What is Good Posture?

    When asked how to improve posture I usually disappoint because I don't, and can't, give a simple answer. When deciding what good posture is, we must know what we're trying to accomplish, because posture is situational. In different contexts we arrive at a posture through different lenses – either aesthetic or functional.  In some situations we judge posture for what it looks like, in others for what it allows us to accomplish. An example of an aesthetic posture is ballet, where dancers stand with legs turned out and pressed together, head erect, spine straight(ish) and arms held still. This posture is only “good” when trying to accomplish the movements associated with ballet. Watch athletes run the 100 meter dash and you will not see a posture determined by how it looks, but instead organized to move as fast as possible through space – and that is not a straight spine, head erect and legs turned out. Of course, if a ballet dancer took the posture of a sprinter it would be equally out of place. Posture is determined by context and desired functional outcome, and shifts from activity to activity.
    Another factor effecting our ability at achieve an ideal of posture is the fact that we are actually never still. To assume a posture suggests that there is a specific shape that is best for us and implies a sense of stillness or holding. Few people are still for very long, even when they are sitting or standing. Wanting to acknowledge that we are are always in action Dr. Feldenkrais coined the term “acture” to replace posture. This alludes to the fact that most of time we are always in "action" by constantly shifting, making slight changes and adjusting ourselves as we sit at our desk, waiting in line or even walking down a street.
    Posture is situational as well as always shifting and dynamic. But, this doesn't quite answer the question as to how to achieve good or appropriate posture. From a Feldenkrais perspective the first thing we must do is increase our physical awareness. Often our postural and movement choices are without awareness and simply habitual. As we increase the ability to sense ourselves we find more efficient and comfortable options in every situation. Hence, good posture is achieved not by having your head, shoulders and torso in a certain configuration, but instead being able to sense the changes needed situation to situation and moment to moment. A Feldenkrais Practitioner's goal is to assist students in improving their ability to sense themselves and choose the correct posture for any given situation.
I will be teaching a series of Awareness Through Movement lessons (May 7-21) at The Spa Room exploring "Improving Your Posture".  You can try a free lesson Monday May 7 from 6-7pm. Sign up here.
This entry is a re-post from my now defunct blog about The Feldenkrais Method.

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