Posture: 1. A position of a person’s body when standing or sitting. 2. A particular way of dealing with or considering something, an approach or an attitude.
When talking about the body, we tend to discuss definition number one—the actual physical position of our body. And while that’s important and does relate to our physical wellbeing, the second definition is directly linked to the first. Think of mopey Eeyore. He’s depressed and you can see it in his whole being. His body sags. His head slumps. He’s miserable, and you can tell before he even opens his mouth.
Yet walk into an interview or any stressful situation after assuming a power pose (think Super Woman) and studies show you will have more confidence and perform better. You can actually alter your hormones and the way you feel by changing your posture. Next time you have a big event go into a bathroom stall (where no one can see you) and make yourself larger than life—pushing your hands up to the ceiling and puffing your chest out or stand tall and firm with your hands on your hips for two minutes. Posture matters—for how your feel physically and emotionally. It also matters for how the world views you.
Remember when you were kid and you’d have a fight with your parents about the clothes you were wearing and what people would think? Dress as a Goth or a hippie and people will prejudge. Dress in a short skirt and people might prejudge. We can debate if that judgement it right or wrong, fair or appropriate, but it happens, and we know it does. If the clothes make the man, the posture makes the person.
Our posture is just like our clothes. It changes our attitude and the perceived attitude of those who encounter us throughout the day.
I tend to walk with my head down. It’s a postural issue. But it makes me look like I’m not confident. When I notice myself doing it, I’ll pick my head up, unless I’m having a moment where I don’t feel very confident, and then I often choose to leave my head down. So which comes first—the lack of confidence in that moment or my head being down? I’m not sure, but taking stock is helpful. Noticing is the first step to making any change.
So posture matters, but we have misconceptions about our posture and what makes good posture. Your posture can change from day-to-day and week-to-week. We may all have tendencies, but those can change quickly or over time. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. We can use the term alignment instead of posture, but we are basically referring to the same thing.
What we need to consider is whether all our bones, joints and spaces lined up well with each other? Can you find a neutral place in your body where you feel comfortable, where basic movement like standing or walking becomes effortless? When we hear the word neutral we often think of the pelvis and low back, but all our joints have a neutral. And everyone’s neutral can be different.
When we picture perfect posture, Leonardo Di Vinci’s Vitruvian Man comes to mind. Oh, wait, did you think I was going to say Leonardo DiCaprio? When you think of perfect posture, your mind doesn’t immediately go to an ink drawing from the 15th century? The drawing is sometimes referred to as Proportions of Man. It’s the depiction of perfect proportions.
While Vitruvian Man may be perfect, I have yet to meet a person who is perfectly symmetrical. We are all a little longer, more crooked or slightly twisted on one side than the other. And I can’t even get inside your body to see if one of your organs is bigger or different or sitting somewhere else. I doubt we are supposed to force everyone into a perfectly square box or circle where they fit just so. Perfection is not our goal when thinking about posture. Comfort is the end goal. Poor posture leads to pain. If you can find a position that relieves you of pain, that is your good postural position.