Misunderstandings About Posture by Julia Gilroy

Very often people think of posture in terms of how you ‘hold yourself’ upright. Many is the time when you hear people say ‘straighten up, don’t slouch’. But what does that actually mean and what are the physical consequences of the action?

Very often people think of posture in terms of how you ‘hold yourself’ upright. Many are the time when you hear people say ‘straighten up, don’t slouch’. But what does that actually mean and what are the physical consequences of the action?  

Posture: Relative position of parts especially of the body

Concise Oxford Dictionary

The two words that stand out for me are position and parts. Let’s consider first of all how most people view posture.

The Idea of Holding Yourself Up

The reaction to somebody telling you to stand (or sit) straight is to use certain muscles in order to come to a more vertical alignment. The effort and energy used to achieve this is substantial particularly when you think of the number of times you repeat this action during the day. Without going into detail about the muscles used, the chest is raised in such a manner as to squeeze the back muscles down and together, thus causing forces on the spine. Notice too in this picture how the girl’s

support is pitched backwards so that she is standing more on her heels. To walk forwards she will have to pull herself over her feet before attempting to move.

The Consequences

Not only can this constant pressure result in damage to the spine, but the muscles used also are not designed to do this work. Therefore they strain to resist the stretches that are forced on them. The consequences of standing up straight in this repetitive manner are liable to cause back problems and spinal injury…

The Circle of Belief

Working against the natural functioning of these muscles gives us the feeling of effort – which it is!  The idea of standing straight becomes an idea of doing something, of pulling the muscles in a certain direction so

as to achieve a more upward, vertical position. Funnily enough, the idea of ‘pulling up’ is, in reality, squeezing and pushing some muscles down!  Furthermore, the effort involved re-establishes our idea that we need to strengthen our muscles to stand straight. “It is tiring after a while.  If I ‘relax’ I slump which is not good…” and so the circle of belief goes on.  

Position and Parts

Standing like this is a position in the sense that to move at all or move from this ‘holding’ will require extra energy.   All the relative parts are stacked up and you are effectively stiff like a statue. In order to make any motion you struggle against your own muscular constraints.

Summary

So the dictionary definition of posture relates closely to most peoples understanding. We think in body parts and of the positioning of those parts.  Our ideas are re-enforced from the effort we feel when holding ourselves up and we strive to attain this beneficial ‘good posture’ when in fact we are heading towards pain and physical trauma. 

Perhaps the most important point to learn is that we have a whole physical response to how we move and to how we think we should move or stand. Therefore correcting our misunderstandings about posture is the first step to learning how to stand and move without the tension and harm to the spine or other areas. ‘Good posture’ then has a whole new meaning.

More Articles by Julia Gilroy are available on the website: www.mouvementenvie.com

Copyright © 2012 Julia Gilroy, all rights reserved worldwide

Julia Gilroy is part of a worldwide network of LearningMethod teachers. She trained with founder David Gorman and was certified in 2007. Her interest in the structure and function of the human system grew naturally from her career as a professional classical and contemporary dancer.  She was certified as an Alexander Technique teacher in Paris and teaches both methods in Sophia Antipolis, Antibes, Nice and Monaco.

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