Return to site

Why most posture cues suck

And what to do about it.

· breath,Habits,back,posture

Oh posture, everyone has an opinion but most of it is NOT HELPING anyone.

I have seen first hand how posture changes everything about how our core and pelvic floor function but I would sure love most of our current cues to just dissapear!

I'm going to share,

  • Why I think most posture cues suck 
  • How to change that 
  • Break down of what goes wrong with the most common of those cues.
  • How to get started doing something different.
  • Show you 3 cues that I don't think are broken.   
But first this little video of some of my most hated posture cues.

Why most cues suck

Two main reasons.

1. They are trying to correct something that the speaker assumes you do. While that may be helpful as a very immediate single moment cue, it is total shite for something you want to work towards every day.

How do you know when to stop pulling your shoulders back and down? How much is enough? There is





Most posture cues don't give us a clue about where the balance point is and it's all about balance.

2. Most posture cues create more tension and less suppleness. Your body doesn't like tension. If you are holding tension in a muscle or area of your body, hello shoulders, that area isn't moving, getting blood flow, lymph drainage or nutrition. The result, either massive complaints and annoyance or full numbness, armouring lockdown.

What would a good posture cue look like?

We need posture cues that point us towards the beautiful balance point in the middle. Your body loves that balance point. Enough with correcting by pointing us towards the opposite direction, let's point to the destination so we don't overshoot it! Then we need to make sure that we can be in that position without tensing up.

Let's look at one of the most common and problematic cues

Shoulders back, together and down or the chest up or heart open cues

This seems like a good thing right? Open the front of the body, to counteract our slouching. I think this is the most prevalent cue out there, aside from stand up straight (what the hell does that mean?) and I think it is one of the most damaging.

This is how it goes wrong.

Almost everyone gets the illusion of uprightness and an open chest by lifting their whole rib cage up at the front and back and leaning the top of their torso backwards. They just don't have the shoulder mobility or awareness to shift the shoulders by themselves. So the shoulders back and down cue: 

  • Changes the natural curves in our back, compressing the discs between our vertebrae.
  • Turns back muscles on all day long, causing soreness, tightness and fatigue.
  • Makes it impossible for the back of the ribs to expand with our inhales.
  • Stops the back of our diaphragm (main breathing muscle) from working
  • Makes it more likely for us to live in a constant state of fight or flight.  The tightness in the back diaphragm makes it hard for the calm down, rest part of our nervous system to show up.
  • Breaks the connection between our diaphragm and our pelvic floor making it way harder to have a strong supple abs and pelvic floor
  • 'Turns off' our serratus anterior, muscles that help with breathing, reaching and ab function.
  • Keeps our psoas (a spine stabilizer and hip flexor) in a shortened position which can interfere with hip function
  • It also just makes us tense and the body likes to move with the waves of our breath cycle.

Can you tell how much I hate this cue? Please throw it in the garbage, and stop telling your kids and yourself to do it!

What to do instead. How to start trying something different.

Your body loves movement, suppleness and strength. When it has that it's usually pretty happy.

And I hear you, right now your shoulders are curved forward. Your back is tight, your hips feel wonky, you want to DO something about it instead of feeling trapped in your body.

First off it's good to know that if you've been holding a lot of tension, it will take awhile to unwind those tension patterns.

Some release work, either self or from a massage therapist can be an amazing and very helpful place to start. Try releasing,

  • The front of the shoulders and chest.  (Pectoralis major and minor)
  • All around the rib cage and upper abs to start to allow the individual ribs to move more
  • Around the shoulderblades to get them sliding and moving on your ribcage as your arms move, instead of being stuck to your rib cage.

Some mobility work in the pelvis, shoulders and rib cage is a good next step.

Then the best and most persistent way to get that release work to stick is to breathe differently. Breathing so that all your ribs move without your spine moving.

Doing this unwinding takes some time and practice but it is soooooooo worth it.

I teach this in my Mothership course and to my private clients. You can always explore what that is like by going here.

3 cues that aren't broken and show us where the sweet balance point is.

Expand your rib cage equally front and back on your inhale.

This is one that you may or may not be able to feel right now depending on how much tightness you have in your back and how much mobility you have in your ribs. Once you start to get things moving again though it is the best cue I've found.

Often when we are in that back tight and ribcage lifted up and forward posture we try to correct it by gripping down at the front with our upper abs. I did this for years! Oops.

When we grip our upper abs we build a bunch of tension in the front and lose the movement in the front of our rib cage. So paying attention to that front back expansion balance and putting your ribcage in a spot where you can feel both is getting your body what it actually needs. Sweet sweet balance.

If you have no clue how to get some expansion into the back of your ribcage, I've got lots of ideas.

Foot tripod

Did you know that how your feet engage with the ground influences what muscles show up to work in your legs, hips and even pelvic floor? Crazy huh?

So you can feel some major changes in your body just by working with your feet. Basic concept is this: Can you balance the weight of your body through your feet so that both sides of your feet (Inside and outside) and the front and back of your feet are all engaging or rooting into the ground. Try it out.

The other thing that happens is that we don't balance our weight side to side between our feet, instead we have 1 foot that we always stand on.

Many of us are not using our whole feet, and then don't feel very rooted or supported.

Head Float
This is all about getting some length through the neck and spine almost like your body was hanging from your head. It can help to do some release work at back base of your skull to start to feel this.

Often when we are learning something we can try super hard and create a bunch of tension. That's not what I'm after at all, the head float should feel like your head weighs less and can still move freely.
There are lots of other cues that can help with our posture but I haven't yet found any others that point to the sweet balance point instead of past it.

For example, most of us could do with a slight forward lean but taken too far that would become something we need to correct. So for now I'm sticking with these three.

And now I'd love to hear from you.

What do you think about this?

Have you tried any of my 3 cues out? If so how did they feel to you?

Comment below and let me know :)

broken image

Donyne is a postnatal corrective exercise specialist, in regular speak she loves to help you breathe easier and find your abs, butt and pelvic floor no matter how long it's been since you had kids.