The word posture is like some sort of electric shock that jolts people into an upright position!
I use this in my health talks to my and the audience’s amusement, and to prove a point: we all innately seem to know that ‘good posture’ or upright posture’ is better than ‘bad or slumped posture’.
Posture really is a world unto itself. Meaning:
· Upright posture helps us make better impressions
· ‘Humped’ upper backs can lead to more disease and reduce the ability to recover from diseases
· Poor posture is linked with low confidence, doubting oneself and not speaking up
We could go on.
A great social psychologist called Amy Cuddy found that ‘power posing’ can not only change how others see us, buy also how we see ourselves.
Essentially, our posture is where our inner world, meets the outer world.
My experience has shown me that when we feel that we do not have the inner strength or resourcefulness to meet the outer world, we slump. When we feel strong, confident and even joyous our posture is upright, open and even ‘lifted’.
All of this is controlled by our brain and nervous system.
The great news is that this is done for us, without us having to think about it. It also means that, whether we like it or not, we are reflecting to the world what is going on inside us through our posture.
We have to be astute enough and relaxed enough to pay attention and interpret someone else’s posture (which many people aren’t) however, the information is there and being broadcast regardless.
It all boils down to how our brain interprets stress.
We have one stress mechanism and it is at least 100,000 years old. It basically says FIGHT! Or RUN FOR YOUR LIFE. It’s job is to help us survive and it is a godsend.
The challenge is that this mechanism can be set off by all sorts of things. It can be set off by
· Physical stresses: Car crash, a fall, banging your head, tripping, sitting too much, overuse injury
· Chemical stresses: sugar, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine etc.
· Emotional / social stress: conflict at home or work, worrying about bills, loss of loved one, fear of what others will of us
The issue then becomes how do you fight or run from a conflict at work? Or sitting too much? Or eating or drinking things that are unhealthy? We can’t and so we create a barrage of hormonal release in the body that in short term can be ok but in the long term can be catastrophic for our health.
And this fight or flight response shows up in our posture. Our body puts us in the best position to run or protect ourselves.
The challenge is that when we’re in this mode we are not thinking rationally or clearly. We are in reaction mode. Our blood sugar and cholesterol are elevated. Our immune system gets suppressed. And many many more things that are ok short term but devastating long term.
So our posture can be said to be really showing us how much we are in fight or flight. How much of our life stressed we have stored up / not dealt with and essentially how much capacity we have to operate. It’s my experience that detailed postural analysis and excellent palpation, can reveal how much stress someone is storing.
The less stress we have stored, I believe, the more we can enjoy our physical health, feel better about ourselves and enjoy our work and relationships.
I do a live demonstration of how people in our practice change their posture WITHOUT doing any postural exercises in our regular welcome workshop: details here (link).
Want to take your health into your own hands? Try this free somatic exercise that will help you to relax, process stress and connect to what works in your body (link here).
In changing and improving our posture I believe that we can not only heal past stress, but also deal with and enjoy our lives a great deal more.