At the bottom of your chest bone, the sternum, is a little cartilaginous point called the xyphoid process. Now you wouldn’t care or even know about the little xyphoid if it weren’t for one thing – it sits directly on top of your colon, the beginning of the end of the digestive system. When you slouch, or slumpasana, as I like to call it, your entire rib cage compresses into your belly. The bottom of the ribs and that pointy xyphoid process compress the colon and parts of the small intestine, not allowing them to function as efficiently. Can you imagine having to work while being crushed by a giant pointy thing?! When you sit up straight, you create space through the belly for the digestive organs to do their thing.
Another bonus for sitting up straight is bringing the spine into proper alignment. In between each of your spinal vertebra is a cushioning disk, just like the meniscus in the knees. If you are constantly in slumpasana, the disks are compressed unevenly. With all of the weight on the front part of the disk, they may begin to wear unevenly or even begin to bulge towards the back, potentially creating a nerve impingement situation. Imagine the brakes on your car: they work best when they wear evenly, so that one portion doesn’t have to do all the work. The spinal disks are similar to that, only you can’t easily replace the disks like you can your brakes! With good posture, the spinal disks do their job as they were designed, which is to support and cushion the space between the vertebrae.
By aligning the spine, you also reduce the stress on certain muscle groups. In the standard slumpasana, the muscles on the backside of the body are overstretched, and in response, clench up. You know all of those knots in your back? Probably caused from poor posture! Because so much of our life is in front of us (driving, eating, computer-ing), we slump and allow the head to reach forward. When those muscles clench up, you may feel pain or tightness through the neck and upper back. Overtime, the muscles in the front may even shorten, making it even harder to have good posture! Our bodies do not have one side and we should make sure that all aspects and sides of the body are working together for optimal functioning.
When you being to stand taller, you my find that people begin to notice new things about you. You may get complemented on your new haircut that is 6 months overdue. Or just an outright, “you look fabulous today!” Some studies have even found that people are more attracted to those who have a more erect posture!
So sit up straight and allow your body the chance to function like it’s supposed to.
Do you have any tricks to remind yourself to maintain good posture? Share them in the comments below!