Discussion of posture cannot be complete without the standing stance. Most of our activities are done in some variation of standing posture. In fact, standing posture is very closely related to balance and agility.
In day to day life, we perform many activities while standing that require bending, turning on stable feet, and overhead reaching while standing on ball of feet. Athletes, dancers, and gymnasts may even perform these activities on a single leg, challenging balance and the ability to stay stable and execute these motions smoothly on a narrow base.
Over the years, sports (such as football and basketball), dance forms (such as ballet and folk dances from around the world), and gymnastics/acrobatics have reached new levels of evolution- Cirque du Soleil shows such as the “O”, “Ka,”and “Mystere” are vibrant example of feats the human body can achieve. In daily life, the feats achieved by the human body, the wonderful and utmost sophisticated machine that it is, are no less.
Let’s take a look at the normal standing posture:
• Feet are the base of support and a good base is keeping the feet hip/shoulder width apart
• Hip, knee, and ankle joints are in a straight-line alignment when viewed from the side.
• Feet are face forward with toes and heel in line, although a slight outward pointing of feet (5-10°) is within normal limits.
• The plumb line through the center of gravity (COG) of the body falls slightly in front of the ankle joints. Good feet arches help distribute weight equally over balls of feet and the heels.
• The spine has the natural curves and is free of stress while facing straight forward. This allows the spinal cord to pass through the spine stress free and function optimally.
• The shoulders are neutral and relaxed with the neck elongated (chin tuck).
How about trying this out practically? Choose a firm, level surface to stand on.
Bring your awareness to the position of your feet. Are they hip/shoulder width apart?
Are both feet pointing forwards?
Did you notice if you are taking more weight on one leg than the other?
• In this case, the leg with the hip jutting out and a straight knee is doing more weight bearing, while the other leg is relaxed with some bending(flexion) at hip and knee.
• Common deviations may be a narrow base of support or knees touching each other.
Bring your awareness to the spine. Is it elongated?
Good natural curves?
Are shoulders rounded?
• This indicates excessive kyphosis in thoracic spine
• If you notice this, see if you can imagine a string from the ceiling pulling you upwards from the crown of your head. Then squeeze the shoulder blades a little closer.
Is your chin tucked in and cervical spine elongated?
• If not, you likely are thrusting head way forward as is the case with people having desk jobs or working on computers when seated for long periods. Tuck the chin and elongate neck upwards while maintaining a straight forward gaze.
Is breathing regular or shallow?
• Normal respiratory rate is 8-16 breaths/minute. If you are breathing faster, you are probably not getting in as much atmospheric air in lungs as needed for good air exchange.
A bad posture can impact functioning of other body systems. A good static standing posture translates to overall well-being with body systems, such as the respiratory, nervous, and digestive systems, functioning efficiently.
Ami Gandhi is a licensed physical therapist in the state of California. She is the owner of StableMovement Physical Therapy, a small boutique practice in San Jose that offers patient centered, one-on-one, hands-on physical therapy.