Comfortable, Beautiful Posture with the Feldenkrais Method(R)

Sunday afternoon at the NiaMoves Studio, it happened again.

“It” was the quiet, rapt attention of complete absorption in the present moment, shared simultaneously and individually by ten people.  The topic was posture — probably the one aspect of our beings for which we criticize and judge ourselves the most. “It” was a gentle, profound transformation, brought about by new ideas and new experiences. “It” is the reason why someone would keep coming back, again and again, after their first Feldenkrais class.

Watch the video:

It’s interesting to note that the Feldenkrais Method produces these changes without stretching, strengthening, or struggling.  Just easy, gentle movements, done with great awareness.  When you can sense yourself more fully, feel the force of gravity traveling through your bones, and easily expand your movement choices (nothing is forbidden, anything is permitted), it seems that natural, elegant, graceful carriage just EMERGES.  What a great feeling!

Here are the “take-aways” from the workshop:

Posture Myth #1:  Your spine should be straight.
How much back pain and awkwardness have resulted from this misconception?  Viewed from the side, your spine has curves that are “architecturally” necessary for proper cushioning against shocks, and for freedom of movement.  Our aesthetic of “good posture,” which we describe as “standing up straight,” is actually a spine that is long and vertical — but not straight.

Posture Myth #2:  You should have “good posture” all the time.
We looked at pictures of a professional golfer at various stages of his swing; of Lance Armstrong riding in the 2009 Tour de France; of a martial artist in “ready” position; and of an opera singer as Mimi in La Boheme, in the last scene, where she is lying in bed and dying of tuberculosis (as she floats a beautiful high B-flat!).  NONE of these pictures illustrated a traditional notion of “good posture.”  Clearly, there is a disconnect between our ideas about posture, and the realities of peak performance.  Moshe Feldenkrais actually coined a word, “acture,” (in contrast to “posture”) to reflect the active and dynamic attributes of graceful movement.

Posture Myth #3:  “Bad posture” must be corrected, or you risk long-term problems.
This is a tricky one.  I would argue that the correction and criticism about posture that many endure, unceasingly, from a young age, is anxiety producing, emotionally damaging, and does as much harm if not more so than a little slouching would ever cause.   Criticism from our parents, teachers, and other authority figures is soon incorporated so that the disapproval comes from within.  A person subject to constant criticism will not have the self-confidence and sturdy self-esteem that produces upright and strong posture.  Not gonna happen.

The Feldenkrais Method does not correct.  Rather, it provides a process of experimentation and exploration, guided by sensing, that allows one to self-regulate, adjust, and adapt to changing situational demands, and according to one’s internal, subjective experience of pleasure, comfort, and ease. There is no position that is judged to be bad, or good.  The problem is not in the position itself, but in the lack of variety in movements. It’s the getting stuck that causes the problems.  So many contraptions, braces, devices, and exercises reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of posture, movement, and dynamic living — and cause more problems than they solve.  No change in posture — or anything else — can happen without awareness and sensation of what you are doing.

How to have good posture?  Of course, I recommend you get yourself to a Feldenkrais class, and change your posture for GOOD.  In the meantime —

DO experience and sense yourself — DON’T judge
DO remain flexible — DON’T “fix” or become rigid
DO include your whole self in movement — DON’T have tunnel vision of just one body part
DO explore options — DON’T limit your choices
DO pursue sustainability — DON’T settle for a short-term solution

Good posture can be graceful, fluid, easy, sensual, and pleasurable.  Come and learn how!

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I’ve always enjoyed images of the Roman god, Janus, for whom the month of January is named. The end of one year, and the beginning of another, occur simultaneously. We’re looking forward to the future and back at the past at the same time.

Moshe Feldenkrais probably would have seen this as a classic case of “cross motivation:” attempting to accomplish two contradictory actions in the same moment, resulting in anxiety, muscular tension, overall inefficiency in accomplishing either, and possible breakdown. Now THAT explains a lot about why the holidays are as they are for many of us!

If you try to move in two directions at once, you’ll find that you have come to a stop. Trying to move in both means that you can move in neither. The failure to see this, and to struggle against it, results in frustration, anxiety, and everything else that goes with it. However, you could stop, look both ways, and then choose how to proceed.

We don’t like to stop, we like to go. Yet, pausing to stop can be seen as a dynamic action, if chosen freely. You stop at crossroads.

All religious traditions point to the same truth, providing the opportunity to reflect on natural and personal change, of moving from darkness into light. All of them advise: watch where you’re going!

This looking forward and backwards can be a lovely, poised place. Not a place of struggle or of static “balance,” but of neutrality. The neutral place, sought by martial artists, is the place from which movement in any direction is possible. The neutral place is the place from which effortless and effective action springs.

This kind of neutrality will help me to move through my occasional holiday “funks.” I can navigate emotional swells without capsizing. I envision the fun that lies ahead, in my personal life, in my relationships, and in my work. To leave the old year behind requires a shift, a gear shift, into neutral and through it. I’ll clear off the desk, straighten up the files, weed out the email folders, and clean the house. My work in the Feldenkrais Method helps me to find neutral. I’ve had lots of practice, exploring through movement, how the actions I take and the choices I make can move me into what’s next.