Featuring Maria de Sousa
The image of the hunched over old lady shuffling along staring at the pavement is one that most of us have seen, whether in the media or in real life, and I’d safely bet that none of us are dreaming of that for ourselves in later life. Both my grandparents were still standing nice and straight in their 90’s but, sadly for me, whether we end up hunched over or not has nothing to do with genetics and everything to do with habits…the habits we have been developing for years (like spending long hours hunched over a laptop writing!). So, whilst it may be tempting to dismiss the rounding of our shoulders, and the aches and pains in our back, as just part and parcel of getting older unfortunately it simply isn’t true. And as back related problems cost billions worldwide every year in healthcare and time off work, sorting out our posture isn’t just good for our figure, it’s good for our pocket too. I contacted Maria de Sousa aka The Posture Queen to find out more about why and how we can sort out our posture and move towards a life free of pain and hunched over pavement staring.
Why is good posture so important for those of us over 40?
Well, good posture is important at any age, but of course after 40 it is perhaps when you start noticing it more, because you might be in pain and/or feel discomfort in the body, particularly in the lower back.
Most people don't realise that back pain isn't something you have done yesterday that made you crunch in pain, e.g. that heavy load you lifted or that awkward movement you made.
Back pain (not caused by accident/trauma) we see around is a cumulative and a long-term affair. It relates to the way you have been treating your spine for the last 10, 15, 20 years, i.e. the postural habits you have unconsciously created.
The body is able to withstand a lot and it adjusts to the repetitive behaviours we all have i.e. what we do on a daily basis as a habit. However, through the years these adjustments turn into misalignments and imbalances in the body, e.g. one shoulder lower than the other, one leg longer than the other, the head slightly tilted to one side when you stand/sit still, etc.
But... there comes a point in your life (usually many years of 'brewing') when these misalignments and imbalances will turn into pain. The most common pain is in the lower back, but you can also feel it in your pelvis, in your upper back, in your neck and in many other places and even many other ways.
What are some of the negative impacts of poor posture, especially as we get older?
There are many negative impacts and it might surprise you that many are not in the body but in the mind, such as a lack of self-confidence or lower self-esteem.
Others may be:
• depression or anxiety
• lack of energy
• back pain (very common after 40)
• daily discomfort in the body (neck, shoulders, chest)
• difficulty breathing
• digestive issues
Do you have a couple of simple tips for improving our posture?
The most important tip I can give you, and where you ought to start, is to pay attention to the way you use your body as you go about life, in other words create the habit of self-awareness.
I usually say that 'Self-awareness is self-care'.
What habits have you created along the way that you aren't conscious of?
• Do you always carry your hand bag on the same shoulder? Or do you always carry your shopping on the same side?
• How do you hold your mobile phone?
• How do you do the dishes/brush your teeth?
• How do you sit at the table to have your meals?
• Do you wear high-heels often?
It’s only when you know what you are doing with your body that you can start changing things for yourself and adopting new ways of doing the things you do.
Here's a quote that I love and will help you to understand what I mean:
'If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got'
(attributed to many people from H. Ford to T. Robbins)
However, what you don’t want to do is to get upset or frustrated with what you may discover are 'bad' habits. It’s important that you notice and acknowledge them and, in a way, befriend them. Then what you can do is to start thinking of how you can do things differently i.e. what new 'good' habits can you start creating. Be sure to understand that the 'bad' habits won't disappear from one day to the next, but with patience and determination they will start disappearing as you integrate new 'good' ones.
Here's something you can already do from today:
How do you hold your mobile phone? Do you hold it in front of your belly and bring your head down?
What about if you start your self-awareness habit here and instead bring your phone up in front of your chest and keep your head up. Can you do this? Let me know how you get on over on my Facebook or Instagram page.
Maria de Sousa (aka Maria deS.) is the founder of Posture Queen. Her mission is to raise awareness of good posture and spread the seeds of good postural habits throughout the world. A yoga teacher and a Feldenkrais Method teacher (trainee), she's also the creator of Wise Yoga which is a yoga inspired by the Feldenkrais Method and is a gentle approach to fitness. Maria helps women to empower themselves through understanding posture, an understanding which not only prevents/relieves back pain but also gives women permission to present themselves to the world with power, elegance and confidence. She also brings the knowledge of posture to parents and teachers in schools and teaches them how they can introduce posture education to children in a non-disciplinary way, and teaches office workers to care for their spine and avoid back pain.
If you're interested in learning more then you can invite Maria to do a workshop in your area or arrange for her to come to you office or child's school.