We all like to be confident, poised, and comfortable in our own skin! It looks and feels good to be effortlessly upright rather than scrunched, hunched, or holding ourselves in a forced way. But for many people this kind of ‘effortless good posture’ can be elusive. Here are three things that contribute to this.
1) Habitual worry and stress
In a previous post I explained how, in order to allow our innate postural system to support us as it is designed to do, we need to let go of unnecessary muscular tension. Instead of holding ourselves stiffly in a ‘correct’ position we need to release into effortless, dynamic posture and poise. However when we are chronically emotionally stressed, worried and ‘on edge’ our nervous system is overstimulated which makes it difficult or impossible to let go.
2) Inaccurate sensory feedback
We tend to take it for granted that the sense we have of ourselves and of our movement through space (our kinaesthetic sense) is accurate. However for many of us this is rather optimistic! As we go through life this sense of ourselves in activity can become unreliable. I often have pupils who believe that their feet, pelvis and head are aligned when they are in fact pushing their hips forward or back by several inches!
3) Incorrect ideas about your structure
If I asked you to show me where your hip joints are where would you point to? I’ve been asking new pupils this question for many years and most point to somewhere on the crest of their pelvis—several inches higher and further forward than where the joint actually is. Can you feel the two bits of bone that stick out a little on either side at the top of you legs? These are at the top of your thigh bone (femur) and the joints are just a little bit higher and a couple of inches in from there.
Another common error people make is thinking that the joint between their head and spine is low down on the back of their neck. This is incorrect! The spine continues up to a point roughly between our ears. For most people this is a very unintuitive discovery!
Your postural and movement systems need an accurate ‘body map’ to function properly. If you have inaccurate ideas about your body’s structure you may be unconsciously asking it to do things which are not physically possible, or which go against the way it is designed to work, resulting in distortion, rigidity and excess muscular tension.
As an Alexander teacher I help people to de-stress, quieten their nervous system, and regain an accurate kinaesthetic sense and body map, so that instead of fighting against themselves and against gravity they can release into the effortless, dynamic support their postural system offers. It’s a delicious experience and a virtuous cycle. As we learn to live with less stress and tension we become more effortlessly upright, and as we become more effortlessly upright we experience less stress and tension. We look better and we feel better, and life is never quite the same again….
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