When to Build Good Posture

When do you become most aware of your posture? When you’re checking out the fit of some new jeans? When walking into a new situation, uncertain as to how you might be received? You can be dressed to the nines, but if your posture projects shyness or uncertainty it sabotages the impression you want to convey. But by then, it’s too late to develop good posture. If you’ve read New Rules of Posture, you know that I advocate dedication to body awareness as the best way to transform your posture. It’s great to practice Pilates or yoga or work out in a gym, but real change takes place in real time, during daily living when poor posture habits are apt to take over.

In my book I teach you about places in your body where you’re likely to respond to stress with tension. Once you identify your personal “posture zones”, I suggest ways to replace those negative tensions with positive ones. I’m a fan of Pilates, by the way, but I know from experience that you have to know when to apply what you learn in the Pilates studio or gym.

The time to build good posture is when you’re doing something tedious—a simple household task that doesn’t hold your attention, that perhaps you’d rather not be doing. Let me give you an example.

The other day I was bending over the sink peeling pomegranates. I love the way the fruit looks when it’s heaped like rubies in a bowl, and I planned to serve it to guests. Pomegranate preparation is time and labor intensive--and messy. Wearing an apron, I held the fruit well down into the sink to keep the juice from splattering everywhere--pomegranate juice leaves stains that don’t come out any way that I know of. I’d been as peeling the little bulbs from the rind for twenty minutes or so, gradually accumulating my treasure. But I had other things on my mind and I was ready to be done.

My shoulders hunched ever more tightly the more impatient I became and my lower back began to ache. When I checked for abdominal tone I found the bearing down pressure that puffs the abdomen outward—the worst way to stabilize the trunk. Even though I’d been to a Pilates class that morning, I seemed to have left the sensation of positive abdominal tone in the studio. What good is working on having good posture if you don’t bring it home with you?

So I stopped, actually grateful for the discomfort that tipped me off to my posture. I straightened up, released my personal “posture zones”, gathered in my “inner corset”, and bent down again to go on with my work. But this time I had support for what I was doing. Stepping aside from my impatience was the key that let me notice what my body had been doing.

The time to build good posture is when your mind slips into a negative state. Use your mental state as a signal to check in with your posture and body usage. Boredom or impatience are pretty good bets. In those states the mind tends to drift into the past or future--usually unproductively--and the body goes on auto-pilot. So let your boredom become a cue to turn your attention to your body at those moments. Not only will you will pass the time productively by strengthening good posture habits, but you’ll likely find that your impatience and boredom disperse as well.

© 2011 Mary Bond