When I was younger I can remember getting home from school, turning on the TV and finding a comfortable, slouched position on the lounge.
While I can’t fully remember all the details, how I sat was a good indication of how my day had been and how I dealt with it. Back then, sitting in front of the TV, practically sliding down as horizontal as I could get, was what I considered a normal afternoon.
What was interesting was that I could only sit like that for a short while as something in me would know that it wasn’t good for me or my back. Before I knew it I would be pulling myself back up into a more upright position so I didn’t put so much pressure on my spine and body. I was in my early teenage years at the time, yet still I can remember that voice inside me that knew how to sit. I knew that being slouched wasn’t good for me.
Posture has always been given a lot of attention in terms of our health and wellbeing. It is taught at school and many courses remind us how integral our posture is. Yet still it is one of those things that is so easily ignored.
Is this because it is too simple?
It is fascinating to study the posture of the body and the effect this has on our state of being. I was recently with a young girl who was sitting cross-legged on the floor applying make-up in front of this large wall-length mirror. Her shoulders were rounded, her heart area was caved in and her back was slouched. She appeared moody, tired and distant. As we were in front of the mirror I asked her to take a look at her posture. Immediately she straightened through her spine, allowed her shoulders to drop down, opened through the front of her chest and aligned her neck and head. She didn’t have to think about what to do, she just knew. There was no denying she knew precisely how to sit in a way that supported her whole body. Together we observed the effect this had on her.
The moment she sat up she looked and felt more awake, focused and present, and her natural beauty came alive. She then went back to her previous slouched position and the difference she could feel and see was undeniable. A simple movement, yet a huge difference was being felt and seen in her body.
What this shows us is that posture not only has a large effect on us, it is also a way of communicating to another. Have you ever noticed that when you are near someone who is aware of their posture and is connected with their body that you become more aware of yours? Or visa versa, that when you are aware of your posture others around you begin to adjust theirs? Our body language is often much louder than we give it credit for.
Good posture isn’t just about having a straight spine, nor is it about being rigid in the way we are with our body. Our posture has the potential to support our whole body to work harmoniously.
When our body is being supported by its physical structure, our bones are balanced and in a neutral position without pressure, tension and strain being placed on our joints, muscles and ligaments. Inside our body is also an intricate system of cells, organs and bodily systems that require a certain posture for them to work at optimum.
If we relate this to our physical posture, when we are slumped in a chair or sitting slouched with our head and shoulders rolled forward and chest caved in, it places much more pressure on our body than we may be aware of. It might not seem like much to compromise our posture for 5 to 10 minutes for example, but add that up over days, weeks, months and years, that’s quite an impact our posture is having on us!
For every inch of forward head posture, it can increase the weight of the head
on the spine by an additional 10 pounds (4.5kg)" ~ Kapandji (1975)
The forward head posture, which is when the head sits in front of the shoulders, is a position that has been studied by researchers to determine the effect this has on the body. For every 2.54 centimetres forward the head is from neutral, the weight of the head on the spine increases by 10 pounds or 4.5 kilograms. That’s the equivalent of 4.5L of water, which is by no means an easy task if we were to imagine carrying this on our head! This position has also been linked to decreased lung capacity, altered blood pressure, pain, headaches and digestive issues (Kapandji, 1975).
As we move and go about our daily activities, something such as our posture can easily be dismissed, but from these findings we are actually being shown that our posture is a foundational factor for the level of health and wellbeing we are going to experience.
Is posture just about the way we hold our body physically?
We usually refer to posture in relation to the physical body, but what if we widened the scope of our study here to consider posture in terms of our ‘state of being’? What is our posture then? In any given moment there is a physical position or movement that our body makes, but there is much more to us than just our physical flesh and bones. Our emotional, mental and energetic state of being is also moving and changing. We can feel balanced and calm one minute and if we react to something, which creates a change inside of us, we can become for example angry, sad, frustrated or even excited. Equally our thoughts can and are changing in quality all of the time, whether we are aware of this or not. We can also feel when our energy changes, which we might describe using words like being flat, dull, exhausted, vital, balanced, harmonious and so on. Our posture therefore includes our whole state of being.
Our emotional, mental and energetic state of being is affecting our physical ‘posture’ and in turn, our physical ‘posture’ is affecting our state of being.
When we consider posture in this way, we can see that it is not just our physical posture that determines our state of health and wellbeing, as there are many other layers contributing to how our overall ‘posture’ is being reflected and received by others. Our body posture speaks volumes.
If we return to the change that took place in the young woman I was with in front of the mirror, we get to see how the simple choice of becoming aware of our posture can completely change how we look and feel. From looking dull, uncomfortable, unconfident and tired, to radiating a beauty, grace and vitality in a matter of moments, it is evident we cannot dismiss the power of our movements. This includes not only our physical movements but also the internal movements of energy, which make up our energetic quality and state of being. It is all of this that makes up our ‘posture’ and what we communicate non-verbally to others.
If you would like to learn more about posture in relation to physical, emotional, mental and energetic awareness, Esoteric Yoga provides the space to experience and observe the effect movement has on our wellbeing. Esoteric Yoga, the Yoga of Stillness, returns us to the science of movement and energy and the powerful effect this has on every level of our wellbeing.