I have a confession. For most of my life, I was a habitual sloucher.
My back was rounded, my shoulders were not only practically glued to my ears due to the tension IN my shoulders, but they were so rounded forward that I had limited range of motion in them. The muscles in the front of my body were entirely too contracted and the muscles in the back of my body were holding on for dear life. Structurally, my body was folding in on itself.
On a deeper level, so much more was going on. I lacked confidence, self-esteem and self-love. Subconsciously, I wanted to become smaller and smaller so that no one could see me. If I didn’t want to see myself, surely no one else did either. The more my chest became a concave cavity, the better to guard my heart with. The slouchier my body became, the more I thought I gave the appearance of apathy; I’m calm, I’m cool, I’m collected. Nothing and no one can get to me. If I don’t let anyone in (i.e. guarding my heart), no one can hurt me. Emotionally, I was folding in on myself.
When I began my own journey inward, I noticed that the work I was doing on the inside had a direct affect on how I carried my body in the world. As I grew personally, my body began opening up. As my self-worth increased, I began taking up more space in the world. My shoulders opened and I stood taller with a more neutral spine. My movements and my steps became more fluid. I was living less in a place of fight-or-flight and more in a place of relaxation. I realized silent confidence was not to be perceived as a weakness, rather, it was a strength. A strength that represented taking ownership of who I was at the present moment in time, accepting it, while still being aware of the love and light and greatness that exists within me.
Posture is powerful. It is a language that we use to communicate to the world around us. It can reveal so much about how we feel about ourselves and how we feel about and around others. It can reveal our fear, our joy, our attitude, and our physical state of affairs. It is the manifestation of all that we think, feel and experience in this life. It will never lie to us.
In the five years I’ve been practicing massage, one thing has become incredibly apparent to me. Many people live in a fight-or-flight state. We are not living in the present. We are angry at the past and worried about the future and our bodies reflect that! We worry about that deadline coming up, how we are going to pay the mortgage this month, we still can’t believe Sally said that to Suzie, we have unresolved issues with parents, and we can’t stop imagining what everyone will think of us during that big presentation at work. The more we focus on those things, the more we feel restricted in our bodies. We are stuck in our head space and what we perceive to be true, and this posture translates as chronic pain and tension in our bodies.
I strongly believe it doesn’t have to be that way! There are some things in life that are unavoidable that may affect us negatively, but how you choose to carry yourself is a choice. While you may have to do some inward work (whether that is on your own or with a professional) in addition to bodywork to achieve your desired posture, it is attainable.
Here are a few tips I share with massage clients on moving with ease:
These tips just brush the surface of taking advantage of the true potential of your posture. They also differ person-to-person depending on the body. It takes focus and awareness everyday to go back to this place, but, like with anything worth doing, practice will bring you to your physical truth. Just remember you can find ease, fluidity and relaxation in your heart, body and mind and still have a quiet confidence that is electric and empowering. Take up space in the world! The Universe is expanding. You might as well be, too.
Jenny Bork is a licensed massage therapist who specializes in stress management, chronic pain and movement education. She is currently accepting new clients.