Lift Up!

If you’ve been taking my class for a while, you’ve heard me say numerous times, “keep the shoulders down, lift the upper chest, find that regal posture!” Here’s more as to why we should “lift up” and out of a rounded upper torso.

Often we hunch forward when working at the computer, washing dishes or driving our cars. We don’t really think about it. The task just seems to lend itself to sinking in the spine. Or perhaps we established a postural habit in our youth which was related to emotional issues such as shame, fear, embarrassment, worthlessness, or guilt. While those feelings may have passed, it’s possible they actually took-up permanent residence deep in our muscle tissue. Unlearning these habits may call for more that just muscle repatterning.

We rarely get the opportunity to learn good posture unless we joined the military, graduated from ‘finishing school’ or took up a physical activity such as dance or sports.

A lifetime of a hunched posture can affect the body in several ways. The most common complaint with this rounded posture is the pain in the neck! Upper back and neck tension can lead to pinched nerves or nerve damage which may cause neck pain and/or migraines.

In addition, the upper torso is home to two very important organs, the lungs and heart. With the heart, a rounded upper back may be putting pressure on the heart. It might cut off circulation to and from the heart or possibly cause nerve irritation in that area. As for the lungs, full lung capacity means being able to breathe into all areas of the lungs: upper, middle, lower and the back aspect. A rounded posture is usually caused by a muscular imbalance, which makes it difficult to move the rib cage into its neutral position. Without this ability to mobilize all the ribs, a big full breath is impossible. We want fuller breaths in order to get more oxygen into the blood stream. This makes all tissues and organs happy, most especially the brain!

There are two glands in this area of the upper chest, the thyroid and thymus. The thyroid regulates metabolism and hormone function. The thymus develops T-cells which are part of the immune system. If the nerves are restricted in the upper chest/neck area, this stress impinges nerve communications from brain to glands (thyroid, thymus and others) and organs and vice versa. The signals can’t get through. The same goes for blood circulation. And that’s not good!

So grab a book, balance it on your head and walk through your house. For fun, chant “the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.” Enjoy.

Published by Michelle

Michelle Stortz, C-IAYT, ERYT500, MFA, is a certified yoga therapist specializing in yoga for cancer and chronic illness. She teaches in numerous medical settings throughout the Philadelphia area. Michelle also teaches mindful meditation. She has been studying in the Theravadan Buddhist tradition for the past 15 years and has also trained in the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction curriculum. She leads retreats and group classes and works with individuals in private sessions.

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