Posture and alignment are two different things. Posture is, among other things, cultural — meaning that a certain way to stand will be ‘in’ and then it will be ‘out’. Posture is also activity driven. A ballerina has a distinctive way of standing and moving that is different than say, a body builder. I was one of those once. A ballet dancer I mean, and man did it ever stick! I don’t really have a ballet turn-out that I am aware of, but I do and probably will forever have ballet arms that colour my Nia dance into a flowing form and any time something graceful and flowing comes into the choreography, like “cross behind cha cha cha” I am just in bliss. But that is posture.
Some postures aren’t good. You can tell at a glance that even though they might look cool, they aren’t good for any body. I’m talking about the head forward, shoulders around the ear and hunched up look.
On the other hand, good posture, or what we like to think of as good posture, might not be good at all from an alignment perspective. Alignment refers to measurable alignment markers that are the same for everyone, regardless of your age, body shape, fitness level or activity. These alignment markers give you the best way to stand (and move) for correct functioning of your joints, ligaments and even internal organs.
I haven’t seen myself on tape but I am pretty sure I do a lot of upper back arching along with those ballet arms. Rib thrusting is what it is called in Restorative Exercise™ and it is one of my biggest alignment challenges, and I probably picked it up from ballet (lift your chest!) Do you have it? Read more about this here from Biomechanist Katy Bowman.
Rib thrusting and hunching are poor alignment for different reasons but both can cause excessive wear and tear on the vertebra and this is another reason why we should focus on alignment rather than posture. The goal of finding alignment is keep your joints and internal organs functioning as long as possible, avoiding the need for hip and knee replacements and developing osteoarthritis, the wear and tear arthritis. I don’t know about you but that is kind of a priority of mine.
A colleague of mine wrote a rather lovely article, called “Alignment vs Posture” which you can read here to learn even more about the wonders of Posture vs Alignment, or Alignment vs Posture!