For most of my life, not counting the past month, I have labored under the (mis-)understanding of what it means to “stand up straight.”
“Don’t hunch your shoulders,” they’d say. (Hi Mom!) Over the years I’d read the occasional article suggesting that women carry poor posture because they are hesitant to push their chests out. Some suggested that people with poor posture are trying to keep their heart protected by keeping it as far “in” as possible. This didn’t make any sense to me. “What’s the big deal?” I would think, and roll my shoulders back. I would stroll around with my shoulders pulled back by my poor little back muscles until they got tired and I slumped back down into the caved-in position. I didn’t know why I was unable to maintain a proper upright position either sitting or standing.
Turns out, I was doing it wrong. Despite my 4 years of graduate work focused on the human body, I still didn’t know how to correct my own posture. To be fair, I was pregnant twice during that time and may have been out getting a froyo when someone mentioned it, but in any case my “aha moment” (™ Oprah) came after one of the massages I had with Janelle*. I share it with you now because maybe, like me, some of you have been making it more difficult than it has to be.
We were talking about how I felt after the massage. I was demonstrating my relaxed posture. “Your shoulders are still rolled a little forward,” she said. Naturally, I just rolled them right back.
“Not from there,” she said. “Push out from here.” And she tapped me on the manubrium (above the sternum). I pushed up and out. Aha! I felt at ease, I felt tall, I felt ridiculous for not knowing this in the first place! Scientifically speaking, it was a thousand times easier than pulling my shoulders backward. I also noticed that my heart kind of did feel exposed and suddenly I understood what those articles were talking about. But the feeling of being able to breathe so well that comes with holding one’s bones in alignment is so liberating that I am learning to live with the trade.
Have you ever thought about this? How are you sitting and standing? Is your spine all squashed in on itself? Is it curled up or shifted over? Try pushing out instead of pulling back and feel the free flow!
*Janelle is a fantastic Licensed Massage Therapist who works out of our Lexington location