Posturing While Driving

GreenLightBack in Costa Rica, what seems like eons ago already though it’s only been a month, I had a helpful little encounter. Julie Angel, MovNat assistant instructor, saw me standing all out of whack and reminded me of the importance of posture. It was the afternoon several days into the retreat at this point, and I was tired, not just from all the activity, but from all the posturing. Just holding ourselves in good alignment is a bit of a workout!

But what stuck with me about her adjustment was how she gently pushed my chin back so that it wasn’t jutting out. This allows the full weight of the head to be over the vertebrae which should be over the hips which should be over the knees which should be over the feet…well, you get the idea, because alignment.

I immediately responded to Julie that I’m like that when I drive, as though sticking my neck out helps me see better or something. Bizarre. But as visual creatures, I think this is a natural thing we do. Unfortunately, natural doesn’t necessarily mean optimal.

So ever since I’ve been home, I’ve endeavored to change this tendency of mine. Maybe you could benefit from this exercise too, so I thought I’d share it here.

Your driver’s seat should be pretty straight, about one degree of lean away from upright. Sit up nice and tall. This isn’t just your neck or upper back, you should feel your entire spine stretching out of your hips. You’ll simultaneously feel your hips pressing down while your spine pulls up. Tuck your bellybutton toward your spine to protect your lower back with a more neutral spine. Your shoulders should be slightly back, allowing your chest to broaden. Now, as though someone has their finger on your chin and is pushing, shift your chin straight back, it should also be tucked slightly down. Your head shouldn’t be against the headrest behind you, but you should sense it there.

Not great driving posture.

Not great driving posture.

So now that we’re all engaged and tight here in our posture, let’s relax around it. Relax anything not necessary for holding this position.

Let’s add in some breathing. Focus on sending your breath to your belly. It should expand and contract with your breath. Do this a few times before turning your key each time you get in the car and I can almost guarantee you’ll have fewer road rage incidents.

Now adjust your mirrors for this position. Ha! Now you’re stuck. Anytime you deviate from this posture, you’ll know it because your mirrors won’t line up properly unless you resume your posture. It’ll keep you honest.

Now that we’re not jutting our chins out, what do you notice? Correct answer: more peripheral vision. This is good news. In the old world when we hunted, gathered, and worried more about our safety, our peripheral vision was important. But in our hyper-tech modern worlds, we rarely use our peripheral vision and we’re losing it as a result. As we age, we can lose one to three degrees of vision over there in the margins.

But why is peripheral vision important for driving? Don’t we need to look straight ahead? Well, yes. But I argue that a relaxed and aware driver is a safer driver. You can be more defensive if you’re taking in more information. Besides, some of the most dangerous accidents are T-bones, cars hitting from the sides directly into the passenger cabin.

Notice the next time you find yourself stressing out in traffic. Chances are you’re staring straight ahead, tunnel visioned, all tensed up, and jutting your chin forward. You can re-route those stress signals by maintaining this posture, keeping your breathing full, and using your peripheral vision.

And while you’re at it, add this exercise in-between singing along to Gotye for the 11,427th time. Don’t deny it…


3 Responses to “Posturing While Driving”

  1. This was better than watching 20/20! Nice advice :)

  2. Great tips. Although I don’t have to drive often, and very infrequently for long periods of time, I do take care to mind my posture. I also apply this stuff while crammed into an airline seat.

    Two quick things. While driving my mothers car on a road trip a couple of years back, a Toyota corolla I believe, I ended up taking out the headrest completely because it jutted out so far forward that, when sitting up straight, my neck was pushed downward. That seat was totally made to ‘slouch into’. I have no idea how common this type of seat is in cars, but it was annoying. Actually, after I realized that safety wise I really should have the headrest, I put it in backwards and that did the trick.

    Secondly, I adjust my left side mirror to view the blind spot. I learned that one a long time ago and am baffled as to why it is not standard practice. It makes for much safer viewing, and therefore driving … especially for people who have a hard time looking over their shoulder.


  1. Posturing While Driving | Paleo Digest - 05/08/2013

    […] Paleo Periodical / Posted on: May 08, 2013The Paleo Periodical – Back in Costa Rica, what seems like eons ago already though it’s only been a month, I […]

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