‘Fixing’ Posture- Can it Be Done?

Every Friday I lead a “Walk in the Park with Beth” at my local Senior Center. We have about 5 regulars and others who join on occasion.  One of our regulars is Dave. He’s an 80-something, very accomplished retired businessman. He is British and has worked all over the world. Upon retirement, he and his wife chose to live in beautiful Southern California, across the street from our beautiful park. His wife suffers from dementia, and he is his wife’s primary caregiver, but finds time to attend events and volunteer at our center. He is one of those vital, energetic Baby Boomers/ Seniors who I am often talking about.

Dave came on our walk one day with a splint on his wrist. He had tripped over a hose on the sidewalk and fractured his wrist. He also walked slowly last week because, he told me, his back had “gone out” lifting his wife. I am not on this walk to preach about how to lift the “Feldenkrais Way” so I gave a few quiet hints and suggested he have his wife’s physical therapist to teach him how to lift her.

Today as we walked, he was hunched a bit, back bent forward. I have been watching him do this since his fall.  He knows about my classes and that I am quite accessible to those at the senior center.

Stage set? An aging man, afraid of falling, on the mend from back pain. I see myself as a guide, not there to preach, or to sell myself and my work.  A very well meaning woman who was walking with us, stopped him mid walk and took his shoulders, pulled him upright, and said, “this is how you should walk.”  I tried to be quiet but she would not stop her instruction and I interrupted and explained what was happening, why he was slouching, and that telling him what to do would not make a bit of difference.

We all know that upright posture is a good idea. I have written about this before. The primary benefits are:

– decreased stress on muscles, joints and bones

– improved breathing ability because your lungs are not compressed

– improved digestion and circulation by allowing your internal organs to function

– confidence shown to the world

– increased energy  

We all want to have good posture, and most of us don’t realize that we are starting to round our backs and bend forward.  We can’t just change someone’s posture by telling them “straighten up” or by forcing them to be what we deem as  “correct.”  

Why are people hunched, or flexed forward as they walk?  There are so many reasons.  Are they afraid of falling? Are their hip muscles shortened? Does their back hurt? Do they have changes to their spine, like arthritis, or fracture of a vertebrae? These are a few reasons. The bottom line is, we don’t know the reason. After 40 years in the health and wellness field, I can take an educated guess.  Most often, the person slouching doesn’t know why.  Not everyone thinks alike, has the same spine or muscles, or feels the same way. We can’t insinuate our judgments or feelings onto others about their physical posture any more than we would their religion or politics.

If one wants to change his posture, first he must know or feel that he is not upright. He must have a way to compare the difference. He must “learn” what is happening, what he is doing. Then he must figure out how to do it differently. There are so many options of how to stand up.  Look around. See how many different ways people stand.  Nobody notices their posture if it is not a problem.  Changing posture, or anything, must come from within.  Nobody can change anybody else.

That’s what my work is all about. What are you doing? What do you want to do? What are your options?  I create a place where you can ask questions through movement, and ask the questions that make a difference. You can learn the difference and you can make a choice about how to stand, or sit, or do anything you wish to do. That’s why it’s called Awareness Through Movement.®

You are the expert on you.

See you out there walking.

Beth

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