Category Archives: What is Posture?

41 Can You Fix My Kid’s Posture in Three Weeks?

I don’t work with children a lot but I do occasionally.

One August I got a rather frantic sounding e-mail from a local parent asking me if I could fix his son’s posture in the next three weeks, before school started. It was a matter of great concern, he wrote.

My first response when I am contacted by a parent wanting to bring their child in to see me is to ask, “Have you spoken to your child about coming in to see me?” I will agree to work with the child if (1) the parent gets a buy in from the child to at least try 2—3 lessons with me and (2) the parent allows the child to be part of the decision whether or not to continue past the initial lessons.

Half the time we don’t get past this initial interaction and the child never comes in. When the child does come in it is usually very obvious that it is the parent who needs the lessons more so than the child.

As a parent you are a model for your children. Kids, especially at a very young age, learn so much by imitating those around them.

father and son pointing

Kids learn a lot by imitating those around them

Adults understand modeling behavior as a way to teach their kids to do things like saying please and thank you, not using profanity, looking both ways before they cross the street, cleaning up after themselves.

But do you think about being a model for your children in terms of posture and Use?

If you don’t understand your own posture and Use, or even know what constitutes good posture and Use, how can you expect to be a good model for your kids? You are never too old to learn and to make changes – if you want to.

So if you are a parent and are really concerned about your kids’ posture start with yourself.  Be the best model you can. This will go a lot farther than constantly prodding your kids to “stand up straight!” That advice from your parents didn’t work well for you, so why do you think it would work for your kids?

Picture credit: Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

39 Use, Posture and Reaction

To a large degree your Use (and your posture) is a habit.

Habit is a pattern of behavior (or reaction) triggered by a cue.

As a human, you are a reactive being. Basically you go through life reacting to your world.
This is a good thing. Being a reactive being means that when you step off the sidewalk to cross the street and a car suddenly appears you react (typically by stopping). I think you would agree is this is a good thing. Otherwise you wouldn’t be long for this world!

That a lot of your habitual reactions are just that, habitual, is also a good thing. Habits are dealt with by lower levels of your brain. This allows you to not constantly be thinking about basic behaviors, such as how to tie your shoe, so you can devote mental energy to invent things, solve problems, plan for your future, etc.

But…and of course there is a but….we have developed a lot of habitual ways of reacting that play havoc with our Use (and posture).

What you see as your physical posture is to a large extent a manifestation of how you have habitually reacted to your world over time.

An important concept to grasp as you explore your habitual patterns of Use (and posture) and how to change them is that you can have choice in how you react to a particular cue.

Starting to recognize a specific cue and your unique reaction to that cue is the first step in making change. Once you recognize the cue you can decide to explore a different reaction. Let me give you an example:

therapist listening to a patient

A typical way of using yourself when you are intently listening to another–torso pulled forward and compressed, head pulled back and down. It doesn’t have to be this way!

Over the years I have worked with a number of  therapists. Therapists typically meet with their clients one on one, usually sitting across from each other. The client sitting across from the therapist is a cue for the therapist’s listening reaction to kick in. A lot of the therapists I see have developed a habit of reacting to the client by subtly leaning forward, rounding (compressing) their spines and pulling the head back and down—all in an attempt to listen to their client.

However, because they spend many hours a day in this typical reaction pattern it adds up. They wonder why they have rounded shoulders and a tight neck.

When they look at the situation as an example of how they are reacting to a cue (the client) and are introduced to the fact that they can have choice in how they react some change can take place.

They might realize that they can (literally) come up and back away from the client a bit, finding the back of their chair (and maybe place a large pillow behind it to support them).

It might feel wrong at first because it is not their typical pattern of Use in this situation. They may feel that they are not showing the client adequately that they are listening or even care. What they must realize is that they are just experiencing a different reaction. Simply because it is not familiar it may register as “wrong”.

So instead of teaching a student to sit up straight I help them understand that they can have more choice in how they react to their world. That way they can begin to find their own cues and experiment with making some conscious choices in their reactions.

Most of us feel like we go through our day making a ton of well-considered decisions, when in fact they are habits. One habit may not account for much, but added up over time have enormous impacts on our health, productivity, Use (and posture!)

Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

38 Posture or Use?

Alexander Technique is often associated with improving posture. And certainly people that study with an Alexander teacher over time frequently show physical changes that others notice as improved posture.

When speaking to people about what I do, I often say that I help my students change poor postural habits or improve their posture. I use the word posture because it is a word most people have heard before. Most people have some notion of what posture is about.

However, here is my dirty little secret: yes I do help people with their posture, but not by helping them with their posture.

Huh?

I help people with their posture by helping them better understand, improve awareness of and develop strategies for changing their Use.

Every field of study has its vocabulary. Use is one of those special vocabulary words that belong to the Alexander Technique.

When you work with an Alexander teacher you learn a different approach to solving your problems. A different approach requires different thinking and some new ideas. So, some new vocabulary.

Your Use is how you support and coordinate yourself while in movement or at rest. Your Use is how you do whatever you do, in a very broad sense. And whatever you do has a physical component, a mental component and an emotional component—it involves the Whole Self (which as you guessed is another Alexander vocabulary word).

