How does one write an article on posture and not have it sound preachy? My fear is that any kind of attempt is going to have you saying “what a stick in the mud, the idea of someone telling me to set up straight is repressing my true self”. I realize you don’t want to look stuffy, and actually the idea that good posture is stuffy and overly upright is a total misnomer. Do you really want to think of your true self as someone who has rounded back and shoulders, a collapsed rib cage and atrophied hips?
I’m the last person to tell you that you must have good posture, slump all you want if you like, but for your sake, it’s important to be made aware of the actual affect of poor posture, then if you want to do something about it you could do so. You don’t know what you don’t know till you know it. And one other thing, please don’t start judging, judging your posture really only creates more tension, once you see it as a problem to be fixed the reaction tends to be to try and fix it by over extending the back and using undue force to push down the shoulders that were henceforth up close to your ears rather than finding a way to let them rest on your upper body kind like a saddle, when you start looking into this you realize the shoulders really are like a saddle and suffer a lot of misuse, and tense shoulders cause, well, tension, everywhere, in how people perceive you and how you perceive the world - but that’s another article for another time, so you’ll have to tune in for that one.
Poor posture is not such a bad thing, it doesn’t cause disease or pain or Repetitive strain in and of itself. This is very opposed to many popular held beliefs in the bio mechanical, posture fixing world. The truth is it’s not posture but the impact of poor posture and what happens to the muscles and tendons that causes problems.
It comes down to this, when the body is out of alignment, when the head lunges forward and the neck shortens and the shoulders round in what the popular world has come to believe is a “relaxed” position, you are in actuality not “relaxed” at all, as a matter of fact when said head is lunging forward you are pretty much trying to carry around your skull, witch is about the weight of a bowling ball, in a way that overly stresses out muscles in the neck and shoulders, muscles that pretty much never get to rest. When muscles don’t rest they start to weaken, the body breaks down. Healing is possible, the body always heals, it’s hard to stop it, but it can be much harder to do so.
Lack of rest, believe it or not is the real matter at hand here, it’s not as sexy or exciting as bio mechanics or anti inflammatory drugs, and it’s often dismissed in a world where over achievers brag about how little sleep they get, or how they worked 80 hours this week. It’s like it’s a badge of courage to not get enough rest. So rest gets relegated to a back seat wile you try and fix your posture by engaging in all sorts of bio mechanical cures that dismiss rest because it’s not popular, or reading misleading literature that has you balancing a book on your head or trying to “sit up straight”. many of these fixes actually create more tension and they don’t work because you are eventually going to get tired and go back to the habitual patterns that may be causing problems but at least it’s comfortable. Until, that is, it’s not, and you are in pain - or you look in the mirror and realize you are way too young to start looking that much like your grandmother.
So, you may be saying how is rest the answer to good posture? First of all you may want to change your thinking about rest. Imagine a black panther, about fifty yards from her is a gazelle, and she’s hungry. She crouches behind some bushes silently watching, her eyes and her brain are alert, and she is as quiet as the night waiting for her moment. you might not think it but she is about 90 percent resting. Her body and her brain are connected, there is a natural balance between rest and activity - She needs to rest so that when the pouncing opportunity she is waiting for happens, she will have enough energy to not only reach 60 miles per hour, but actually kill something quite large. She uses only the muscles needed to run that fast. A distribution of energy is what is needed to achieve optimal movement results. That’s why a good relaxed posture is important, it allows for proper rest.
Our bodies aren’t really evolved to pounce going 60 miles per hour, but the basics aren’t that different. If we are able make a decision to engage only the muscles that need to be engaged to lift an arm or run or jump, the movement becomes much more effective, more likely to build muscle and strength, learning how to not engage in old habits of tension and resting muscles instead of engaging them can work with good posture to help in the healing process and make your body stronger and healthier, but actually, posture is only a tiny bit of what you need, the ability to rest is what causes the healing.
What can you do, you may ask? The chair your sitting in is like a torture device, we have all this technology witch I love, but is only pulling our heads more down and out of balance, we talk on the phone stressing out jaw muscles we have RSI, TMJ, OCD, Back Pain, Neck Pain, Shoulder Pain and the list goes on and on. Mostly the body can heal itself if it’s given the chance and when the body is in balance it becomes much more possible.
I know what you might be thinking, how do you get enough rest if you can’t quit working and go on vacation, but even vacation you are often almost at the end before you really start to relax and then it’s over and you have to go back. What if you can just change how you are responding to the world around you by going up instead of down?
One of the keys to learning how to rest properly into a relaxed posture is to think about the head, if you watch your cat, or your Neighbors cat move you will notice that it will see something, it’s head goes first and the body follows. This is something that is true for most creatures with bodies and is also true for us, if you watch a child who’s stimulus response is not corrupted you will notice this as well. We tend to have a healthy free easy posture as small children but we loose it as “gown ups” tell us we need to behave and we have to go to school, to sit on torture devices called chairs, to be quiet and to listen. No one thinks about children learning how to sit, it’s usually all an over worked teacher can do to teach kids how to read.
It doesn’t take as much effort as you may think to change things, for now just imagine you have a string attached to the top of your head that’s attached to a cloud let it gently pull upward, Don’t push but rather just let your head gently float up, see if you don’t feel a bit lighter.
If you have any question please call or come in for a free consultation. I am a certified Alexander Technique Teacher I’ve worked with people in all sorts of professions and walks of life to help them have happier pain free lives by learning how to rest in motion. The Alexander Technique has 100 years of teaching people an effective tool for how to take care of your greatest gift, your body.