How Your Spinal Health Affects Your Mood
Hopefully it’s no secret that maintaining our spinal health is incredibly important for overall wellbeing. Structurally speaking, our spine provides support, balance and flexibility. In addition, our spine protects our spinal cord, nerve roots and several of the body’s internal organs. Needless to say, it has a whole lot of responsibility!
It is commonly agreed upon that a healthy spine keeps the body physically balanced, but what may be less known is that maintaining a healthy spine also keeps our energetic body and mood balanced. To break it down a bit more, we know our spine protects our spinal cord. Our spinal cord’s function is to facilitate communication between the brain and body. This communication is often viewed as a one-way street, specifically when it comes to posture.
It’s easy to identify how our mood affects our posture. Humans tend to physically portray how we feel on the inside through body language. For instance, when in a “bad” mood, we often slouch and round our shoulders forward. On the flip side, when in a happier mood, we tend to sit up taller and straighter. We feel more energetic and eager to move when happy. Nothing too groundbreaking so far, right? This is the one-way street we often take when understanding mood and posture. However, that same street flows the opposite way as well! Our bodies also communicate to our brain how we feel based on our postural stance.
Posture contributes to our mood. It can even change our mood and feelings entirely.
It is universally accepted that exercise can alter our mood. After all, any meme can tell you you’re one workout away from a good mood. And now, science has revealed how we sit and stand also affects our mood. How you may ask? Our hormones!
The relationship between our spinal posture and hormones is a powerful one. Studies by Columbia and Harvard Universities have demonstrated that the “power pose” – legs hip width distance with hands on hips actually decreases cortisol, a stress hormone that decreases energy and metabolism, and increases testosterone which improves mood, circulation and energy. Conversely, when slouching or collapsing forward, our body goes into “protect” mode. The body tells the brain that it’s not a good time to take on anything new. We may even feel stuck and depressed. The inverse holds true when we maintain good posture. The body tells the brain it is feeling confident, energetic and ready to tackle a new challenge.
In taller individuals with poor posture and in the world of computers and smart phone use, a hyper kyphotic curve (e.g. too much rounding in the thoracic / mid-upper spine) can often take shape over time. This exaggerated curvature reduces energy levels and can result in a depressed mood. Exaggerated curvature can also present itself in the lower spine. Lordosis occurs when we continuously puff the chest forward as a means to look up, and as a result dump into the low back. It is often seen in shorter individuals, and can actually keep the brain in a state of anxiety or fight-or-flight mode. Physically, we can see a protruding chest invoke a message of eagerness that the body communicates to the brain.
To sum it up, posture is SUPER important. After all, most of us are seated or standing more throughout the day than we are in motion. The repetition and muscle memory we create by taking postural shapes is powerful. Now that I’ve got you interested in maintaining your spinal health and emotional wellbeing through that beautiful posture of yours, let’s go over some posture best practices.
Visualization Techniques for a Better Standing Posture
Stand up nice and tall and IMAGINE…
- Holding a gallon of milk in each hand with your arms down by your sides
- A string pulling the crown of your head (top-center of your skull) straight up towards the sky
- Wearing an actual crown or carrying a basket on top of your head
Anatomical Techniques for a Better Standing Posture
How to Practice “Standing Mountain Pose” or “Tadasana”
Tadasana or Mountain Pose isn’t nicknamed the “foundation of all yoga poses” for no reason, friends
- Ground down evenly through the entire surface area of your foot.
- Lift and spread your toes
- Gently shrug up on your knee caps
- Feel a gentle lift up and in of your navel towards your spine (perhaps try placing your hand on your low belly at first for awareness) and gently hug the ribs in
- Find length in the sides of your waist
- Lift the center of your chest while continuing to hold your lower ribs gently in
- Roll your shoulders back and down
- Keep your palms facing open for more energy and openness OR keep your palms facing inward to your body to quiet and focus the mind. Both options are great for different reasons/feelings.
- Reach the crown of your head towards the sky while slightly tucking your chin towards your chest, finding length through your cervical spine.
Exercise and Self Care for Better Posture
Yoga and foam rolling are two incredible forms of exercise to improve your posture and feel amazing in your body. I am personally passionate about yoga and foam rolling to improve posture as there is a concentrated focus on the breath during these movements. Our patterns of breathing also create different postural habits in the body and can alter mood and our emotional states of being as well.
Interested in a customized yoga and foam rolling session sequence to get you going? Schedule a complimentary 15 minute exploratory call with me today. Mention this article and receive 10% off when scheduling 2 private sessions. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your complimentary call.
In addition, holistic chiropractic care, deep tissue massage, cupping, etc. may be lovely accompaniments for you in maintaining the health of your spine and wellbeing. I recommend holistic chiropractor Dr. Claire Jessen of Minnesota Movement based in Excelsior, MN. Schedule an appointment with her here: drclairejessendc.janeapp.com
Wishing you health, wellbeing and peace.