Bad posture – the truth

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bad posture

“I have terrible posture.”

“My wife/husband/mother says my posture is awful.”

“I have pain in my back/shoulders/knees/hips/wrists/arms/neck, and I’m sure my posture isn’t helping…”

At least 8 out of 10 of the people who come to me for help start with a statement like this.

To make it worse, there’s a kind of blame attached to it all – as though it’s somehow your fault that your posture is causing trouble. A sense that it reflects some childish inability to manage yourself properly; or a failure to learn the basics of grown-up life.

Bad posture - good posture in the late 19th century

There has long been a moral quality attached to ‘good’ posture

And if only you had better posture, your pain and aches would go away. So even the pain isn’t quite justified – if it comes from bad posture, surely you should be able to stand and walk and sit better? How hard can it be?!

That’s certainly the way it sounds when your wife/husband/mother talk about it – and maybe in your own thinking too.

It’s not as though you don’t try to sit up, to have good posture, but it’s just so hard to maintain – lots of physical effort, and hard to think about it enough too.

And it can ache, too, with all that extra effort.

So you are defeated all round – bad posture is somehow your fault through some undefined weakness or failure; your attempts to put it right just aren’t working; in short, it’s a hopeless case.

The truth about ‘bad’ posture

The first thing we need to do is get rid of the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ concepts around our posture.

Posture is neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’: it is just the way we are when we haven’t thought about it much.

We don’t consciously choose the way we hold ourselves or move as we grow through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.

Life proceeds, and we respond as best we can at the time, with little or no thought for our posture. And as time passes, we all unconsciously develop habits of posture and movement.

Everyone is the same in this respect, whether they ‘sit up straight’ or not.

And many of those habits are unhelpful to us – they may cause aches or pains, or stiffness, or limitations to movement.  But they don’t reflect any failure on our part – in fact, they reflect our success at finding ways to deal with life as it unfolds.

So, please drop the blaming.

And then you can start with the first step towards changing the things that aren’t helpful:

Observing yourself, your physical self – without interfering.

Just observing, as a scientist observes, without getting involved with what you are observing.

No sitting up straight. No standing up straight. No adjusting your posture to fit with what feels ‘correct’.

Just observing with curiosity – and noticing (with curiosity) any judgement you may pass on what you observe.

Don’t try to adjust anything – just observe gently how you are; and observe any commentary you may have on it.

On its own, this will set things off towards a positive change, towards ease, and towards a more flowing and integrated posture.

You’ll need to go further, but if you can master observation with curiosity and without criticism, you will be laying the essential groundwork for rapid steps towards movement with ease.

You might like also to look at this article by my colleague Lauren Hill, about the important difference between ‘monitoring’ oneself, and being ‘mindful’ of oneself.

Over to you

Let me know right now in the comments below what you notice about your inner judgements about your posture and movement. Or about the impact of simple, curious observation of yourself (without criticism or blame!).

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Top line photo credit: cturtle22 / Foter / CC BY-ND

‘Moral quality’ photo credit: Internet Archive Book Images / Foter / No known copyright restrictions

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