I received a lesson in posture the other day – from a 7-month-old girl! Not the source of inspiration I would have ordinarily expected (on this topic), but one that was oh so very welcome. She has only begun to crawl around and sit up, and this particular day I was stunned to see the ease in which she achieved it. But it wasn’t the ease of the transition that grabbed my attention but how she sat, perfectly balanced and ever so straight without any tension in her body at all. As she sat, she was very still but at the same time, she seemed to be aware of everything that was going on around her.
And as I watched, I realised that this ageing body of mine was slightly slumped, collapsed in the middle, shoulders rolled forward a little pulling my neck and my head with them. It felt really uncomfortable, like the centre of my body and all my organs were being squashed and my breathing was not flowing as easily as it could be and as a result, I could feel that my level of awareness had been turned down. It was like I was pulling back into a shell! This was a wow moment and one that has stayed with me, a constant reminder to regularly check the state of my posture, and as I do it has become so obvious how often I allow myself to drop into this unnatural, and damaging, posture. This lesson has been so very valuable and one that I am now sharing with others, and as I do, I can see them nodding their heads and unfolding their bodies in agreement.
I have become so aware over the last few years how important posture is, especially as the years are rolling on by and various parts of my wonderful body are starting to feel a little less supple and a lot less wanting to work the way I want them to.
So, where and why did this potentially damaging way of holding my body begin? Looking back over the years it appears to me now that my ‘bad’ posture actually began way back in my teens. I used to think that it was as a result of being a little taller than most of my friends and so I began to slouch, rolling my shoulders forward giving myself a rather hunched look. Not a great look for a teenage girl, but the habit soon became ingrained and even the constant comments from my mother to stop slouching were ignored. I can feel that there was almost a defiance of what I saw to be a criticism of me and so I went into reaction without listening to the truth of her words and kept on slouching!. And there also seems to be a part of me that thought I could not do anything about it.
But I have learned that change is always possible even after being seemingly stuck in a behaviour or a pattern for many, many years. It may not happen overnight, but with commitment and consistency, I have proved to myself, over and over again, that it will happen. And what has supported the changes that I have been starting to make in my posture is by coming to really understand my body; what makes it ‘tick’ and how the way I live and move has a huge impact on this wonderful vehicle that takes me from my first breath in this life until my last.
Over the last few years, I have found that the more I care for and honour my body the more my posture has naturally begun to change, and as a wonderful bonus, my well-being and my vitality have improved beyond anything I thought was possible. And my back is slowly losing the abnormal curve that it had for so long; that’s definitely a bonus.
Alongside this most life-changing of lessons has been another recent realisation. And that is that the slouching was not just to do with trying to cover up my height but more importantly to ‘cover up’ me. It was like I knew that I was actually not who society told me I was, a girl who was expected to adhere to all the ideals and beliefs of what being a girl growing up in the ’50s and ’60s entailed. However, if instead, I had chosen to live as the amazing girl, that deep down I knew I really was, I would have probably stuck out and have got teased for it; definitely something no teenage girl ever wants to experience. So, it feels like I had a choice, to shut my amazingness down to feel safe and to fit in or allow society to shut it down for me. Unfortunately, shut down it was, in many different ways. But with hindsight – which is always illuminating – I now realise how different life would have been if I had had the inner strength and support to stand open and tall – literally and figuratively – and had refused to shut it down, but to simply claim, and live, who I naturally was.
It makes sense, that on a physical level when we are moving or sitting, collapsed in the middle, our heart is affected, our lungs are affected as well as many other organs, and that in itself is not a considerate act towards our body. But coming to understand that everything is energy I can now see that, on an energetic level, it is like we are not allowing ourselves to breathe our full and life-giving breath and in the process denying ourselves the true connection to our heart centre, to the love that is always available and in turn to the naturally amazing beings we were born to be. This was a huge realisation, one that was a long time coming, one that was so very welcome, and one that I am slowly beginning to live – without perfection – and as a result, life is beginning to change in many amazing ways.
So now each time I feel a slouch coming on I stop and ask myself why – why am I choosing to shut down my amazingness?
And there is always an answer.