WILLETT WORDS OF WISDOM
POSTURE… Is all about movement! Is all about response to life!
When I hear people say, I want good posture, I ask them what do mean by good posture? Often, they respond by standing tall in a militaristic stance. Standing erect with chest opened and back muscles very engaged serves its purpose when you want to be confident, to stand firm in what you say or do. However, that stance is not the whole story.
The body is beautifully designed. As Ron Fletcher said, the body is a miracle! And it has an intricately designed structure and systems that define it. Yes, the leg bone’s connected to the knee bone; the knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone… and on and on as the song goes that I sang as a kid. There is a placement and an order to the body. However, movement is the foundation for the body! The body is in constant motion – there is no stillness, there is no neutral. Right at this moment, cells are dying and new ones are coming into being, blood is flowing, interstitual fluid is meandering, intestinal villa is gently waving, the body is swaying through breath… AND your emotions and thoughts are emerging, flowing and changing. All the while, our bodies are responding to all that is in us and to all that is around us.
Biotensegrity, a term catalyzed by the fascia world, is the concept that the bones are suspended in a web of a connected myofascial system. There is a constant interplay between tension and compression in the body within the realm of gravity. Bones and myofascia are constantly dancing together. That being true, I also believe fascia holds the story. It is responding to all the other systems – lymphatic, nervous system, etc. I believe posture is an organized response to gravity as well as a response to our thoughts and emotions and environment at any given moment. I believe “good posture” is about tuning into the body, the mind and the spirit – and responding accordingly – in a way that is effective, efficient, and sustainable. Posture is dynamic, not static!
I once worked with a therapist who was very successful in her work, though who was experiencing chronic neck pain and upper back stiffness. As we worked through her movement, she discovered that she was holding her posture of emoting – hunkered slightly forward for too long. She was not moving much – she was holding a posture. She realized that in order to show empathy for her clients through body language, she was holding herself in this one position for hours on end. So we sat in front of the mirror and practiced different ways for emoting. She discovered many postures she could use and many ways to move throughout her busy caseload of counseling.
I also worked with a teenager who had a cute feisty personality and said she wanted to stand with one hip cocked to the side, hands on hips. She said it embodied her spirit. Fine, I said. Don’t change your personality. Just don’t stand like this all the time or you’ll have issues with that hip or knee or lower back. Move through it. Hold it if you’re making a point with your friends or your mom, then take the body to a different position. She got it. She realized she had been experiencing soreness along that side of her body when she held her sassy stance, as she called it, for too long. She also discovered what her sassy stance meant for her in her relationships with others.
We know sustained sitting is a posture now being described as the new smoking. My schedule books are very full with chronic sitters! I know many who have brought their sitting offices to standing desks. Though I believe they are simply creating a new problem. Afterall, we are still not moving when we work too much in one position. Standing for hours brings forth a different holding posture – standing instead of sitting, as well as new problems such as foot and hip and back aches. When I am working at home, I mix it up. I may grab my ipad, hop down to the floor and compose an email while lying on my belly with my legs folded to one side, then switch my legs to the other side half way through the email. Simply getting up and down off the floor allows my hips and knees to bend in ways they wouldn’t normally when I am simply standing or sitting.
It's also important to think about posture when falling asleep. I have gone to bed many a night after a long day of teaching with my shoulder clenched or my hip engaged. It is with the help of my evening practices as well as what I call focused body relaxation that I am best prepared for bedtime. It is so easy to fall asleep with tension in the body and carry that right on through the night. Simply lying down in bed does not guarantee that one has dialed down the body from tension that may have built up during the day. Preparing the body for bed takes some practice – to relax, turn off from the day, and let it all go…
So when my clients say they want good posture, I respond great, the best way to do this is to stay present to your body and to your spirit. Leaning forward to show empathy to a client or friend is good posture. Sitting with your hands covering your face and your heart closed in when you take a moment to cry is good posture. Clinching your fists when you’re angry is good posture. Leaning forward at the conference table when you are closing the deal is good posture. Holding your hand on your hips as you stand up to your friend who has been unkind to you is good posture. Standing tall as you make your presentation is good posture. You just don’t want to hold any one posture for too long. Good posture is about movement. Good posture is about being present and responding to life.
Move through postures - as you move through bodily functions, through emotions, through thoughts, through life... Move through body positions - as many as possible - all throughout the day. Tune into your different “postures.” What do you discover?
©AnneLloydWillett May 2019