Physical exercise should involve the use of the whole body; walking, running, cycling and swimming are all desirable. One-sided activities should not be allowed to dominate physical activity to the point of producing imbalance. Exercises of a 'keep fit' nature should be carefully tailored to the individual. Yoga exercises are far more desirable as they are performed in a slow, rhythmic manner rather than in violent, jerky movements so common in the daily dozen!
The way the body is carried in sitting, standing and walking is an ever varying dynamic pattern and the study of this pattern is the study of posture.
The posture of an individual is determined in childhood and the seeds of poor posture in adult life are sown in childhood. Good posture is a rarity — indeed if seen it is instantly recognizable. It is not the stiff military carriage, any more than it is the slouching, sagging posture of the fashion model! One is more likely to recognize good posture in the half naked African tribesman whose graceful carriage enables him to move in an effortless way.
Observe people as they carry out their daily tasks. Few walk well, and one is able to observe a variety of slumped, unhealthy postures when people are sitting. This is an indication of physical weakness, lack of physical exercise, and poor development. It has a direct bearing on health, both physical and mental.
A Common Postural Fault
Lordosis occurs when the pelvis is tilted forward and there is an exaggerated forward curve of the lumbar region of the spine— (high heels, incidentally, throw the pelvis into just this position). There is a corresponding exaggeration of the backward curve of the dorsal spine (kyphosis), and a forward movement of the curve of the neck. These changes of the curves of the spine result in changes in the attached structures, thus throwing strain upon the supporting ligaments, and causing malposition and crowding of the internal organs, circulatory impediments and nerve irritation. The abdominal organs are thrust forward against the wall of the abdomen, the muscles of which become stretched under the constant pressure. The intestines and other supported structures sag and assume a lower position in the abdominal cavity. The liver may rotate forward and the common bile duct may become stretched, in some cases causing interference with bile flow. The pelvic organs are also involved, leading to many of the complications which these days seem to affect women of all ages. There is a sagging of the ovaries, the uterus is tilted forwards and down, with the weight of the abdominal organs resting on it. Varicose veins of the lower bowel (haemorrhoids), and impairment of the reproductive system may result.
With the corresponding crowding of the rib cage there is a decrease in the diameter of the chest. The diaphragm is lowered, leaving the heart in a sagging position, unsupported from below. Both respiratory function and heart action are bound to be less efficient as a result.
Osteopathy can do much to correct the damage—by relaxing tense and congested muscles and joints, by mobilizing the partially immobile joint and by improving general muscle tone. But in order to overcome poor posture permanently there is only one course of action which must be obvious to any intelligent person.
Corrective exercises must firstly overcome the old habits of poor posture and secondly there must be the cultivation and establishment of new habits of good posture. The patient must do much more than exercise—he must consciously assume and maintain correct posture for long, and ever lengthening periods, until correct posture becomes a habit.