Heather Stegmaier, M.AmSAT

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« Ask and you shall receive: Non-doing and the Alexander Technique | Main | No Pain, No Gain: Re-Thinking Daily Activities »

The Posture Myth

Posture is a weighty word. For some, it conjures an image of sitting up straight with stiffness; shoulders back and head up. For others, posture is an arrogant stance, a commanding posture demanding attention; chest out and head down. 

Posture can also be an elusive existence, something most people wish to acquire but don’t feel they have. For example, I often hear people say things like, “I should have better posture, but…” or “My mother/trainer/spouse says I need to improve my posture, but…” or “My posture is so bad! But…” What usually ends these sentences is: “but I don’t know how to have better posture.” 

The myth about posture is that you must work harder on attaining “good posture” by using more effort in order to fix "bad posture". Let’s put an end to this concept that we have to have better posture! This mindset leads to a never ending cycle of pulling down and slumping which then leads to pulling up, stiffness and holding. By doing that you are layering effort upon effort, which will eventually lead to exhaustion and more slumping. 

The truth about posture is that it is not something you need to acquire—you already have good posture. You were born with it. Do you ever hear people telling healthy two year olds that they need to sit up and have better posture? No! Because toddlers already have beautiful posture. Their head balances perfectly on their neck and their torsos are free and available to all movement. I will call this graceful, natural uprightness poise

As you age, you may acquire habits that get in the way of this natural, beautiful, and organized poise. For example, exhaustion leads to slumping or slouching. Fear and anxiety lead to pulling the shoulders in and down, and the head back while compressing the neck. This downward pull really interferes with your natural state of upright organization. Based on the posture myth, you must “pull up” to remedy this downward pull. 

So the question becomes, is posture really about sitting up straight or not pulling down

The Alexander Technique offers a solution to this posture predicament by giving you tools to stop pulling down on your head, neck, and torso in order to regain your natural poise. 

These tools include:

  • Bringing awareness to yourself and learning about how you move
  • New ways of thinking so that you may stop the habit of pulling down and “turn off” the muscles that are overworking
  • Consciously thinking about your body in space so that you may “turn on” the muscles that are needed to keep you poised and beautifully upright—with ease. 
  • Resting your tired body in a conscious and gentle way

The Alexander Technique offers a better alternative: reclaim your natural poised state by learning how to not interfere with your body’s natural organization. 

I’d love to hear from you: What is your relationship to the word “Posture”? What struggles do you face every day when it comes to being upright? Please leave a comment below.

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