I knew when I had finished ‘Part 1’ of this most important topic of posture that I had only touched the surface of the crucial nature of posture for not only the ageing body but for all bodies, from a very early age. And so, when the opportunity to participate in a six-week class called Posture Connect arose I knew that I absolutely needed to say yes.
This class facilitated by Jane Torvaney, a wonderful physiotherapist from Scotland, was held online and if we couldn’t be there for the live session, she provided a recording for us to do over the following week, which was deeply appreciated.
To say that I was blown away by what unfolded in the first class is probably an understatement. We didn’t do a lot of exercises but those of us who were online – about 17 from around the world – had the most in-depth and eye-opening discussion for the majority of the hour. What unfolded was amazing as we shared that looking back to our early years that there was very little support for us to be moving or sitting in a way that was natural to our body. In fact, everything around us seemed to be encouraging, or in some cases demanding, that we sat and stood in a most forced and unnatural way.
Can you remember being told to sit/stand up straight, shoulders back and stomach sucked in? Well, Jane got us to do just this and to feel the effects in our bodies. What we all shared afterwards was that it felt absolutely horrible in our bodies to do so. I instantly felt a tightening in my jaw and a band of tension in my head and very soon I could feel that my breathing was being compromised. And to think that this form of posture was actually encouraged – yikes!
Then Jane got us to sit and to feel into our current posture, being aware of our sitting bones, where our feet were placed on the floor, to release any tension we were holding in our body and to imagine a cord from the top of our head ever so gently pulling our spine upwards. And one of the biggies was to check that we were not collapsed in the middle – one of my regular areas of collapse. How wonderfully different this posture felt. It did not feel forced in any way, my breath flowed easily, my jaw was relaxed, as were my shoulders and the whole of my body, but at the same time, I felt very alert.
She then got us to slouch in our chairs for a few minutes like we probably did as teenagers or maybe even these days when we are sitting in front of the telly or our computer. That slouch was as horrible in the body as it was to sit up abnormally straight, once again shutting down my natural posture and replacing it with a feeling of breathlessness and a squashing of my neck and the delicate muscles that hold our spine in place. I felt quite disconnected from myself and my awareness of what was going on around me.
Everyone shared very similar experiences with both these unnatural positions but what jumped out for me was the memory of sitting in very uncomfortable school chairs for hours on end. No wonder we all used to wriggle away, getting distracted from what was being presented in the process; definitely not the support our young and still forming bodies needed. It then got me to thinking about the chairs and the couch I sit on at home, so after the class, I simply had to check them out
My couch is fairly new, and I bought it specifically as it was very supportive of my ageing body so that got a posture tick from me. But my dining chairs and my computer chair certainly didn’t, and as for my outdoor furniture, it got a great big cross! They all might look good, but I could instantly feel when I sat down that they were definitely not designed to truly support my body, or in fact, anybody’s body. Our spine has a natural curve in it which the dining chairs totally ignored and to make a connection with the back of the chair I actually had to lean backwards which felt so unnatural and uncomfortable.
But what amazed me the most is that I have been sitting on these chairs for the last few years and haven’t really noticed all these discomforts – or have I and have I simply chosen to ignore them, adjusting my body to fit the chairs? That was a big ouch moment, literally and figuratively, when I realised how many times I ignore some sort of discomfort in my body and make an adjustment instead of addressing the cause of the discomfort. Now I have to ask myself; how is this way of living ever going to support my body, especially for me, at this time of my life?
And then, of course, there is our car seat. I used to think that my car seat was supporting me until I took a long honest look at how it was impacting on my posture. Once again it was causing me to collapse in the middle which is definitely not the way to care for the precious organs in this part of our body, including our lungs. How can I breathe easily and deeply when my lungs are being compressed? And on observing how I was sitting much of the time, I noticed that my head was being pushed a little forward, definitely not a supportive posture for my neck.
I have an electric seat control so I began to play around with different positions but there were few that were supportive so when I finally found one which encouraged me to stop collapsing in the middle and to hold my neck in its natural position that is the one I chose. But I have found that this position may change depending on how I am feeling and to make the adjustment for that instead of ignoring what my body is asking for. I often place a soft, rolled piece of fabric behind my back to stop the slouch and I always sit on a super comfortable memory foam cushion which protects my ageing bottom from getting sore – and it works and in the process prevents the return of the Sciatica that I used to be prone to.
I have learnt from the attention to even the littlest details that everything matters when it comes to caring for ourselves.
I am sure that if this elucidating posture information had been introduced to me when young I would have not developed the ingrained body-ignoring habit I have had for much of my life, but instead I would have taken way more consideration of my body’s posture. After all, it is so important for us to support our body in every moment and by doing so, I know, that we will definitely begin to notice some changes in the way our body responds. I have come to see so clearly that to place our body in a posture that is in opposition to how it ought to be is not only going to impact on the skeletal and muscular organisation of our body but will then travel inwards to affect our inner workings; our organs, connective tissue and so on. Simple, common sense that I certainly haven’t lived by until recently.
Therefore, what a responsibility we have to our precious body and the posture we hold it in, a responsibility I am learning to say yes to as often as possible, without any perfection whatsoever. I have learnt, often the hard way, that trying to be perfect is only going to bring an unnecessary tension into my body which if longterm may just create other issues – so let’s delete the perfection.
We are full-time caretakers of this incredible vehicle we call our body, so how easy would our caretaking role be if from an early age we were encouraged to always make life about connection to our body first? We would then grow up with an internal mastery of our posture and those of us who become designers and manufacturers would naturally place support for the body as the number one focus in production of all furniture and car seats. How amazing would that be?
But at the end of the day, it is up to us to bring a deep honesty into how we care for our body, including how we hold ourselves – our posture – and how we move in every moment. And when we say yes to, the absolute importance of our posture, and begin to bring some supportive changes into our lives, I feel that we then have a responsibility to share this with others so they too have the opportunity to discover that there is a way to bring self-loving changes to their life as their body ages. Giving our attention to our posture is certainly going to be one of those most worth-while changes. It has been for me!