Why Posture Is Hard (And How It Doesn't Have To Be!)
Posture shouldn’t hurt, and it shouldn’t be hard!
So why do you get tired trying to sit up straight?
Basically, when most people try to have good posture, they use muscular effort to make their bodies take the shape they think they are supposed to be: shoulders back and down, chest up, back straight is the usual idea of 'good posture.'
And then when that hurts, or they get tired, they think they’re just too weak and need to do a bunch of core exercises. Sound familiar?
The truth is, unless you’re like Max, with no muscles at all...
You’re plenty strong for good posture!
In fact, posture is hard because your muscles are doing TOO MUCH work.
This is called muscular co-contraction.
Basically, co-contraction is when opposing muscle groups engage at the same time, effectively fighting each other. A simple example of this is an antagonistic pair of muscles like your biceps and triceps. Usually, engaging one lengthens while the other contracts in order to flex the elbow -- but notice that you can actually engage them at the same time, creating tension while your arm stays still.
One side fights the other, neither wins, but it takes a lot of work!
What we're talking about with posture is bigger, though. It's about the muscles in the front of our body that flex us, and the muscles in the back of our body that extend us.
Our slump is a contraction of those muscles in the front, and what we think of as posture is engaging the muscles in our back to haul ourselves up.
And this co-contraction makes posture so difficult. It hurts!
Instead, we should first stop fighting ourselves (the stiffening up into what we THINK is good posture). And then we should let go of the initial tension in the front. We have to tell those muscles to stop working!
We can tell ourselves to allow lightness, to open in the front, to lengthen without tension.
Now, to be clear, co-contraction is important for some activities, but really exhausting for every day posture because it is a constant fight with yourself. We can stop the fighting.
There’s a great demonstration of this in the video, and I can help you stop fighting yourself for good.
And what happens when we stop fighting ourselves? What happens if we let that co-contraction go?
We come into alignment, without any work at all. We become buoyant, instead of strained. And that's how posture should be.