Structural Hygiene5 tips to keep up your ‘Structural Hygiene’ – By Jess Reinhold, Senior Wildfitness coachStructural Hygiene
The seated posture; the root of poor structural hygiene. Our hunter gatherer forbearers were active individuals and rarely sat on their butts. Instead if they needed to rest or perform intricate tasks for any reason they would squat on their haunches which is something we still see in many un-westernized cultures such as in Asia and Africa. Conversely, in the modern world, a sedentary life means we spend about 80% of our day sitting down. This isn’t just sitting at a computer screen in the office, this is also the commute to work, eating meals, socializing in the pub, going to the loo, watching TV and even some of our workouts in the gym on the spinning bikes and weight machines. We sit on our butts……A LOT! Gravity is a powerful force that shapes us physically, so it’s not really any wonder that if we spend a large part of our day in the same position we might start to change our posture.
One of the key fundamentals here at Wildfitness is combating the seated posture and learning how to improve and maintain mobility and structural integrity. This is a daily process that we collectively call structural hygiene as it’s just like cleaning your teeth. Any form of hygiene should be done daily to prevent chronic problems later on and trips to the doctor, dentist or in this case the physio or chiropractor.
Here are 5 tips to maintain your structural hygiene based on the areas that cause 90% of the chronic problems. Of course every individual is different but a good rule of thumb is the more uncomfortable it is the more it needs to be done.
- Start from the bottom and Golf Ball your Feet
Feet are amazing things! 70% of our environmental feedback comes from the receptors in our feet balancing our whole body on a relatively small surface area. Shoes, especially tight elegant high-healed ones restrict normal foot movement and the muscles in the feet atrophy and the ligaments shorten. The overall affect is a pair of weak, tight, amnesic feet that don’t work properly, negatively impacting the chain above. Rolling the soles of the feet with a golf ball reawakens the nerves in the feet, releasing the tight muscles and fascia. The knock on affect of this can be a release of the entire facial line through the calves the hips and even into the back.
- Self Massage with a Foam Rolling
The body is connected by a series of fascial lines or connective tissue, which enclose the muscle system and connect muscles to bones. Just like muscles they can become tight and shorten if movement is reduced or compromised. Using a foam roller or even two tennis balls taped together and rolling through the legs, hips and back is a great way of releasing the fascia and improving all round mobility. It’s called self-myofascial release and is basically a self-administered deep tissue massage. Again the areas that are more tender, tend to need more focus.
- Pole Work to Combat the Seated Posture
This is one of the most effective tools to improve segmental alignment and posture. The areas that suffer most due to the seated posture are the hips, thoracic spine (upper back), neck and shoulders. Using a pole or even a towel or skipping rope mobilizes the shoulders and thoracic spine and opens up the chest muscles lifting the sternum to align the spinal segments. This is important for movement and injury prevention, as posture is the basis of all movement. Poor posture leads to compromised movement and chronic injury.
- Posture & Overhead Squats for Dynamic Mobility
This is one of my number one exercises for injury prevention. If you are able to perform a good quality overhead squat then it’s a good indication that flexibility, strength and postural alignment are all in good working order and chronic injury risk is much lower. Start with posture squat with a bar on the front of your shoulders and the arms out in front of you thumbs up. Drop down into a fullsquat on the balls of the feet, bounce twice at the bottom and come back up to standing. Repeating this in a rhythmical fashion. This can eventually be progressed to an overhead squat with the feet flat once the adequate flexibility is reached.
- Prescribe your own Structural Hygiene and Make it a Daily Routine
As I mentioned earlier the areas that feel stiff or tender generally need the most attention. Use the structural hygiene as a diagnostic tool and then slip it into your daily hygiene routine like anything else to prevent long term chronic problems.