If you had a magic wand and were able to give people “Good Posture” many health benefits would happen directly or indirectly.
As they altered their head position, straightened their necks a little and lengthened their spines, other subtle unseen changes would occur. The shoulders would widen and stop falling forwards; the ribs would no longer be fixed and held; the breathing mechanism would work naturally. The spine would stop compressing and the natural arches would become operational. You would see a change in how the pelvis is positioned. The stomach area would flatten and the whole torso would expand. The lower limbs would adjust. The overall effect would be a lengthening and widening of the structure. The forces and pressures on the joints would be appropriate—just the correct muscle activity. With this new and improved arrangement the person who underwent this transformation would feel very different; no longer hampered by their bad posture, the sense of freedom would make them feel wonderful and free. And if they were able to flick from the old to the new, or before and after, they would be shocked at how they had allowed their posture to become so bad.
Yet once transformed to this new good posture, could they make use of it? When this person decides to take a step or sit down in a chair, what would happen? Experience tells me that as soon as this newly-poised person makes the decision to move, their old postural experience would operate and the old bad posture would come back. What else could happen? They would not be able to hold onto the new arrangement. The old habit would kick in. The old messages would be sent to the muscles and slumping and collapsing of the body would occur. Or if they made a special effort to hold the new posture, this effort would result in a very stiff, uncoordinated, rigid and ungainly movement. Old aches and pains would return.
So what we realise is posture is not an end in itself. No; it is a result of other factors. We learn how to slump; we have practiced doing it for years. We do it all the time—at our desks, on the train, standing in a queue, when we golf or run or play tennis. People even slump when they are happy and healthy.
F.M. Alexander never used the expression “posture” in his writings on the Technique. He preferred to use the term “stature”, and he talked about a lengthening or shortening of it. We function better when we lengthen. The emphasis should be on preventing shortening when we do our daily activities. The skill, then, is needed to understand how to stop the wrong thing from happening. How do you learn to stop slumping or collapsing the body if this is what you have always done? The instruction to keep the back straight is of little value; most have tried this and failed.
This is where lessons in the Alexander Technique help. A skilled Teacher can give you the experience of what “Good Posture” might be. This will be a new experience, will feel wrong, and may not even be believed until, with the aid of a mirror, you see it. With this new sensory understanding of what is required the possibility of change will be within one’s grasp. The Technique will help you bridge the gap of theory to practice. You will know the instant you have reverted back to a slump. But more importantly you will have the practical knowledge of how to alter it almost immediately. Not only this, but you will be able to drop or ignore all the misleading information we are all told about in magazines and leaflets on how to get “good posture”. All those misconceptions, all those wasted efforts, all those disappointments a thing of the past. And the future—one to look forward to with “good posture in all your activities, even when asleep.” You will, by re-educating yourself, be able to trust your own judgement on this rather important subject.
You will have the magic wand.