Body & Posture Alignment Exercises
October 1, 2009
The human body is energized by motion … not surprising considering that our bodies are designed to be in constant motion. Whether we’re sleeping or awake, our hearts beat 60-70 times a minute without fail, our lungs alternate between expansion and contraction, and even our cells are in constant vibration - these are all involuntary actions in which we have no direct control but are essential for our health and existence. However we do have direct control on our musculoskeletal system of muscles, fasciae, tendons, ligaments and bones. With the feet pointing straight, the joints of the ankle, knee, hip and shoulder are meant to be in a straight line, one on top of each other. If the joints are not in line then we have a postural imbalance. If we continue to allow this imbalance to exist, it will increasingly lead to weakness, stiffness and pain in our muscles, fasciae or joints. Also the increased wear and tear on our joints caused by the posture imbalance could ultimately lead to a situation in which surgery might be the only remaining solution.
Today we live in this post-industrial age in which we really don’t move enough. This increased lack of mobility has caused a reduction in the strength, function and flexibility of our muscles or bones. For example: we go to work in our car, sit all day in the office, go home in our car, and then sit in front of the TV after dinner. To compensate, our bodies start to use other muscles to help out these weakened muscles. Over a period of time, the continued use of these compensating muscles could lead to a postural imbalance.
If we do take up a leisure sport, chances are that it will be something like golf, tennis or bowling that predominantly uses one side of the body. The human body was designed to be functionally bilateral; i.e. both sides of the body should be used equally. These one-sided activities cause one side of the body to be more developed than the other and again it will result in a postural imbalance or misalignment. This is why walking or martial arts are excellent exercises because they are bilateral in action.
Another cause of structural misalignment could be the result of an injury. While we’re recovering from the injury, we could be using one side of our body more than the other side resulting in the uninjured side of our body becoming much stronger. Although physical therapy will rehabilitate the injured side, it could cause the stronger side to be even stronger than before. Again this muscle imbalance if not corrected can eventually result in a postural imbalance.
Now these imbalances can be corrected by certain stretches or exercises which in some cases gravity or the weight of one’s body is used to hold the body in a certain stretch or position. The muscles affected by these stretches or exercises are slowly allowed to adjust to accommodate the stretch or position. These simple stretches or exercises are not done with the effort or strength normally associated with heavy activity, but are done in a relaxed manner, without extreme effort and within the limits of one’s range of motion. If practised regularly, this will restore the natural balance of muscle tension in the body hereby eliminating the pain caused by the muscle imbalance within the body.
These posture alignment exercises are just reset mechanisms to put the body back into a natural balanced musculoskeletal state. On top of this, one still needs to do other bilateral acvtivities such as Tai Chi, Pilates, aerobics, walking, swimming, etc. for strength building to keep our bodies from slipping back into a postural imbalance state.
The author Colman Fink who has been involved with the martial arts for over 40 years, teaches Tai Chi (Taiji), Qigong, Daoyin, Ryukyu Kobujutsu (Kobudo) and Karate Jutsu in Wareham, Middleborough and Plymouth. His Tai Chi organization is affiliated with the world-wide International Tai Chi Society. He is also the Chief Instructor at Yuishinkai Kobujutsu USA, and a Branch Chief in USA for Yuishinkai and Ryukyu Kobujutsu Hozon Shinko Kai, both of which are based in Tokyo, Japan. You also can follow his martial arts postings on his Google+ page Martial Arts with Colman.