Posture is the position in which we hold our body upright against gravity while standing, sitting on a horse, driving a car or sitting in a chair.
Good posture requires our spine and pelvic girdle to be in alignment or neutral. When our spine is in correct alignment we place virtually no stress on our muscles, joints or ligaments. In fact, Joseph Pilates stated that “The age of your body is in direct relation to the age of your spine.”
Good or ideal posture not only offers aesthetic benefits but also optimal musculoskeletal function. Due to the specific and often limited movement patterns employed by us as a result of modern living, postural faults develop over time. Once developed these can all too frequently lead to pain and discomfort, not only for ourselves but for our horses too!
So practicing good posture involves training the mind and body to stand, sit, and perform everyday life activities such as walking, riding and exercising in positions where the least amount of strain and stress is placed on supporting structures, muscles and ligaments.
Poor posture is where our bones are not aligned properly and our muscles, joints and ligaments take more stress and strain than nature intended. Poor posture frequently results in aches and pains, particularly in our back, hips, knees and shoulders. As far as riding goes, our posture affects our horse too. Sitting out of alignment causes postural problems for him as well and can lead to poor performance as well as physical issues!
Problems with neck and shoulder posture are frequently seen together. People who work at computer screens or spend a lot of time sitting will tend to acquire a forward head posture, compressing the back of the neck, and the shoulders will begin to round forwards. This is called upper crossed syndrome and causes tightness in the front of the chest and back of the neck, and weakness in the upper back and front of the neck. So pain in our upper back frequently stems from this tendency to slump in the spine and round the shoulders.
Slouching, forward head carriage and rounding the shoulders also adds weight to our horse’s forehand, which in the long term can causes lameness issues from your horse’s front legs, shoulders and withers.
Achieving poor posture is all too easy, we acquire bad postural habits over the years without thinking about them. However correcting our postural faults is not so easy. The number one problem is that our body lies to us. Poor proprioception will tell us, for example, that we are sitting straight when we are leaning back, so alignment is something we have to work on. We normally need help initially to identify our asymmetry and then it just takes time and effort.
Some facts about posture?
- Proper posture can help prevent many aches and pains including chronic back pain.
- Wearing high heels regularly can lead to bad posture habits and back pain.
- Riding with your stirrups too long can lead to lordosis and back pain.
- Riding with your stirrups too short can encourage you to round your shoulders and slump, leading to upper back pain.
- Being overweight can exacerbate bad posture.
- Stretching regularly can help you stand up straighter.
- We do a lot of heavy lifting around stable yards. Make sure you use your legs and not your back to lift heavy objects. Keeping a straight back and engaging your abdominal muscles can reduce the risk of injury.
- Good posture goes hand in hand with better balance. Both on and off the horse.
- Doing exercises that strengthen your core and back muscles can help you improve your posture and increase your bone density.
A well designed Rider Exercise programme can play an important part in helping to address your postural faults. However in group exercise classes one tends to work with generic exercises that are not designed specifically for you. At a Posture & Alignment Awareness Clinic you will receive a full detailed individual posture assessment, both on the ground and then mounted (on PI) after which you will be shown specific exercises and stretches tailored for you in a private one-on-one session.
After the clinic you will receive a detailed report on your posture and alignment, and a written explanation on how to do the exercises that you have been shown.
Finally to ensure that you are doing the exercises correctly you will be able to upload short videos of you doing the exercises to the special Facebook group page which will only be available to those attending the clinic. I will then be able to access whether you are performing the exercises correctly and offer you further support.