A Word about Posture
By Steve Bracken
A report my Eyal Lederman (CPDO Online Journal (2010), March, p1-14.) found that there was:
• No proven link between posture and pain.
• No proven link for lower back pain and: core strength, disc degeneration, hamstring or psoas tightness, SI joint, pelvic asymmetry, lordosis and kyphosis, muscle strength, trunk asymmetry. In fact Lower back pain can be better predicted by biological, psychological and social factors!
Structure and pain is a common association to make. However, research into the subject shows that the facts are not so clear. There is undoubtedly cases where posture is a direct cause of pain and working with posture and alignment is of great benefit. However, we can not presume that a misaligned posture will directly lead to pain or discomfort. So, what does cause the pain and discomfort most people feel most of the time? I would suggest the answer to this would be myofascial pain.
What wikipedia says about Myofascial pain:
Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS), also known as chronic myofascial pain (CMP), is a syndrome characterized by chronic pain caused by multiple trigger points and fascial constrictions.
I would add that any deviation in the tissues from a smooth and pliable state can lead to pain and referred pain. Deviation from the ideal state in tissues can be felt as undulations, tight bands and strips, lumps (from large to minuscule), hollows, laxity and constrictions under the surface of the skin.
Myofascial pain is mostly caused and increased by anything that stresses the system. This includes other health issues, injury, muscle fatigue, over-exertion, over-stretching, muscle stagnancy (sedentary lifestyle), postural strain, sleep disturbance, psychological stress, nutritional and medical factors (drugs). To complicate matters the pain from a knot is often referred to another part of the body.
MPS (as I define it) is important because many injuries are caused or aggravated by the pull of these constrictions in the tissues and are relieved when the tissues are released from the burden of this strain.
This strain in the tissues admittedly will show up in areas where the posture has a weakness such as the location of an old injury, a muscular imbalance, where a stress has been placed on a particular area (such as too many forward bends) or even a held emotional charge. However, the cause of this strain is often not the posture itself. What we need to avoid as much as possible is creating the detrimental stress (as opposed to a good stress that promotes healthy tissues) on the tissues of the body in our asana practice or in daily life in the first instance.
So, even though we aim for an optimal functional and balanced posture we do not want to be caught in the trap of trying to impose an image of an ideal postural shape upon anyone in the belief that will solve their pain issues. Making any lasting changing to a person’s posture is often a very difficult process with a limited success rate. Posture contains a host of emotional, psychological and physical patterns that maybe continually reinforced for many hours in a day. So, while yoga may indeed help the physical discomfort that is felt in the body this maybe due to the mobilization of the tissues, relaxing the nervous system, changing breathing patterns or a general ‘letting go’. With a greater awareness of the causes of pain we can approach the subject of improving posture in a more informed and less rigid manner. Success should be judged by imparting information that leads to a functional pain free body. Improved posture is a by product of good yoga practice and not the aim.
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