Almost a year ago, I came to a stunning realization. It just so happens that I had been standing incorrectly for my entire life! That’s right, standing, one of the simplest things you could possibly do, and I had been doing it the wrong way for my whole life. Standing and sitting are so commonplace, in fact, that most of us never stop to wonder if there’s even a correct way to do it. You just sit and stand, right? So what’s the big deal? How can you even do it wrong? Well, my friends, it all comes down to posture. A simple and almost forgettable, yet undeniably important, part of nearly everything you do.
The realization came to me when I was reading a passage from, The Zen Way to the Martial Arts, by Taisen Deshimaru.
“If your posture is right, it influences the nerves in the autonomic system and the old, central part of your brain. Your forebrain becomes quiet and peaceful. Your intuition grows strong.”
Just as you might have done, I sat up straighter in my chair after reading that passage. After all, who doesn’t seek inner peace and a stronger intuition? Continuing along with my reading, I found many passages in which Deshimaru emphasized the importance of posture. Growing up, many of us have heard, ‘stand straight, chin up’, and so on, but I never actually understood how important posture was until I was educated by the wisdom of this Zen master. So I vowed to be vigilant and mindful of my posture, and I discovered quite a few interesting things about myself and others.
THE LAW OF CORRESPONDENCE AND POSTURE
“As above; so below. As below; so above.” – The Kybalion
I started researching posture and what was considered to be correct posture and found that my normal posture was far from what is considered correct. There were so many little things that constitute proper posture that had previously been beyond my awareness. My feet were hardly ever completely planted on the floor as well as pointing in every which way, and my weight was constantly shifting from foot to foot. Occasionally, I would catch my shoulders hunching and even find my butt popping out.
I worked on my posture for several weeks and asked myself what the the Law of Correspondence could teach me about how my posture reflected what was going on inside my head. I started with my feet and found that the way that I unconsciously refrained from standing straight and fully facing whatever I was looking at, using, or whomever I was talking to reflected in how I would occasionally avoid facing the things I was dealing with head- on.
That was definitely a stab at my ego. Regardless, I started positioning myself to whatever or whomever I was interacting with in a straightforward manner and found that people would talk to me in a more respectful manner when I did so and that I generally felt more in control with whatever I was dealing with when I directly faced it. Next, I dealt with the fact that I was rarely planting both of my feet solidly on the ground, and I discovered that once I had enforced the habit of planting my feet that I generally felt more grounded in myself and in reality.
Once, I had corrected my foot posture, I worked on my knees and hips, which were very easy to correct now that I had my feet in order. In fact, all of my lower body started feeling stronger once I pushed past the tedious process of being mindful and constantly correcting my posture. I brought my hips in line with my shoulders and realized that letting my butt and stomach pop out caused stress on my lower back and weakened my muscles.
Then, I bought my shoulders and chin under control and immediately saw a huge difference in the way people treated me as well as how confident I felt about myself. Whenever I caught myself slouching or looking downward, I found a direct correlation to low confidence. Once, I understood this in myself, I started observing the same phenomena in others. Deciphering the posture of others as well as how it corresponded to their inner state became obvious to me because I knew how it worked with me.
Start observing yourself and others and how posture affects your mental and emotional states. Rarely will you find a physically fit person with sloppy posture or lack of confidence. Likewise, rarely will you see someone who has poor posture who isn’t also suffering from insecurities. Change your posture, and you can change the way you feel about yourself.
THE FBI AND BODY LANGUAGE
The way you hold yourself is so important, that even the FBI has gone to extensive lengths to study body language and what it could be saying about the witnesses or suspects whom they are investigating. These investigators call different verbal and nonverbal behaviors, indicators. Indicators provide insight into what is happening in the person beyond the content of what the suspect is expressing with words.
The categories of the different types of indicators are two. Nonvalidated indicators and validated indicators. So don’t go thinking everything you see in a person’s physical behavior is an indication of exactly how they are feeling or thinking because some people can put up a good front. However, you’re probably not an investigator for the FBI, so not everyone is trying to deceive you. Observation of a person’s physical behavior, as well as their posture, can often give you knowledge of that person’s inner world. For more reading on the FBI studies, click here. And please, don’t use your knowledge for evil.
HOW TO HAVE GOOD POSTURE
Now that you’re extremely aware of how you’re sitting as you read along, here are a few pointers from Harvard Health.
- Keep your chin up and parallel to the floor. (Look straight ahead.)
- Keep your shoulders even. (To fix poor shoulder posture, roll your shoulders up, back, and down again.)
- Neutral spine (No flexing or arching.)
- Brace your abdominal muscles (This will bring your hips in line with the rest of the body, as well as strengthen your midsection.)
- Point knees straight ahead and even.
- Evenly distribute your weight on both feet.
- When standing, bring your ears, shoulders, hips, and ankles into a vertical line.
WHAT GOOD POSTURE DOES FOR YOUR HEALTH
Having good posture will prevent many future health problems such as a hunched back, loss of strength and flexibility, and well as prevent general stress on your body. Proper posture will balance strength in your muscles and ligaments and prevent you from getting injuries. An excellent nervous system is based on good posture. When you have good posture, the energy in your nervous system as well as energy in the bloodstream flow more efficiently; this will improve your mood. The respiration system also benefits from improved posture. Having an open and straight posture will leave your lungs less restricted and more efficient at supplying the body and brain with oxygen.
Great posture will also assist you in your exercise as well as with muscle recovery. I felt a mind-blowing difference in my strength and ability while exercising by just maintaining good posture while lifting weights and well as with body- weight exercises. I was previously unaware of how important it is to do that. I pray all of the coaches I had who probably told me the exact same thing forgive me. Maintaining proper posture while exercising will also strengthen your stabilizing muscles as well as help you target specific muscles.
Working on my posture also dramatically influenced by my martial skill. I realized that by keeping my abdominals braced that the power of my stances, as well as the power in my kicks and strikes, had improved. I felt strong and rooted in my stances and found that holding a stance for long periods of time was much easier when I maintained good posture. The heading image is the different ‘Warrior’ poses found in yoga, which isn’t exactly the type of posture I’m describing. Yet the practice of yoga is still a suburb example of the study of how your body’s positioning is used to influence the inner state of being.
Practice good posture when meditating as well. Taisen Deshimaru stresses proper body positioning when practicing zazen and even goes as far as to say that most people see few results from mediation because they never get their posture right and that it can take years to do so. So if an old Zen master says good posture can bring you closer to enlightenment, then it might be something you should take a closer look at.
For more information on how to improve your posture and to learn more about posture visit these articles: