Faulty Positions In the Growing Child And How To Correct Them
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THERE can be no doubt that the harmful influence of faulty posture upon the development of the young is too imperfectly understood or at least is too generally disregarded.
In the majority of cases where the lack of symmetry is marked the cause can be directly traced to faulty posture in standing, sitting, or sleeping, together with a muscular development lacking the power to resist the uneven strain forced upon it by the changed conditions. It is also true that where these faulty habits of posture are detected in the early stages, the correction is comparatively simple, but when the bad habits are continued year after year, and the different muscles have accommodated themselves to the abnormal positions, and the brain centres have been falsely trained as to what constitutes erect posture, it is a work of years even to approach a correction.
Some of the most common and the most harmful habits of posture into which young people, particularly young girls, are liable to fall are :
1. Standing on one foot with the other extended to the side in such a way as to lift one hip higher than the other, to preserve the equilibrium of the body ; the head and shoulders must assume an unnatural position and the symmetry of the entire figure is destroyed.
2. Standing with the weight over the heels, dropping the chest, allowing the shoulders to droop forward thus making the shoulder-blades unduly prominent ; as a result of these changes the hips move forward, bringing the abdomen into prominence and the head loses its natural poise.
3. Sitting habitually upon one foot, or sitting at a desk with one arm on the desk and the other in the lap will also produce a difference in the level of the shoulders and hips.
I have chosen to mention these well-known bad habits be-cause, being so very common, they oftentimes pass unnoticed or are not recognized as important factors in destroying the symmetry of the body or, owing to a concentration of interest in other directions, are entirely disregarded. The youth who aspires to a position on the football team is much more concerned about his ability to "stoop low" than his ability to stand erect. The young woman intent only upon becoming the best basketball player in college is in danger of becoming careless as to good carriage, while those who care only for study and actually dislike exercise of all kinds are apt to ask the question, "What is the use so. long as one is well?" No one would reason in this way regarding the growth of a plant, a tree, or even an animal. The single fact that lack of symmetry is contrary to the normal development of the human form, not to mention the awkward walk and the stilted movements of the individual who has not full control of his body, should appeal to all as a sufficient reason why attention should be given to the posture of the growing child. Nature has decreed that we may not all be beautiful, but, barring actual deformity, and the effect of disease, with a little care at the proper time, we may have erect and symmetrical figures, and with this will come grace and a pleasing presence, which no one will deny are valuable possessions apart from their hygienic worth.
The limits of this article will only permit a simple description of what constitutes a good standing position, and a few general hints as to the most direct method of training the individual out of his bad habits of posture.
Seen from the side, a person standing in the correct position will show the lobe of the ear, the point of the shoulder, the crest of the hip, and the instep in a straight line, and the weight of the body will be carried over the arch of the foot. The easiest method of putting the body into this position is to stretch upward. As a help in directing the stretch, a book may be held a little higher than the actual height of the individual and he be encouraged to try to touch it with the crown of his head, then raise the book higher and let the effort be made to touch the object by rising on the toes, taking care that when the heels are lowered again they touch the floor very lightly. After one has practised this exercise several times, it will only be necessary for him to make the effort to stand and walk as tall as possible, and the result will tend to bring him into correct position. If parents and teachers will encourage this "standing and walking as tall as possible," they will be able to do much toward overcoming the tendency to "slouch," or to "lop on one foot."
Hanging by the hands, with the feet stretched downward, and the head thrown backward, is also a good straightening exercise.
For the child who has a tendency to flat chest, encourage games of ball similar to the old game of scrabble, where a ball is thrown high in air and all endeavor to catch it as it comes down; as a result the head will be thrown backward and the chest elevated and rounded forward.
Breathing exercises, with the hands on the chest, then breathing with hands on the sides, at the height of the lowest rib, will also help to increase the chest capacity in all directions.
These exercises are very simple, very well known, and very easily performed, but when used faithfully, and when each re-lapse into the old position is quickly corrected, they will prove beneficial.