I once attended a course on neuromuscular rehabilitation with Dr. Eyal Lederman. The course was attended by physio’s, bio’s, chiro’s and we even had an osteopath and homeopath present. One of the things that really stood out for me on the course was when Dr. Lederman asked a question around “The Perfect Posture” and postural correction. He asked who gives postural correction to their clients to get the clients to the ideal posture. Of course, everyone put up their hands. The next question was “What does the ideal posture look like”. Again there was a smattering of answers from the audience.
His next comment simultaneously rocked my world, and confirmed an idea I didn’t realise was forming until that very moment: “If a person can move without pain, does it really matter if they have perfect posture?” Mind Blown.
When you start looking at this idea of perfect posture, it makes absolute sense to me that there is no such thing. Firstly, in this world, perfect simply does not exist. In actual fact, the human skeleton – the very basis of our structure and what holds us up in life – can differ from person to person as much as hair colour, eye colour and skin tone. This may seem an obvious idea, but it really hit home for me when I started inspecting the differences in bones, angles of joints, size of joints. I realised that giving two people the exact same exercise, expecting the exact same result, is like giving two people the same hair dye and expecting it to look the exact same way on each of them.
However, working with the idea of a balanced posture removes the ideal out of the equation and looks at each individual as they stand in front of you and the muscular imbalances that may be present in their bodies. Because, while it may not be necessary to have perfect posture, leaving imbalances unattended will likely affect a person’s mobility in the long run and can often lead to pain and/or injury.
The easiest way to visualise and illustrate this concept is to picture the body as a box rather than looking at specific bones and muscles. When looking at someone from the front, and one shoulder is higher than the other, the box is uneven. When looking at someone from the side and the head is sitting in a forward position, the box is uneven. When looking at someone while they are folded forward at the waist and one side of their trunk/back sits higher than the other, the box is uneven. So the question becomes “How do I make the box straight?” Pull the shoulder down until the shoulders are level, position the head further back until the middle of the ear is in line with the shoulder, or lift the depressed side of the chest until the rib cage is even.
And then you strengthen the muscles in these corrected positions like your life depends on it! Invariably, this is where your bio/physio/personal trainer/pilates instructor comes in. To see these imbalances on yourself is not so difficult if you are able to look in the mirror, but feeling them on yourself with no visual feedback is much more challenging. Your body becomes used to moving in this particular, albeit imbalanced, way and this has become the norm. It is takes time to teach the body where the position for the correct balance is, and then to strengthen the muscles in this position to keep the balance. And you may find that as one imbalance starts to be corrected, the next one will present itself. It is important to keep in mind that making some significant strength gains while working on correcting the imbalances is not only possible but also probable, providing there is no pain. The process should be seen as part of the journey towards having a strong, flexible, balanced body and being aware of how your body moves and is moving at any moment. In my experience, personally in terms of my own body, as well as professionally with my clients, this is a very effective way of working with the body and targets the specific weaknesses of the client while taking the individuality of their body into consideration.