HOW TO LOOK
10 TIMES SMARTER STAND
10 POUNDS THINNER UP
10 YEARS YOUNGER STRAIGHT
Research shows that good posture projects health, vitality, and confidence, while hunching suggests weakness, gloom, and self-doubt. Good posture is more attractive than supermodel svelteness. When people stand up straight, viewers consistently describe them as more attractive, regardless of their weight. Studies show that people would be more attractive if they just stood up straight!
The way a person stands also sends strong messages about gender and sexuality. If you look at animal courting behavior, there are two basic postural messages: crouching and looming.
Sexuality, Gender, and Culture
Males tend to loom or puff themselves out. They need to look important to attract a mate. Females tend to do more crouching or making themselves small, which signals submissiveness. The female posture is also an effective manipulative tool that in essence says, “Protect me.” It evokes tenderness in the male. To a different degree, these behaviors can be said for humans, not just animals lower down on the evolutionary ladder.
Although nature dictates a big part in gender roles, culture also plays a part in influencing women to project passivity and vulnerability.
Women develop all sorts of body movements that are meant to make them non-threatening. Shifting one’s weight from one hip to the other signals a woman’s adaptability, “I could be here, or if it’s more convenient for you I could be over here.” Men, on the other hand, stand squarely on both legs. They hold their ground and survey the environment. Their stance demonstrates a sense of ownership.
Sometimes posture sends messages that have nothing to do with sex or gender, but rather are a statement of what’s in vogue. Think: the chic junkie slouch or slink.
Working at a computer is a major contributor to alignment problems. The back is under constant stress from sitting for long periods of time. No matter how much you want to put your feet on the desk or curl up like a pretzel, you’ll avoid a lot of back and leg problems if you simply sit up straight and plant your feet squarely on the floor.
Two other causes of poor posture are the wearing of high heel shoes that force the pelvis to tilt forward, arching the back unnaturally to maintain balance – and carrying too much weight in a purse. Experts recommend carrying less, alternating the shoulder on which the bag is carried, or balancing a backpack equally on both shoulders.
Sleep positions can also contribute to body aches and pains. People who sleep in a compressed fetal position or on their stomach stress the lower back and neck. Sleeping on one side can also put pressure on the lower back, because of the way one leg hangs down in front of the other. If you do sleep on your side, it’s best to sleep with a pillow between your knees. The best sleep position is on your back, using a cervical pillow that supports your normal neck curvature and a pillow under the knees to relax the low back.
Whether you slump for protection, from lack of confidence, poor habits, or just because you’re too cool to care, postures can cause a lifetime of annoying and not-so-annoying ailments. Low back muscle spasms, compressed nerves or blood vessels, decreased lung capacity, neck stiffness, foot pain and headaches are just a few of the problems that can develop from chronic poor posture.
If after sitting and standing straighter for a week or two you find your physical discomforts still with you, coaxing your body out of chronic bad habits and into the proper form may require a little help from a trained professional. Consider using the services of a qualified reflexologist and/or massage therapist to relax chronically hypertoned muscles and learn muscle relaxation and strengthening exercises.
Clearly, posture matters. And perhaps the secret to presence-enhancing posture begins with nothing more than body awareness. Awareness precedes all change, so if you’re aware of postures that are non-supporting, sometimes uncomfortable and perhaps even pain-inducing, remember, you have options.