When searching for better health and movement practices I wondered why I felt so annoyed at the messages telling me how I was not standing or sitting correctly. That very idea that there was a correct posture meant that if I didn't achieve this then my posture was incorrect. I felt that in an effort to improve my health I had to become better, and that what I had been doing was wrong. I was simply, standing and sitting in a way that felt good for me, not something that I'd always brought conscious attention to, but the idea that I was somehow doing these things 'wrong' felt like saying I had been living my life wrongly, and I could feel I was uncomfortable with that notion. On reflection I found that this all served to reinforce a message that I was not good enough and that what I was doing was not right or correct and that somehow I had to strive to 'do it better.' So, if you've felt that same sense of striving to achieve a better posture I'd like to present another perspective on that old narrative that your posture is flawed and you are not correct.
You see, there is a way to see things as neither right or wrong, good or bad, as every movement you make serves a purpose. Every style of standing, sitting or anything else you do in your life serves you. By bringing conscious attention and curiosity to it you can observe how it is serving you. You then have the ability to make a choice to change it or not.
For instance, standing with an open chest and aligned spine serves a purpose, it gives you space for your vital organs to function well, it allows your spine to absorb the impacts on your body efficiently and sustainably. However, if you find that your posture doesn't naturally present itself in this way, then it is not wrong, it is simply a by-product of how it has been best to serve your body for what it has been through.
Take an injury for example. If you hurt your ankle, then you wouldn't want to put pressure on that ankle. Your body would be in pain when you walked on it and that would be an indicator that this is not a helpful thing to do until your ankle had healed. And you would know your ankle was healing because you would be in less and less pain when you walked on it. The body is smart and pain is it's indicator that all is not well. By listening to what the body has to say we can act accordingly. So, if you had an ankle that was in pain and you were avoiding putting pressure on it, there is no way that you could stand in perfect alignment as you would need to protect that ankle for it to get better. Your posture wouldn't be 'wrong', in fact it would be very helpful for your situation, as you are loving yourself and protecting yourself in order to heal.
That is a crude example where we can see direct cause and effect, however when it comes to posture, that's rarely the case and there are multiple factors at play. Let's take the postural example of having slumped/or rounded shoulders. Although considered undesirable, this posture isn't wrong as it's very presence indicates that there is something going on in the body and it's doing it's best to keep you functioning and alive under the circumstances you are in. For example, you may feel your shoulders are rounding forward because of working at a computer all day and this could be to do with the ergonomic factors of your desk or work station encouraging this posture. However, even with the best workstation available, the body isn't designed to be static in one position for long periods of time, and under those circumstances it will do what it can to find the most comfortable position for you to work in. As you project your energy forward into your work and your core muscles fatigue from holding you upright, you naturally start to round forward. No matter how strong you are, the body just isn't designed to hold a static sitting posture for long periods of time. This expectation to be static, coupled with the stress which has a tendency to accumulate in the neck and shoulder area contributes to the tightening of shoulder and chest muscles and before long you have a habitual rounded shoulder pattern, not because you are wrong or not sitting correctly, but because your body is trying it's best to cope with the circumstances it's in. If you fought with yourself to keep yourself sitting upright in a static posture for hours on end while doing a stressful job, you could very well end up with pain elsewhere in your body, because the body needs movement and stress release to stay in balance.
Let's look at another possible cause for the body to round the shoulders – emotional holding. Emotions which have been unexpressed or un-felt can be held in the body. Emotions such as grief and any pain in the heart due to heartbreak will make you want to protect your heart as it is still in pain. While I am not a trauma-release therapist, I do believe that mindful movement practices can help us get in touch with where we hold stored emotions, bringing them into our consciousness. It is then, when we can see what we are holding onto, that we can release this emotion in whatever way is best for us, freeing us, and our body, to find a different way to hold itself, one that allows more freedom and balance.
That is the core of body movement and somatic release practices, to not only help you become aware of these patterns and unwind them, but also to keep you moving in ways that feel good to you. The body wants to move so you can enjoy being physical and moving in life and by taking a look at how we hold ourselves, without the judgement of right or wrong, we can find a way to be more understanding of ourselves, our circumstances and gently move towards being more balanced without chastising ourselves for being wrong.