Good posture isn’t something you do, it’s the by-product of not pulling yourself out of natural balance/alignment. Bad posture is what is caused by continuing this bad habit. Evolution has left us with postural reflexes that work just fine if we don’t interfere with them. But why do we pull ourselves away from poise and ease? What is it that causes such strong spurts of back pain at work?
The simple fact is, you physically follow your attention. Where is your attention right now? As you are reading this it is no doubt going on your computer screen, tablet or smart phone, and low and behold, you’ve poked your head forward. The situation gets worse once you start to type as your attention also goes to the keyboard, you slump towards it and pull the shoulders forward, rounding the upper back.
This situation is compounded by the way we react to stress. You’ve probably heard of the startle response, when you freeze at the sound of a loud noise for example. But you don’t just freeze, just before you do you will have also pulled your shoulders up and your head back and down. When we are stressed we have a tendency to do the same, add that to craning your head forward, following your line of attention and you have a double whammy. Remember, your head weighs as much as a bowling ball, and if it’s not nicely balanced on top of your spine that is a lot of weight for your neck, shoulder and back muscles to have to support. Is it any wonder that they start to ache?
The solution then, when sat at your computer, or using your smart phone, is to widen your awareness so that you become more aware of the space around you. It is useful to become aware of the space above you so that you naturally want to release/lengthen your spine in this direction. And to negate the draw of the computer screen and keyboard it is specifically useful to be aware of the space behind you, center yourself between the space behind you and your computer (or phone etc). It is also beneficial to become more aware of your peripheral vision. The more you do it, the easier it becomes until it becomes a new habit. One thing you don’t want to do is to tuck your chin under, despite this often being suggested. The solution to a problem is not to do the opposite, a common but unhelpful response, but to prevent the thing that’s causing the problem, otherwise you are replacing one bad habit with another. Tucking your chin in takes muscular effort, rest assured this will lead to tension.
So, to recap, poor posture when sat at your computer (or using your smart phone) isn’t down to gravity, poor ergonomics or a by-product of aging, it is due to a narrowing of your attention so that you lose awareness of yourself. Our entire cultural education system encourages, glorifies even, concentration, but that’s throwing the baby out with the bath water. So it’s ironic that the only thing that’s actually doing anything is the only thing you may not be paying any attention to.