How many times were you told to stand up straight as a kid? It turns out that how our bodies take shape, how they hold their structure and alignment, are also expressions of our overall state of health and wellbeing, both in the moment and in the future.
Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy similarly attested to this in her TED talk and book about power postures and their positive effects on our physiology, particularly on our hormones.
In our practice, we often see clients that suffer from digestive issues, many of which are intensified by stress. These symptoms can be supported in part by correcting their standing posture, their body position when eating, by opening the spine and chest for deeper breathing, and so on.
Moshe Feldenkrais observed that “All negative emotion is expressed [in the body] as flexion”. Thomas Myers, the great mind behind Anatomy Trains, further describes stress-induced bending, stooping, or laxity in the body as the “hunch of anger, the slump of depression, or the cringe of fear”.
These defensive postures result from both conscious and unconscious stressors in our daily lives and environments. They can inhibit healthy function by keeping our bodies in the energy depleting fight-or-flight mode (governed by the sympathetic nervous system).
Misaligned postures limit range of motion and balance, reduce blood and oxygen flow to vital systems, crimp and cramp organs from performing their functions fully, and ultimately set up a kind of “deficit spending” system that makes it difficult for the body to replenish or fully utilize its resources.
How we stand, how we sit, and how we carry ourselves matters. It affects not only our digestion and structural integrity but also the very ways we see and feel ourselves in the world.
So if you notice that you’re slouching as you read this, or if you tend to let your chin drop forward when you do “mindless” activities like flip through social media screens, read, work at the computer, play video games, or watch TV, take each noticing as a chance to reinforce a better pattern.
Relax your muscles. Release the tension in your shoulders. Stand or sit up tall with your back straight and the back of your neck long. Breathe fully in and out, and feel the love your body returns to you tenfold!