent than twice a week (to give the tissues time to respond to the work) and more less frequent than once every two weeks (to keep from re-establishing old patterns).
Treatment procedures employ a host of manual techniques. The order of work has to do largely with two interconnected elements:
- Working from superficial to deeper structures
- Developing increasing trust on the part of the client at both the conscious (intellectual and emotional) and unconscious (emotional and physical) levels.
The ultimate goal is to balance and work on the whole body, releasing fascia and muscle constriction in all areas so that, rather than forcing the body into some arbitrary postural standard, the body is set free to find a relaxed, comfortable, efficient and gravity- friendly posture in all its activities.