Genetics dictates how flexible you are and also your postural body type. Stiffness and over-flexibility both cause aches, pains, and difficulty in day-to-day activities. Explore your flexibility with these easy tests, and strive to find your best neutral posture.
Gravity has a greater impact on our posture when we are upright in sitting or standing. If we give in to it, the “segments” of our body collapse (see below left). The result is that our muscles are out of balance and our joints are misaligned. Stretching counterbalances this and helps you develop a good neutral posture. You start by using good form and working the muscles of the inner
This helps you stretch the chest and shorten the upper-back muscles, open the lower back and engage the abs, as well as stretch the front of the hips and thighs, and the calves. Practicing sitting and standing tall also solidifies your intent to push vertically upwards against the force of gravity. The beauty of this formula is that it applies to all body types and levels of flexibility.
Gravity breaks us into unbalanced segments (far left). The head falls forward. The chest shortens and sinks, and the upper back rounds. The lower back tightens and collapses, and the abdomen protrudes. The front of the thighs and hips tighten, while the hip extensors slacken. Bodyweight lists back on the heels, shortening the calves.
The goal is to balance the segments and achieve a neutral posture, with a straight line running from the head through the pelvis (left). Note especially how the weight of the heavy head is now balanced directly over the pelvis, which houses our center of gravity. This alignment puts the least amount of strain on the spine as well as on the other joints in the body.
Test the mobility of your shoulders and upper back. Lie on the floor with your arms bent and your forearms parallel with the sides of your head. Your muscles are over-tight if your head and forearms do not touch the floor.
Test the mobility of your spine, rib cage, and neck. From a seated position, cross your arms, put each hand on the opposite shoulder and rotate your torso. Note how far you can go. Anything less than 35˚ indicates that your muscles are over-tight. Being right-handed or left-handed affects how far you can rotate.
Test the mobility of your hips. Lie on your back and raise first one leg then the other. If you can only raise your leg to a 70° angle or less, it indicates over-tightness of your muscles at the back of your leg and hip. Being able to lift each leg to a 90° angle helps prevent low-back pain when sitting. It also prevents walking with an unbalanced gait, which causes leg and back problems. Raising your leg to a 120° angle indicates an exceptional degree of mobility.