On Posture 10/16/19
Posture is a mysterious thing. I've been unravelling it over the past several years. Here a some things I am considering:
A balanced posture may not involve any forces other than breath and gravity.
Posture is a lifelong study and practice. "Proper posture" is not somewhere we will arrive. It changes by day if not by moment. Proper posture is a constant working out of the conditions of muscles, skeleton, organs, and postural arrangement.
Posture study involves a journey inside. Our body is telling us what it needs all the time. Go gently. Slow and steady. Be more curious than corrective.
It is really easy to over do it. Posture study can become painful just like any movement practice. I do not wish for people to use the force of their muscles to move their posture into what they understand as a proper alignment. I mean for students of posture to lean heavily on an observation of breath and gravity within, and on, their bodies to learn their best posture for today. Just like each person has their best pose in yoga each time, a person has their best posture each time. Spend more time breathing, and listening and learning.
Why is posture important?
Our organs are in there getting squished by the internal pressures of an imbalanced posture. Overly squished organs shouldn't be counted on to function properly. Imagine how our heart and central circulatory system feel about having shoulders collapsed forward around them. Imagine how it then feels when we breathe deeply into the space behind the breastbone and let shoulders roll back and wide. Imagine brain working with intermittent performance from brain stem and blood supply because of the added pressure of a forward leaning head.
Thyroid gets squished by a forward leaning head too. Thyroid gets a permasqueeze from too much forward leaning head and lowered chin. I have a bad habit of looking down to look at my fingers when I type. When I notice my bad habits I see if I can channel breath toward the area that I am putting the squeeze on to let body open from the inside out and not by force. We have a wonderful capacity to breathe into the collarbone area to open shoulders. It creates a little room for thyroid.
Heart, brain and thyroid are all potentially squished by desk posture and these organs alone can be a make or break for our well being.
I suspect we have a strong internal dialogue, that we may be mostly unaware of, about what people's postures mean about them. In the workplace these biases may impact of lot of things from what people we will trust and promote as well as leaders we will follow to the furniture we use.
I was raised in families of military personnel. I've heard tales of them strapping children to chairs to foster "proper posture". There was an emphasis on sitting and standing up straight - belly in and chest out. Pulling belly in is a huge topic for another few blog posts. In short: we can pull belly in in different places and for different reasons. When we lift something heavy it is natural to pull belly in to support the spine. When we practice Uddiyana Bandha in yoga we pull the belly in to work with our energy channels. Pulling belly in either to force an upright chest-out posture or for looking good is a different practice and potentially harmful to both physical and mental well being. See what you can notice about yourself and your biases about posture. How do you unconsciously or subconsciously contort your body to match your biases?
Because much of this bias material is unexplored in our cultures it is hard to tell how they are impacting ourselves and our communities. It is worth investigation.
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What can be done?
Get curious and get active. Use the breath to explore the inner regions of your structure. Let body tell you about posture. Listen inside everywhere you go. Listen at the desk - standing, sitting, and beyond. Listen while cooking dinner. Listen in line at the grocery store. Sit on the floor and listen. Listen while you garden and do chores. Listen during your workouts and during yoga. Listen during rest. Listen to how you think it should be and compare it to what body is telling you about how it needs to be. Where are you forcing posture? Where do you let it go? Is it different at work than at home?
I look forward to digging into the subject of posture and well being more fully in time. Subscribe below if you'd like to receive articles and updates.