The language of the body
Posture and its meaning
Human posture is an expression of a series of important internal processes (both physiological and psychological). It tells the world around us if we are in touch with ourselves or if we have lost touch with ourselves; it tells the world how well we are coping with life’s daily stressors; it communicates a state of mind, a feeling in a much more direct way than actual language. It is the modality through which the body communicates outside what’s going on inside.
Moreover, if we want to consider posture as a language, it would be by far the most direct form of language; communication experts know that “saying” with the body is way more relevant than what we say with actual words. Just imagine a man saying he’s very excited and very happy, with the best tone of voice but while looking down, head forward, shoulders inward, slouched upperback. What he is actually saying wouldn’t sound true, right?
By looking at someone’s posture we are looking at their biography, their physical and emotional history. It is the present expression of their past and – to a certain extent – of their future. Why their future? Simply because “bad posture” is an adaptation which will inevitably lead to unpleasant consequences.
The body itself is designed by nature in a certain way, respecting certain structural laws and proportions. And not for aesthetic reasons. The link between physiology (how the body works) and structure (how the body looks) is a very straightforward one. With poor posture, the body works poorly. Full stop.
With poor posture, breathing functions are reduced, digestive functions could be affected; migraines, low back pain, neck pain, numbness, thoracic pain: all of these could be simply the way your body is telling you (or rather screaming at you) your posture is not good.
What is it then that leads people to have poor posture?
First, our bodies are not designed to sit 8 hours a day. That will modify our posture on its own, and not in a good way. The consequences of sitting for too long are dramatic: reduced disc spaces, glutes weakness, upper cross syndrome, and so on. We are also not designed to drive for long hours, to eat the food we eat, both in quality and quantities. We are not designed to travel in airplanes, trains, to walk on concrete and so on.
We are not designed to be constantly bombarded by social media, news, mobile phones, pollution. All of this plays a role in how our body works.
A brief history of homo sapiens
Our bodies nowadays are constantly trying to adapt to different stressors. Remember: structurally and physiologically our bodies do not differ very much from the homo sapiens of 5000 years ago. But what about the world around us? What about the air we breathe, the food we eat, the lifestyle we have? While the basic physiological characteristics of human beings have remained relatively consistent over the past 5000 years, there have been some changes and adaptations that have occurred due to various factors, including changes in lifestyle, environment, and culture. Here are some of them:
There is evidence to suggest that average human height has changed over time. In many populations, especially in regions with better nutrition and healthcare, people tend to be taller today than they were several thousand years ago. This change is largely attributed to improved nutrition during early childhood and adolescence. Exposure to diseases and natural selection over time may also have influenced certain aspects of human immune systems. Populations that experienced high disease prevalence might have developed some degree of genetic resistance or adaptation to specific diseases.
Moreover, changes in diet and agriculture have influenced human digestive systems. The shift from a primarily hunter-gatherer diet to a diet based on cultivated crops and domesticated animals likely led to some adaptations in the way our bodies process certain nutrients.
Another example of the most well-known examples of recent human evolution is the development of lactose tolerance in certain populations. Many adults today can digest lactose (the sugar in milk) due to genetic changes that occurred in response to the practice of dairy farming.
While there hasn’t been a drastic change in overall brain size over the past 5000 years, the ways in which our brains are utilized and the cognitive demands placed on us have certainly evolved. Modern lifestyles require different cognitive skills, such as literacy, numeracy, and complex problem-solving. We are literally bombarded every single day with thousands of stimuli.
The shift from an active hunter-gatherer lifestyle to more sedentary, urbanized living has likely influenced our physical fitness and overall muscle mass. Modern technology and changes in occupations have led to different patterns of physical activity.
Human populations living in different geographic regions have likely developed specific adaptations to their environments over time. For instance, populations living at high altitudes have developed physiological adaptations to cope with lower oxygen levels. Over thousands of years, populations have migrated, intermixed, and separated, leading to changes in the genetic makeup of different groups. Genetic diversity and adaptations can vary significantly between different human populations.
It’s important to note that these changes are relatively subtle and occur over long periods of time, often involving multiple generations. Additionally, while certain adaptations might have occurred, the fundamental human physiology has remained largely consistent. The rapid changes in technology and environment that have occurred in recent history (past few centuries) have likely had more profound effects on lifestyle and health than changes over the past 5000 years.
What this has to do with chiropractic?
The link between posture and chiropractic is really straight forward. Our spine and skull enclose the brain and spinal cord. This is why posture is so important. The 31 pairs of spinal nerves exiting from each vertebra constitute the connection between the control centre and the organs, muscles, glands of our body. Bad posture means impairing the correct functioning of those nerves.
This is not a new concept or a chiropractic innovation. Moreover, you do not need to experience severe lower back pain to visit a chiropractic care clinic.
Eastern medicine does not describe the nervous system in the same way as modern Western medicine. Instead, it emphasizes the flow of vital energy or life force called “Qi” (pronounced “chee”) through meridians or pathways in the body. While traditional chinese medicine doesn’t directly correlate to the anatomical nervous system, there are similarities in the sense that these meridians can influence the body’s functioning, including sensations, emotions, and internal organ health. Certain acupuncture points, located along the meridians, are believed to influence the flow of Qi and can have effects on pain, inflammation, and other conditions that might be associated with the nervous system.
With the advancement of Western medicine and science – especially in anatomy – we now can identify each nerve and its function.
Ancient yoga texts also do mention the concept of the nerves and nervous system, albeit in a different context and language compared to modern medical understanding. In traditional yoga philosophy, the concept of energy channels and centers is discussed, which can be related to the nervous system in some ways. Two key components in yoga philosophy related to energy channels are “nadis” and “chakras.” According to Ayurveda, the Nadis are subtle energy channels through which prana (life force energy) is said to flow. While nadis are not directly analogous to the anatomical nerves recognized in modern biology, they are often referred to in yoga texts. There are said to be thousands of nadis, but three main nadis are emphasized: Sushumna, Ida, and Pingala. Sushumna is often associated with the spinal column and is considered the central channel through which energy flows.
It’s important to note that the descriptions of nadis and chakras in ancient yoga texts are part of a spiritual and energetic framework, rather than a direct reference to the anatomical nervous system. These concepts are intertwined with broader ideas about the flow of energy, consciousness, and spiritual development.
Posture does not only affect how you “look”, but how your body is working, how it’s “performing”. Generally speaking, having good posture means allowing your body to perform at its best. Posture could also be an expression of a range of internal feelings sometimes suppressed by the conscious mind: anger, being overwhelmed, depression, narcissism, sadness, etc. The most common example is muscle tension accumulated on the upper trapezius muscles, above the shoulders. What can we do then?
The first step is to become aware of our posture, and a mirror won’t be enough. What everybody else says, won’t be enough either.
Get yourself checked by a posture specialist who will be able to advise on how to improve and correct bad habits which lead to bad posture.
At Alive Chiropractic – our Dorchester chiropractic clinic – we can offer a thorough postural assessment, even if you are not experiencing any symptoms. Chiropractic care is great to regain contact with your body, and to re-establish a healthy connection between your body and your mind.
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Edoardo Elisei DC
Alive Chiropractic LTD
1C Crown Gate Square
“The beauty about chiropractic is the fact that it works with natural means. It puts nothing new into the body nor does it take away any natural gland or organ. Chiropractic simply releases life forces within the body, and lets nature do her work in a normal manner”.
Chiropractic care has been proven to be effective in managing a long list of conditions. Get in touch if you have any question and we will reply within one day.
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