Saturday, 1 February 2014

On 14:48 by Victoria Stanham   No comments
So you want to change your postural habits.

How does one go about that?

To begin with, let us get the basics clear.

Posture is a psychophysical phenomenon. It’s not only your body, it’s the whole of you: body + mind + emotions. It’s a good idea to think of your body, mind and emotions as ONE reality reflected in THREE different mirrors. There’s even a FOURTH mirror which is your context, or rather, your experience of your context.

It is of this fourth mirror that I would like to talk today. 

Your experience of your context is dictated by your mindset.

What is a mindset?

A mindset is a fundamental attitude towards life.  It is made up of millions of habits (physical, mental, emotional) which are the visible, tangible, manifested side of this overreaching mindset. Your mindset dictates every one of your relationships, be it to an animate or inanimate other. I guess you could call it your “character structure”.

One of the characteristics of my particular structure is that I withdraw as soon as I feel threatened. Come in a little too strong and poof! I’m off, leaving you having a vacuous chit-chat with a polite shell.

If you care for a story, I’ll tell you about how I discovered this sneaky tendency of mine. [If you don’t care for stories, jump down to the explanation bit at the end… no hard feelings].

The Day I Got a Sneak-Peek at My Mindset…

It happened during an Alexander Technique lesson a few years ago. I was being guided by my teacher’s hands in and out of a chair when I was suddenly struck by the realization: “I retract from contact.” My feet were retracting away from the ground, my sitting-bones were not coming into full contact with the chair, and my very skin was surreptitiously crawling away from contact with the teacher’s hands. It was like I was sucking my essence away to where it couldn’t be touched by anything or anyone.

It was a life-altering realization. “I retract from contact.” That was not just a physical thing, it was a full-being thing. I pulled back from relationships, I was guarded, I was afraid of contact, I was easily overwhelmed by another person’s energy.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, when I felt fairly safe with someone, I lost myself in them, became clingy, lost my own bearings. I obviously needed to work on the whole issue of boundaries.

These two responses to contact were all I knew so I couldn’t have responded differently even if I’d tried. They were also automatic and therefore completely unconscious, which means: I didn’t know I was reacting thus.

The good news is that an “aha!” moment like the one I had during that lesson meant I’d broken out of the pattern, if only for a few seconds. I could stand back and see it. And when you see something, you can finally see alternatives, you can analyse it, learn about it, play with it. Only now did I know what the game was really about.

So how does this all relate to changing postural habits?

Well, let’s first analyse how a habit works. [If you’re interested in a more in-depth look at this issue I suggest you check out the first chapter of Charles Duhigg's book on the subject].

The first few times you find yourself facing a new stimulus, your brain kicks into full gear with the aim of discovering some recognizable pattern in the situation that it can latch on to. The minute it spots a pattern, it knows what response is required and the system calms down: the brain can execute the pre-set response and put the body into autopilot.

Your brain has a storeroom of response patterns (aka habits) that it has built (and keeps building) all throughout your life. These are automatic responses, pre-sets if you will, and they allow you to function daily by taking away the need for decision making at every turn. It’s a good thing that you learnt the mechanics of walking when you were a kid, so now you don’t have to think about how to coordinate your legs to get from point A to point B.

But what happens when your response pattern has gone a little funny?

If you read my story, you can deduce that at some point I habituated a withdrawal response to contact. This response had probably been necessary at the time I started using it; it was perhaps the best I could do given my resources at the time.

However, the need for the withdrawal response has long expired; I now have more and better resources. But at some point my brain had made the response automatic, so I was NOT making a conscious decision about it.

This pre-set to contact (which is acting all the time because we’re ‘in contact’ with something all the time) created a mindset for me, an attitude towards life in general, and a particular posture or physiognomy to go with it.
I’d been working at changing my postural habits for quite a while (with varying levels of success) until this crucial bit of information came to me. Only now was I really ready to change: cause I realized that posture grows out of a mindset, and what I needed was help in changing mine.

So what can YOU do to start changing your postural habits?

You need to discover what your basic mindset towards contact is. Do you mainly withdraw from it? Push into it? Cling onto it? Or are you ambivalent about it?

If you really want to change your posture, it pays to pay attention.

Do you still want to change your posture?

If your answer is still “yes”, and you’ll be in Montevideo (Uruguay) in February then you can come to one of my workshops on Posture for very small groups (just you and one or two of your friends).

Interested?  Put your name and email in the sign-up form that appears at the top right of this blog and I’ll send you the informationn.


Image credits:
"Young lady with reflection" by admr/


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