When you read or hear the term Bad Posture, what comes to mind?
Likewise, what comes to mind when you read or hear the term Good Posture?
There are few concepts that have as much social pressure, and with it social power as Posture. Despite that, it is probably one of the more misunderstood concepts that pervades our culture… both in what ones posture should or should not be, as well as how to go about making any real or significant changes to it.
It is also one of the more common topics I find myself talking with folks about Monday through Friday.
In fact, almost across the board during the first time that I meet with someone, the topic of their posture comes up completely unprompted. They want to clear the air… and they may say it in all sorts of ways, but essentially it comes down to a similar thing.
When it comes to their posture many folks do not feel good about it, and despite all their best efforts they have not been able to change it.
Well I am here to humbly tell you that any and all of us can absolutely change our posture, but there are two big things to bear in mind.
The first is that the path to get there is different for every person.
The second reason speaks to why that is. You see, our posture is quite literally an expression of ourselves. It is the summation of our habits up until this present moment, and with that how we both feel about ourselves, as well as how we relate to the world outside of us.
If you and I are going to talk about your posture, then we are going to talk about who you are as a person.
Think vulnerability…not weakness but the ability to allow oneself to be seen.
Think of courage…which is not a lack of fear. That is recklessness…courage is the ability to feel your fear and despite that face it.
Think of a deep sense of self worth, of good self esteem.
Think of empathy, of compassion.
Then, think of all the opposites of the above.
Cowardice…or even just lost in fear…
Each and every one of these concepts have postures associated with them…and every actor and director worth their salt knows it.
Yes, just as you can tell a lot about a person in terms of where the wrinkles on their face are the deepest, you can tell a lot about a person by their general posture. Just as it takes a smile, scowl or frown all repeated to set those wrinkles in, so does it take a pervading sense of welcoming, curiosity, distrust or greed to shape a torso.
So what it can often come down to is for some folks to change their posture, they actually have to change themselves as a person.
Now all that said, for some people changing their exercise habits is really all that is needed.
Maybe some muscles need to be woken up, maybe some tissues need to be opened up, and maybe they just need to learn to apply that new freedom to some basic movements. If those movements are ones that they enjoy, then it makes it all the easier for the new habits to not just be formed, but also kept.
For some people, these seemingly small changes may be enough, and from that their posture will be steadily transformed.
However, in these folks there is a brain, and most especially within that brain a person that not only welcomes the change… but even identifies with it.
Sure it may be awkward at first, but they have such greater freedom and ease as a result it just seems like too good a bargain to pass up. Besides, they are not the type to try and get it right the first time…they know none of us are sparred and this is all just a process.
In others, the folks that perhaps may need a bit more than just a few different exercises to make a big change…the new shape, the new freedom, the new way of interacting with the world is not yet truly welcome.
A poetic example of this is the person with a chronically sunken chest, that perhaps still thinks being upright with their chest open is arrogant, cocky or aggressive. Instead of present, confident, self assured and interested in the world outside of them.
Until they welcome the change, or welcome the world… until they are willing to look beyond how they are seen and instead be concerned with how they are showing up…the new posture will not be used and so it will not be held onto.
If you have read this far I am sure you would like some take homes.
Here is the best I can give…
I have found to not very useful to consider what bad or wrong posture is, but instead to know what good or right posture is. This is how folks learn to spot a counterfeit one hundred dollar bill; you do not learn all the ways it could be wrong, you learn what a true one hundred dollar bill looks like. Then it is easy to spot the flaws…after all, they are deviations.
So, good posture is what both serves us the best, and in turn allows us to best serve the world.
How do you do that?
Start from the ground… be on it and be through it. Gravity is constant and so it is good for us to partner with it. Remember that in order to be a good partner, one must hold their own self up within that partnership.
From there engage whatever and whomever you are engaging…both fully and respectfully. This is expressed not only in our gaze but also through our throat and our sternum. Anyone that has studied dance of any kind that requires a partner knows this deeply…
That said…if you are the type that does not, or cannot dance and despite that you want to change your posture for the better…you are going to have to work on that.
I am not kidding.