Human Factors Blog Entry #6 – What is Primal Posture?

Three years ago, I started having back pain on my lower left back. I would feel stiffness on the left side when sitting down for too long, so I would lean more onto the right side. I didn’t know the extent on how weak my left back muscles have become from me not using them as much as the right side.

I was recommended to try yoga to alleviate my back pain. Once I started, I realized just how uneven my back muscles were. Postures that required even distribution of weight on both sides such as the plank and the bridge pose were extremely uncomfortable on the left side. However, my yoga instructor insisted that I keep doing them or the back muscles will never even out. After about a year of yoga my back pain was gone.

I have always thought that my back pain was caused by bad sitting posture because I would sit with my behind sticking out and my back arched. I have always sat this way for as early as grade 6 when I started playing a wind instrument in band. The body harness I wore when playing the 15lb baritone sax pulls my chest forward, increasing my air capacity and straightening my back. I got used to the posture and have sat that way since.

I recently found out that my sitting posture is actually correct. According to the founder of Gokhale Method, this is called “primal posture”, the optimal posture for pain-free backs.

This made me wonder why our bodies strayed from the “primal posture”. Are we producing products that encourage bad posture or do we inherently prefer bad posture? I think designers should consider whether bad posture is the cause or effect of the problem. If someone has poor posture, was it caused by a poorly designed product or the improper use of a product? It may be painful for them if they are forced to use a product in a way that is incompatible with the current state of their body. If that’s the case, are we to design something that fit them as they are or do we slowly force their bodies back to this “primal posture” for their own good?

So what caused my back pain? I think I pulled my back from lifting a pail of paint improperly. I was working as a student painter the summer when the pain started. By not using one side of my back as much as the other side made the injury heal slower and possibly even made it worse! Regardless of cause, I no longer have back pain and has made stretching and good posture a daily routine. I encourage others to do the same.



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