What is Good Posture?
Some adjectives to describe good posture: springy, light, adaptable, mobile, dynamic, easy, lively…
It is NOT: stiff, arduous, effortful, militaristic, braced, armored, static…
Good posture is more Black Panther and less Iron Man (though out of his metal suit, Robert Downey, Jr. typifies all of those nice adjectives).
And yet, nearly everyone, when they decide or are instructed to “stand up straight,” will do the latter—the stiff, effortful stuff. And if they can’t hold it, they blame lack of will or lack of core strength.
To paraphrase John Dewey (the American Philosopher and Educational Theorist and friend and pupil of F.M. Alexander): If we knew HOW to stand up straight, we would all do it.
Part of the problem is the word: “Posture.” It’s a perfectly good word, in itself, but it has become forever tainted by the association with stiffness and a static position. “How you hold your body…” (please don’t “hold” your body!) And it is always linked with either “good” or “bad.”
So let’s start over with a new term: “Postural Tone.” Ah, this one is fresh and unsullied. And it needn’t be good or bad. It’s just a fact. Like gravity. In fact it’s an adaptation to the constant of gravity. It is what keeps us from collapsing into a heap on the floor. And since I rarely see complete-human-heaps, it seems to be functioning ok.
It could function better.
And now, a little history:
We spend our first two to three years of life learning to be exquisitely upright, balanced bipeds. Small children typify all those beautiful adjectives at the top of this blog. (And I might add they have never seen a “core exercise” in their lives.) We spend the rest of our lives forgetting that skill.
We’re told: “Stop making a fuss!” So we brace to control our emotions. We’re told: “You need to concentrate to learn how to write!” So we hunch a little more over our paper to show our teacher we’re diligent. We’re told: “School is important for your future!” (I agree.) So we spend six hours a day sitting statically in poorly designed furniture. (I disagree.) Is it any wonder that after a few years of this we have morphed into a sea of slumpy teenagers?
And to the present:
Here we are, out of whack, with no idea how to fix it. And being a practical species of go-getters, we attack the problem directly, (rather than unearthing the causes). “Stand up straight!” “Engage your core!” “Lift your chest!” “Pull your shoulders back!” And then…?
Hold on for dear life!
Hoisting oneself into a “proper position” and then holding yourself there does not achieve that panther-like fluidity and adaptability we’re after. It’s a metal suit and a pain in the ass to lug around.