Your Use is influenced by your thinking and by your emotions.

To bring about changes in your habitual patterns of Use you must be willing to be more conscious of how you think and react.

If you try to improve your posture by just sitting or standing up straight you are missing a whole lot of what is influencing your posture for good or ill.

Study of the Alexander Technique is a study of the Use of Yourself.

2B What is Posture? (Part 2)

Let’s expand on those three statements I left you with.

• Posture is not a right position

Consider that you are actually always moving. If you are breathing, you are moving. As you sit here reading this blog post your torso is moving, expanding and contracting in response to your every breath. You are never completely still.

If you are always moving (even just a little bit) your body needs to be free to adjust. Positions tend to be static and held. If you are always moving, what is a good position in one moment will not be suitable in the next.

Instead of thinking of your posture as a right position, I invite you to think in terms of relationships in your body that allow for more freedom and ease. For example, I always encourage my students to think about an easy and non-compressed relationship between the head and spine as opposed to a right head position (more about that in the next blog post)

• Posture is an integral part of everything you do

I sit, I stand. That is my posture. Not. Posture is not something that you do some of the time. When you roll on the floor with your kids, there is a postural aspect to it. When you are doing the dishes or running down the street, there is a postural aspect to it. When you are working at the computer, walking your dog, driving the car, or waiting in line, there is a postural aspect to it.

• Posture is not just physical

In the two pictures below the postures tell a whole lot about the emotional state of these two men.  Your posture is often an outward expression of how you feel inside.

man sitting with head in his hands

Can you possibly feel jubilant when adopting this posture?

man winning a running race

Difficult to feel depressed if you adopt this posture

I encourage you to approach your posture not as a right position or shape you must pull yourself into and hold onto but a collection of balanced relationships. Relationships that are free to change as you move throughout your day. Recognize that emotions reflect themselves in your posture.

Posture is really about your whole self-mind, body and emotions all wrapped up into one.

Welcome to an interesting and fun journey as we explore your posture together!

In the next few posts we will start to explore the most crucial of all relationships as far as posture is concerned—the head-spine relationship. So, before you read the next post, take some time to think about the following questions:

  • What is my head? Specifically, where is the front of it and the back, the top and the bottom.
  • Where does my head sit on top of my spine?
  • When I move my head to look up and down, where does that movement initiate?

2A What is Posture? (Part 1)

So what is posture?

If I have a student who comes to me for help with improving her posture I start by finding out what she means by posture. Because how she chooses to think about, define and conceptualize posture is going to impact how she is going to try to improve it. And the stumbling block to improving her posture can very well start with how she is thinking about posture.

Historically Alexander teachers have refused to use the word posture or to say that what they did had anything to do with posture. This is mainly because society’s common conception of posture creates its own problems. In place of the term posture, Alexander teachers often would and still frequently use the terms poise, Use, ease of movement, balance, and coordination.

man standing at attention in military posture

Good posture is not about standing up straight

The all too common suggestions we are given for improving our posture shed some light on how most of society defines posture:

  • Sit or stand up straight!
  • Pull your shoulders back and down!
  • Hold your tummy in!
  • Tuck your tail!
  • Flatten your back!

What do all of these suggest? First, a right position or shape we need to adopt. Second, a degree of effort we need to exert to make that position or shape happen and keep it all from falling apart! Exhausting!

Perhaps even more importantly, the above also suggests that posture is simpler than it really is.

If it were simple, then lifting your chin and pulling your shoulders back and down would be a quick fix. Done!

It is important to realize that posture is not as simple as standing up straight. In fact I might go as far to suggest that it is not about standing up straight at all.

As an Alexander teacher, I have no problem using the word posture. It is a word that we all know and relate to in some way or another. However, I conceptualize posture differently.

Take some time to think about the following three statements . In the second half of this post, which I will publish tomorrow, I will talk more in depth about them:

• Posture is not a right position
• Posture is an integral part of everything you do
• Posture is not just physical

Picture credit: Body Learning by Michael Gelb

1 Welcome and Blog Intro

Welcome. My name is Lauren Hill and I am an AmSAT Certified Alexander Technique teacher based in St. Paul, Minnesota USA. The Alexander Technique approaches posture in a different way than most of us are used to. That is what this blog is all about.

When you have good posture your clothes fit better, it can make you appear thinner, look more attractive and feel more confident. But it is so much more than that. Your posture has a profound effect on your health and well being. Unfortunately, when we look for help with issues from back pain and breathing to digestion and headaches we often overlook the effect of our posture.

Your posture is too important to ignore. However, you need to realize that improving your posture is not just a simple matter of needing to learn to stand or sit up straight. In fact, many of us have tried that approach and it just hasn’t worked.

It is well worth your while to start paying some attention to your posture–but in a way that is fun, manageable and sparks an interest in yourself. That is the goal of this blog.

Before the next post, take some time to think about and write down your own current definition of posture. Go ahead, take a few minutes and write it down.

What is posture? And while you are at it, What is good posture?

My goal at the onset of this blog is to post every other week. This will give you adequate time to digest and experiment with the information I present you.