Posture, it can become that blah blah blah topic that everyone with a glimmer of a fitness certificate keeps harping on about. Well as boring as it may seem, posture has the potential to set you up for success, or send you down the rabbit hole of pain, dysfunction and poor performance. Postural awareness is such an important part of our overall health that we really cannot afford to take it lightly. An aligned posture is needed by the body in the same way it needs water. Ok so you wont die after 3 days of poor posture, but you will start the journey towards pain, bad joints, headaches, a sore back, etc etc.
Knowing how to get your body into an aligned position is going to be one of the very best things you can do for your health.
You have probably heard the term Neutral Spine thrown around, and if you have, I ask you to stay with me as we go through today’s postural reset.
Neutral spine puts the body in its strongest, most aligned form and I want you to know how to achieve it and how to maintain it.
The idea of neutral spine is that we are maintaining it for everything we do; standing, sitting, bending, riding, gardening, picking up poo, etc. it is not enough to get into ‘good form’ (ie neutral spine) only at the gym or when you are thinking about lifting something, it needs to become a movement habit so that you are supporting your body through every movement.
This is a tall order for most of us, so do not panic. The aim of this is to bring your awareness of how to get into neutral and then for you to set reminders and make a commitment to keep resetting your posture. If you can carry this routine on over a couple of weeks, it will become more of a habit and you will have to think of resetting less and less.
Why it is important
The human spine is designed in 3 curves. The main purpose of these curves is to allow spinal stability with mobility and sets up the correct biomechanical workings of the body as a whole unit.
For riders, it ensures that the pelvis sits with the seat bones pointing straight downwards, and allows the hip to have full movement into extension, which is essential for a seat that will be over the horses’ centre of gravity. It also enables the rider to have an independent contact, as the shoulder girdle is stabilised.
From the Top; Neutral Spine Phase 1
Neutral spine begins at the shoulders. For most of us, the posture we find most comfortable is to be slightly hunched with rounded shoulders, which collapses our lungs and torso.
It also means we become very weak across the top of our upper back, and this can show up as hands that move too much when we are riding, or elbows that like to stick out.
The problem is that we have lost our shoulder girdle stability; the piece of engineering that was designed to anchor our scapula’s to allow the shoulder joint and arms independent movement from the torso.
By setting up the first part of neutral spine we begin to undo all the results of a hunched posture and start to strengthen the shoulder girdle, thereby giving us better body control and a better hand/arm position in the saddle.
Do you suffer with Headaches??
How many times do you experience headaches? For some people they are a constant issue and reaching for some painkillers becomes the norm. This can be a signal that your posture is compressed and not aligned, and that there is too much load on the wrong tissues.
The easiest way to keep self-correcting is to think about pulling the base of the skull upwards, away from your neck. This should then softly drop your chin downwards and lengthen the space between your ears and your shoulders. It is the nicest way to open up the cervical vertebrae, reducing intervertebral pressure and therefore minimising tension related headaches.
Neutral Spine Phase 2; the Lower Back and Pelvis
The lumbar spine is designed to be a source of strength, not mobility and when this area is in neutral, the vertebrae are aligned, with good space between them for the discs and spinal cord.
The lower back is designed to have a natural, concave curve, but everyday movement habits mean that yours is possibly sitting in a flat position, or an overly curved position.
Key Rider Takeaways
- Neutral spine helps to create and maintain a still and elastic contact through shoulder girdle anchoring and removes tension from neck musculature
- Ensures the pelvis is sitting with seat bones pointing straight down (therefore keeping your body weight balanced over the horse)
- Allows the hips to hang at the correct angle from the pelvis in the saddle
- Ensures the spine is at its strongest and most mobile