Why is it so hard to sit up straight?
Nearly everyone I have met says they want to improve their posture (even the yoga teachers and chiropractors). In a world full of ergonomics, exercises, gym balls, special shoes, stretches, and more, why is it still so hard to stand up straight?
Our spinal structure and nervous system allow us to be in certain postures and not others, depending on what’s happening in your life and your current level of health. Step on a tack, and feel how you instinctively distort your spine to avoid putting weight on that foot –that’s smart! The only challenge is if this response becomes “normal” and we start habitually leaning away from one foot after the wound from the tack is long gone. That’s when it is unhealthy. The spine has shifted structurally and now does not allow healthy, normal structural alignment, which will create abnormal wear and tear on the spinal discs, joints, and muscles through all regions associated with the structural shift.
What causes the structure to shift and stay shifted?
One of the reasons is if a structural shift helped us to avoid pain or survive a situation (even if it wasn’t likely to actually kill us), our nervous system develops hardwiring for it as a “new normal”. It’s a very smart system, it’s just designed to help us survive above all else, which is why it sometimes needs an upgrade and periodic “reality check” to shift back towards health and quality of life.
Adding another complicating factor is that our body and mind are interdependent systems. It is theorized that each body cell has 3-9 nerve endings connecting it to the brain – something that affects one part of us indirectly affects several other parts of us, including emotional, mental, and social experiences. That’s why I say that spinal structure is how the body wears the mind. Each structural change is often aligned with a particular mental or behavioral attitude. Tell a dog, “No! Bad!” and it drops its head and tucks its tail between its legs. Was the dog physically hurt by the force of your word? Of course not. Yet there was still a very physical response.
The same thing happens to humans. If you feel overwhelmed at work, your chest may cave in and your shoulders rise to your ears. Were you physically attacked by the workload? No, but your body responded instantly and instinctively just the same. Our spinal structure is shaped by our experiences which shapes how we interact with the world. It is a reflexive response to one’s environment that, through positioning the sensitive nerves of the spine, shifts the body structure and brain function along with activating different states of awareness, emotion, and perception to deal with different situations.
Don’t Get Stuck in a “New Normal”
Again, this is a not a problem, unless we get stuck in this as a “new normal” after the event is over. When an event is intense enough, frequent enough, or when we’re overwhelmed by too many different things at once, we lose the capacity to bounce back and reset to “normal”. Our neurology rewires so that we are constantly reacting to the stressor. Even if it isn’t there, our spinal cord locks into a pattern of distortion that matches the response that “worked”—i.e. we didn’t die.
It’s years later and you’re in a different place with different people, yet your spine and nerve system are still responding as if the event is happening now. That’s when it also has an impact on other areas of your spine, nervous system, and health, and that’s when it’s hard to just “sit up straight” because the nerve system is now sustaining this new structural alignment.
Why Get a Professional Spine Assessment?
This is why having someone professionally assess, and if necessary correct, the spinal structure is helpful. Sometimes our spine and nervous system need a “reality check.” Make sure whomever is assessing your spine is doing so with consideration of both the brain and the spinal cord. When both the spine AND nervous system become healthier together, the alignment habits of a lifetime can shift far more easily and sustainably.
How Does a Spinal Assessment Work?
How we do that in our office depends on your current level of health. There’s a couple approaches we take.
- Level 1 in Network Spinal Analysis (NSA)
- Somatic Respiratory Integration (SRI)
- Level 2 NSA
- Level 3 NSA (Advanced Care)
Level 1 NSA
In our NeuroSpinal approach, Level 1 in Network Spinal Analysis (NSA) helps release tension from the spine and spinal cord to provide a “Reality check” to the nervous system, allowing the spinal structure to shift with ease. When the spine and nervous system “wake up” from survival mode, it naturally moves towards the alignment that supports healing and growth – again, it’s smart.
Somatic Respiratory Integration
Somatic Respiratory Integration (SRI) is also a great tool to increase specificity in body awareness, which is essential for proper structural alignment, and to re-sensitize yourself to your body’s subtle cues – meaning you don’t need pain to tell you it’s time to realign yourself.
Level 2 NSA
If the brain and spine still need further encouragement, Level 2 NSA restructures the spine and mind to “clean house” on the old alignment habits, transforming them into a stronger, healthier, and more flexible spine that better adapts in stressful situations, thus far less likely to go back to the same stuck place and much easier to get the benefits from ergonomics, stretches, and exercises.
Level 3 NSA
Advanced care network spinal analysis (Level 3 NSA) supports the development of more adaptive structural alignments to support new levels of well-being, as well as upgrading the nervous system to go beyond the habit to create the structural shift in the first place – a proactive process of improving function.
Sure, until the day we all throw our iPhones and laptops away we’ll always have moments where we slouch –– but when we create a healthy spine we don’t have to get STUCK there!