This post is a reply to a reader who expressed concern about her habit of standing with hands on hips. Since the term, "arms akimbo," has been around since Chaucer’s day, I’m sure my correspondent is not alone in her curiosity about it. You can assume this posture in a variety of ways: with the elbows thrust back and chest forward. or with the shoulders rolled forward and chest resting down and in. Either of these positions can be varied further depending on the position of the neck and head. The chin can be thrust forward or pulled back. Fingers may be spread, or fists closed. Try on some of these options yourself and marvel at how expressive your body can be!
My correspondent described herself as “hanging my body from my skeleton”, so I pictured her in the second version, with shoulders forward. This can be a way to support the upper torso--the arms serve as buttresses for the spine. Spinal muscles may be weak, or there may be depletion of energy stemming from the respiratory, digestive or emotional systems.
The elbows jutting outward can also be a way to define one’s personal space. They protect the body’s vulnerable center by blocking intrusion by people, energy or events.
To explore your own habit, begin noticing the circumstances in which you stand in this manner. Don’t immediately change your position, but rather let yourself experience how the posture may be serving you.
Next, experiment with different ways to be present in your body in similar situations. See whether it would feel okay to let your arms and hands find different resting places. As you do this you may notice that you’ll want to change the way your weight is distributed on your feet as well. Be patient with yourself as you play with this, and let the process take a week or more. (Note: in some social situations it may be better to just allow the status quo to prevail for now. To reframe a posture or movement habit you need to feel safe. Learn more about this in my DVD: Heal Your Posture.)
One more tip: when you notice yourself in the arms akimbo stance, check to see whether your inner corset is engaged. If it’s not, gently re-awaken it. With that internal support, you may find it more comfortable to experiment with different expressions of your arms and hands. Please comment below to let me what you learn.