Get out your measuring cups and we’ll play a new game
Come to the front of the class and we’ll measure your brain
We’ll give you a complex and we’ll give it a name
I’m so tired of people being measured, in every way.
Beauty, brains, height, and — yes — posture.
We’ve been conditioned to believe only in external metrics rather than relying on our internal sensory intelligence.
When a baby learns to walk, no one is instructing that baby. No one tells her to engage her glutes, stretch those hip flexors, contract the transversus abdominus.
No, the child is relying on inherent biological intelligence to learn a new movement skill — a new way of navigating her environment.
We all start out this way, but somewhere along the path, we come to believe that external sources know better. That data and science and objective measurements can somehow encompass our embodied experience.
We believe — because we are taught to believe — that we are messing our bodies up. That we’re doing it all wrong. That we must work hard to correct our wayward habits.
And that there is a right answer.
Our entire medical system is oriented around the right answer. In some cases, this is a good thing. If I’m in a terrible auto accident, I want the emergency room doctors to know how to put my bones back together again.
Medicine is a wonderful tool when you’re sick or injured. Drugs and surgery can bring you back from the brink of death, stave off disease and even improve your overall quality of life.
But they’re not everything. Doctors are not wizards, and they don’t know everything about what it means to be you.
Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, you hand over ownership of your internal experience. You cease inquiry into your sensory wisdom and seek answers from external sources.
In the western culture in particular, we live in an impoverished sensory state — a grayscale that allows only the feelings of pain (which is, in and of itself, a multidimensional and nuanced sensation) and bland nothingness.
There is no culture of sensory language. We don’t talk of buzzing or stickiness or wooden tissue. And we certainly don’t acknowledge pleasurable sensations like the wind caressing your cheeks, the soothing flow of breath exiting your lungs or the deep relief of moving a joint in a way that finally alleviates pressure.
And as your rich sensory world fades to a fuzzy black and white, nuances disappearing in a wash of low resolution awareness, you also take on beliefs — beliefs about how your body “should” be.
What constitutes a good body differs from culture to culture. In western society, we believe in shoulders back, stomach tucked, a straight spine.
We believe in a snapshot of good posture, a pose on the cover of a magazine, confident and self assured.
Speak the word “posture” to any group of people — tell them you work with it, that you’re a posture therapist — and watch closely. I would bet cold, hard cash that you see at least half the group pull their shoulders back and clench their bellies.
They’ll do all this, and then ask you if they’re doing it right.
But let me ask you this instead:
What if there is no right way to be in your body? What if the western notion of “good” posture is simply one option on an endless spectrum?
What if the answer to the question of whether you’re doing it right is, “Yes, and what would change or shift if you did it differently? What else might you discover if you tried another way?”
What if instead of asking a practitioner to tell you what’s wrong with the way your body moves, you instead work collaboratively, using movement as inquiry into your embodied experience?
What if you denounced the notion of good and bad posture all together?
What freedom would that grant you, what doors would open, what blockages would unstick and what limiting ideas might disappear in a stunning beam of sunlight?
What if you’re already doing it right, and also, there’s more?
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