Tag Archives: sense of touch

33 Tune In To Your Other Senses

volume knob

In my last post I mentioned that you physically follow your attention. Your attention is typically focused on what you are looking at. And what you are looking at is typically in front of you.

When you overly rely on your sense of sight over time it is easy to become focused on the forward dimension.

It is very easy to become unaware of the space that exists behind you, above you, below you, to the right of you and to the left of you.

Your body tends to pull forward because your attention is constantly encouraging you in the direction you are looking. That forward pull becomes your posture that you take into everything that you do.

Your mindset affects your muscles (and your posture)--no doubt this man is in a rush!

I was taught in school that I have five senses—sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch. We actually have many more than five senses. But to keep it simple let’s start with these. Imagine that each of your senses had a volume knob. “0” would be no sound and “10” would be max.

When we overly rely on our sense of sight it is as if that volume knob is at a “10” and the other knobs are turned down or off completely. Practicing turning the volume up on these other senses up can be helpful in restoring a sense of your three dimensionality.

But why is this important?

Because you are three dimensional and exist and move in three dimensional space. Good posture is about being balanced in all three dimensions, not constantly being skewed towards one of them.

To simplify further let’s just take your sense of touch and hearing.

As you read this start to listen to the sounds around you. What do you hear? Automobile traffic, music, birds singing, the furnace fan, your dog snoring, the din of others’ conversation?

Start to notice what you are touching. Remember that you touch with all parts of your body. If you are sitting notice your buttocks and thighs on your chair, your back on the chair and your feet on the floor. Maybe you have a finger on your tablet or keyboard.

Next time you go for a walk try putting the smartphone away and take your ear buds out of your ears. As you look at the world around you, open up your ears to the sounds you hear all around you and be aware of the ground underneath your feet. Remember that you are three dimensional and exist and move in three dimensional space.

Image of volume knob courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net; cartoon used under permission of DIRECTION Journal.


16 Touch Points, Balance and Posture

Balance is another reason to pay attention to your Touch Points.

Balance and posture are very interrelated.

Poor posture does nothing to help your balance. If you are consistently not balanced you will be holding yourself up with excessive muscular tension, which contributes to poor posture.

How we balance ourselves is very complex but you don’t have to understand it all. What I bring up here is the importance of Touch Points to balance.

Try this experiment:

Part One

  • Stand on two feet with your eyes open.
  • Stand on one foot and close your eyes. Notice how long you can balance easily on one foot before you lose your balance, start to fall over and eventually have to put your other foot down.
  • Do it a couple of times. Notice how your body feels different when it is balancing vs. when it is struggling not to fall over.

Part Two

  • Stand on two feet about 6—12 inches from a solid surface—a wall or a (securely!) closed door.
  • Touch one finger lightly on the wall (or door) in front of you. Stand on one foot and close your eyes.
  • Are you able to stay balanced longer on one foot with your finger on the wall than without?
  • Repeat with two fingers (one finger from each hand) on the wall.

Most people find they can balance longer on one foot when touching the wall lightly with their finger. This is because the finger provides an extra Touch Point. That gives your body information about where you are in space and helps you to maintain balance.

There is a difference between balancing and trying not to fall over. When you are balancing you are moving slightly as you adjust but it “feels easy”. When you are trying not to fall over you will start to tighten and hold in various part of your body. It doesn’t “feel easy”.

Why is this distinction between balancing and trying not to fall over important? Because if you are consistently trying not to fall over you will tighten and hold. Do this over and over again and it begins to feel normal. And that excess tension in not helpful for your posture.

I use Touch Points whenever I can. When I go up and down stairs I always have a finger tip on a handrail. I don’t lean into it or use it to pull myself up. Just a light touch to help me stay balanced and therefore easy in my body. No handrail? I drag my fingertip lightly on the wall (sorry mom!)

When I hike on uneven surfaces I use two lightweight walking poles for just the same reason. I rarely need to lean into them but having four “feet” on the ground instead of two helps me maintain my balance.

I touch whatever I can whenever I can! My balance (and my posture) is much better for it.

15 Touch Points

So my Body Sense is a bit faulty. What to do? What to do?

If you don’t have access to an Alexander Technique teacher there are ways to constructively work on your own.

One simple strategy to help you is to notice your contact with objects. I call these Touch Points. Paying attention to your Touch Points can give you more accurate information about where you are in space than your feeling of whether or not you are balanced and in alignment.

Realize that you don’t just touch with your hands. We can touch with any part of our body.

If I have my hand on the top of your head you are touching my hand with your head. If you are sitting on a chair you are touching the seat of the chair with your buttocks and your thighs. If you are leaning forward and have your elbows on the table (I was never taught this was bad manners—and I do it all the time!) you are touching the table with your elbows.

Touch Points: we don't just touch with our hands.

Touch Points: we don’t just touch with our hands.

If you are standing your Touch Points would be the contact of your feet with the floor. Stand up and try this. It will work better if you take off your shoes and do it in your stocking feet. You will notice more. Without looking in a mirror just stand in the way that feels normal for you, without accessing if it is right or wrong. Now bring your attention to the contact of your feet with the floor. Without looking at your feet you can gather a lot of information just by placing your attention there.

Do you have more weight in the right foot or the left foot?

Is your weight predominately in the heels (back) or in the balls (forward)?

Bringing attention to the contact of your feet against the floor periodically over the next couple of weeks, checking in at random times during activity, will help you gather some important and useful information about how you habitually throw your weight around. And whether or not you are well balanced.

Try this—Make sure your weight is distributed equally on both feet. Now take your weight on purpose way back so you are standing on your heels, but not so far back that you fall over! Notice what you do to keep from falling over. Bring particular attention to your knees and thighs, your shoulders and your neck. Does your breathing change? Now let your weight shift forward at your ankles so you still have contact with your heels but you have some weight as well toward the front of your feet.

Many of us stand with our weight thrown too far back. If you do this, you are literally falling over. And your muscles will tighten to keep you from falling over. If this is your habitual place to stand it will feel normal and you will not notice the extra tension you are carrying around.