“Posture? Who has time to always think about that? I’m too busy and have other things to worry about.”
Does this sound like you? Based on my conversations with clients, it seems that people believe balanced posture requires immense effort; they almost expect to lose the fight with gravity.
A common scenario when working to resolve physical issues often goes something like this: clients experience a vicious cycle, first lamenting their pain symptoms from poor postural habits, then seeing physicians for a quick-fix solution, never learning and understanding how to correct and prevent future maladies. I’d like to disprove the idea that developing healthier posture is difficult, while uncloaking the mystery surrounding better body usage and healthier postural habits.
As a toddler explores its world, grasping its relationship with gravity by shuffling its knees and feet on the ground to grab a toy, to figuring out how to stand on two legs, and eventually orienting itself with walking trying not to fall, the process of figuring out how to move and stabilize in harmony with gravity is a lifelong one.
“Healthy posture is about using the architecture of the human body as it was designed.”
The preconceived notion of ‘correct’ or ‘straight’ posture is static, usually involving the upper trunk region — neck and head back, puffing out the chest, and arms held back. This guy’s got the militant posture in his body. Try to stabilize your posture this way and see how it feels. Odds are after a short while you’ll feel tension creeping in. Many people believe that good posture is straight alignment while standing or sitting still.
I’d like to broaden your understanding of healthy posture as being dynamic. Human beings are designed to be mobile creatures, and though stabilization of the body is necessary, the way you move in your body will provide the clearest assessment of your posture. Healthy posture looks like an effortless movement between limbs and trunk in a graceful manner, while unhealthy posture looks dissociated and strained. The way you move to accomplish your everyday activities — whether with ease or difficulty — is an accurate indication of your posture.
Thinking Vs. Feeling
Efficient movement is an integral part of sustaining postural balance, fluidity, and ease throughout the entire body. Exploring movement lessons with clients are often characterized as a top-downprocess, where clients first think about the movement before even starting to move. Learning more efficient and fluid ways of movement can be tricky. I suggest embodying each movement and ‘feel’ how your mind and body perceives it. Opening yourself to how refined movement should feel will make healthy posture easier for you to execute on your own.
This method stands in contrast to the old school of thought regarding posture, which states it is unconnected to feeling. Posture is a complex, yet harmonious, relationship between living in our bodies and how we move in relationship to the world around us. Posture represents a holistic communication of both mind and body.
Old Vs. New Habits
The way we inhabit our bodies and present ourselves to the world around us is shaped early in our lives and influenced by many factors — personal history, upbringing, cultural and religious beliefs, geographical surroundings, by weather and clothing, and what is considered attractive by media. Yet at that end of the day, posture’s most fundamental relationship is with gravity and how you react to its constant force.
Your body has served you well in performing the array of postures you need to do everyday. These include doing the dishes, driving, sitting, bending, standing, walking and the multitude of other activities. If your body has signaled dysfunction while performing these common postures, it serves as an impetus to begin understanding your body better and progressively replacing the old habits with new ones. For those who feel fluid and easily get through the days without feeling pain, tension, or stiffness, learning better body usage will prevent future discomfort, as well. After all, they are just habits — just as it took time to learn them, it will take some time to unlearn them.
The way we adapt and stabilize ourselves to gravity’s forces does not end as soon we learn how to sit, stand, and walk on our own. Relearning more efficient use of the body will restore and sustain balance and stability in your overall posture. As long as you decide that improving your posture is important and worth the time to explore, your posture will feel and look better. Healthy posture is about using the architecture of the human body as it was designed.
What is your definition of posture? Do you have any postural habits that need some exploring and refining? I would love to hear some healthier posture tips for any everyday activities you do.