Our culture teaches us that good or optimal posture is achieved by lifting the chin, throwing the shoulders back, bracing the back and tucking in the gut.
It is interesting to note that the body shape, our culture adopts as ideal, is practically a prescription for creating and/or strengthening the movement pattern involved in the fight/fly reflex. Trying to hold this idea of good posture through muscular effort just leads to more contraction; it means getting in the way of easy movement instead of supporting.
For a non-expert, we think of posture as the way we hold ourselves. When we slouch, and someone is looking at us we try to look good right away holding ourselves up. So, being standing up upright is important for us, it is the characteristic posture of our species.
When I was a teenager, they were telling me to stand upright, my scoliosis was there and I was doing my best, but the sensations were of rigidity and discomfort, I had no clue what it meant to be standing with support and with no effort as it is one of the Rolfing® goals.
For me, understanding posture has been one of the more profound experiences, understanding from the somatic body perspective and not only from the theory.
Posture is understood as the strategy employed by the neuromuscular and skeletal system to remain in balance, reacting against the force of gravity in the most economical way possible.
Dr. Ida Rolf highlighted to us that what we call posture is also the way we meet gravity each moment, so posture should be considered in the context of the position the body adopts in preparation for the next movement.
The posture is a coordinated and systematic activation and deactivation of muscle actions with minimal energy consumption to maintain that posture at that moment, but there is no standard ideal posture for everyone equally.
Therefore, it is unavoidable to not be in an ‘optimal’ posture throughout your day, as it is constantly changing. There are subtle changes occurring all the time.
Each of us has to find a way to stay in balance in gravity while also walking, talking, living. Posture is then a reflection of our preference or most familiar strategies to accomplish this function. These strategies are different for each of us and are the way we hold tensions in certain muscles. So, our body tensions make us feel secure in a way.
We are human, and we will do anything to not fall, which is also a kind of metaphor for what lets us feel safe. Each of us has our most familiar ways of doing this. In Rolfing we understand that good posture comes differently. It happens when we tune into our perception and sensation: how the ground feels to me right now, sensing where we are putting the weight through our feet, and how the body weight is distributed over the foot is key to good neuromuscular organisation and response.
How the nervous system interprets that contact could be of support or compression. And the sensations that we experience is of ease or effort.
With Rolfing bodywork, you increase and deepen your body’s awareness, that allows us to voluntarily elaborate a gesture before its execution, being able to control and correct the movements and therefore by changing the muscular tensions.
Rolfing works with the patterns that we have created through life and that are not economical but releasing and induce a change in the connective tissue and muscles and give the client new options for movement and support, then the posture changes, the possibilities appear.
Our posture is much more than a physical interpretation, it is our way of being in the world, of our achievements and failures and our adaptations to change.
Author and Photos: Certified Advanced Rolfer®, Mentor, Rolf Movement™ Practitioner, PT and Ismeta board member, Bibiana Badenes - Spain