Every morning, I thank Gd for giving me the ability to stand up straight. Standing is an essential part of Jewish prayer, as is our posture. During special prayers like the Amidah, or "standing prayer," we position ourselves as if we were standing before Gd, with straight backs and tucked chins. We don't keep our hands on our hips or cross our arms, but stand straight and humble. At the times where we are required to bow, we bow enough to separate the vertebrae from one another. While proper posture is an important part of our devotion, it is also extremely beneficial to our overall health and it allows us to better serve Gd, our family, and our community.
The dangers of Bad Posture
When you don't sit or stand up straight, a hunched position rounds your shoulders, extends your neck, and curves your spine. Over time, this restricted position can cause pain from the shoulders and neck, down the spine, and all the way to the feet and toes. Bad posture can result in other health complications over time, including increased risks of slipped discs, backaches, back pain, chest pain, and poor blood circulation. I see elders who spend hours a day at a desk, slouched over their work, with their backs rounded. They're devoted to their work and their faith, but they're putting their health at risk. That's why it's so important to be mindful of your posture.
How to Correct your Body’s Alignment
When I'm walking down the street, I keep my back straight, my shoulders in line, my eyes looking slightly downward, and my chin tucked in. This posture is humble — not haughty — and it allows me to function better. It lets me focus on where I'm walking and where my eyes are gazing. I find so much opportunity to see beauty — I can look at the wonders of nature or notice if someone is in need of a helping hand. My peripheral vision has become stronger thanks to this posture and I move more mindfully. I pay attention to where and how my feet step, and I remain rooted to the ground. Your posture is not only affected by how you carry yourself, but also by your actions and emotions. When a person is sad or depressed, you can see that in their defeated posture; whereas a happy person is more likely to have an upright posture. I encourage you to think pure thoughts, divert your vision if necessary, and focus on positive things. When the mind is healthy, the body has a chance to be healthy. And when both body and mind are well, you can better serve Hashem.
The Benefits of Proper Posture
Proper posture facilitates better breathing, increases your concentration and thinking ability (thanks to all that extra oxygen!), and decreases your risk of various health complications like back pain and poor blood circulation.
Older generations did not focus on dieting and exercise the way we do today. When it came to his health, my father always said to me, "if it's not broken, don't fix it." The mentality was, "I'm well enough to serve Gd; I'm happy." But committing to a healthier lifestyle — with proper diet, exercise, and posture — allows one to serve Gd in • a fuller, more zestful way! If you spend a good portion of your day learning and working and doing good deeds, imagine what you can accomplish when your mind and body are working at their peak performance. A healthy, mindful person can do more good for himself, for his family, for his community, and most importantly for Gd, than an unhealthy person can. That is why I practice proper posture during prayer and throughout daily life. When you stand straight and humble, there's no telling what good you can do.