Posture is the way in which your body is positioned most of then time; it’s your reflexive position when you’re sitting or standing. Often times, we use posture to refer to how we LOOK in these positions.
Shoulders hunched? Butt tucked under?
On the other hand, alignment has to do with the positioning of your parts in relationship to one another.
Your postural alignment refers to the relative positioning of your parts that you’re in most of the time.
But you can also manipulate your alignment, creating intentional changes to achieve certain outcomes.
Posture and alignment are subtly different, but, very related.
Many of my clients have noticed that their posture has changed dramatically throughout pregnancy. These changes persist postpartum.
Most commonly, I notice folks have a sway posture (the right panel in the image below)- in which the pelvis tucks under and shifts forward and the rib cage collapses forward.
Sometimes I’ll see folks with the exageratted curve in their back- their pelvis rotated forward and rib cage rotated upwards (check out the left panel of the top image).
Are these postures bad?
No. There are no “bad” postures- posture is not actually associated with bodily discomfort.
But our bodies DO crave variability and so there’s a saying: “Your best posture is your next posture.”
Sometimes you’ll feel better just by switching things up or spending time standing a different way.
You’ll also find that when you go from a sway posture to a “stacked” posture (the left panel in the above image), your core muscles align in a way that puts them at a biomechanical advantage.
This means, they will have an easier time firing together and doing their jobs.
If you’re experiencing pelvic health symptoms- pain or pressure in your vagina or perineum or leaking, check your alignment. If you’re in a sway alignment, back your hips up and get your pelvis under your ribcage.
This subtle tweak can have big implications for your symptoms.
Check out this cool trick to help you find that stacked alignment:
Anchor a plumbline (a resistance band with a handle or a yoga strap with a buckle work well) where your femur joins your pelvis. Look down and see where the line is hanging. If the line hangs over your mid foot, shift your hips back so that it aligns with your ankle bone. As you do this, you should feel your pelvis untuck and your ribcage align over your pelvis.
Once you find this nice stacked posture, use it! Several times a day, bring awareness to how you’re standing (you could set an alarm on your phone!). During these alignment check-ins, shift your weight back. You can also use this stacked position as the foundation for many of your exercises- deadlifts, squats, standing overhead presses. All of these exercises should be executed from a stacked standing alignment.
There’s no need to become hyper-vigilant. Bring your awareness to your posture several times a day. Use your workouts as a laboratory to explore your alignment. Remember, alignment variability is more important than living in a “perfect” posture all of the time.
If you try this out, drop me a note in the comments and let me know how it feels to hold your body in a different way.
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Contact me if you have questions about exercise or pelvic health pertaining to pregnancy or postpartum. I also offer personal training services and consultations to folks locally (Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland) and online.