Tag Archives: habit

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


13 Hidden Obstacles to Improving Your Posture

Changing your posture is not an easy task. If you are reading this blog you’ve probably come to that conclusion.

From the get go how you think about, define and conceptualize posture is going to impact how you try to improve it (and from my experience) your success in doing so (refer to posts 2A and 2B)

But there are some obstacles you face when you try to improve your posture that you may not even realize. Becoming aware of these hidden obstacles can be a great help.

1) Consider that posture is a habit. Habits are difficult to change.

Habits by their very nature operate below the level of conscious thought. That is why habits can be very useful. It is also why habits can be difficult to change—because it means that in order to change a habit you need to be aware of it, to think about it! And let’s face it, sometimes we’d rather not think! I certainly feel that way sometimes.

Secondly, habits tend to feel right and something different will feel, well, wrong. Try this—without thinking just cross your arms in front of you and notice how it feels. Now observe which arm is on top and reverse your arms so the other arm is now on top. How does that feel? Weird, wrong, uncomfortable may all be words that come to mind.

Your habitual posture or way of doing something will feel normal, right and comfortable even if it is causing strain on your body. Doing something in a new way will often feel foreign, wrong and uncomfortable.

On a side note, it’s interesting that we often describe our habitual posture as comfortable. What we mean is that we are used to it (sort of like an old worn out armchair) not that it is actually easy on the body.

2) Incorrect Body Maps

You also may have problems with your body map.

If you remember in post 8 I introduced the term body map—we all have in our mind maps of our bodies and how they work. These body maps include size, shape and function. Many things have gone into the creation of your body map over the years.

What is important to realize is that you will typically move in accordance with how you think you are structured, even if your thinking is inaccurate. If your body map is faulty, movement and consequently posture, suffers.

You can correct your body map by assimilating accurate information provided by kinesthetic experiences, mirrors, models, books, pictures, and teachers. One thing that Alexander teachers do is help their students to correct their body maps.

Often just learning about the size, shape and function of key areas of your body will start to create changes in your posture and movement.

3) Faulty Body Sense

The fact that you are not always doing what you feel you are doing may be one of the biggest obstacles. This deserves a post all of its own.