Raised in the world of dance, I was always prodded (sometimes cruelly) and trained diligently to carry myself properly.
The study of ballet in particular revolves around the strength of the core of your body. Principally the belly, chest wall, spine, neck and butt must all be in perfect alignment and tone in order to hold the body in the air while balancing En Pointe.
My dear old dad also had the habit of telling me to stand up straight, while sometimes “lovingly” inserting a knee into the small of my back.
One of my greatest personal postural revelations happened when I was standing in church one Sunday. I remember it to this day as being pivotal in my endeavor to fight the 33 lbs per square inch of pressure gravity constantly exerts on the body.
That day in church, I looked around and saw not a single person standing completely straight with feet under the hips, arms at the sides, neck in alignment, and diaphragm region open. OK, no one was even standing with their weight on two feet, arms at their sides.
There were all manner of postural deviations: leaning into a hip, arms crossed, hands on the chair in front of them, legs crossed, etcetera, etcetera. Who passed my “postural pop quiz”? No one! Who came close? Kids did the best, men a close second. What’s my point?
Standing up straight while you”re doing nothing else (such as while in the grocery line) requires very little effort, and the return over time is amazing. It helps you teach your body how to stand correctly. Your neuromuscular (and sometimes genetic) pathways may have generated a slouching habit, and re-training them takes a very conscious awareness – and practice.
In my Bodywork and Massage practice I help you identify which muscles and areas of your body are weak (i.e. under or over performing). This awareness or act of Simply Noticing jump-starts the retraining process. The intention to be healthier, stronger, and more beautiful by the simple act of standing straight will lead you to find a way of doing so that suits you perfectly.
Yoga, dance, massage, walking, stretching, dancing, and working out are all helpful activities. But until you are aware of how you hold yourself in space at any given time, you will not change.
Just think about what you’ve already noticed as you’ve been reading this. I know even I have made postural adjustments numerous times, some twice, while writing this post: I’ve lifted my rib cage, relaxed my thoracic forward thrust, dropped my chin, spread my feet apart, put both feet flat on the ground, raised up onto my “sitting bones,” relaxed my shoulders, checked my breath for holding patterns, and so on.
Welcome to my world: a constant heightened state of awareness about how my body is feeling. Because of my past and present roles as dancer and instructor, model, bodyworker, and even skincare therapist, I have cultivated and learned how to not only impart these lessons , but also incorporate them into my own lifestyle. My profession is riddled with carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive stress injury cases.
Our bodies are always changing, and major adjustments need to be done around menopause — but don’t even get me started. We must keep the pathway of awareness open about how we hold ourselves from moment to moment. Too much work, you say? OK, fair enough. But remember the old adage, “Faut souffrir pour être belle.” “One must suffer to be beautiful.”
See you at the spa!