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Your Trashy Postural Habits, and How They Are the Key to Uprightness

The moment you start thinking you need to meet the world with good posture – it's over; you're screwed. You’ve empowered the belief that being upright means you can’t really be yourself. It’s too easy to jettison our spontaneity and sense of humor in an effort to become a statue of good posture.

If we don't give ourselves the chance to see and acknowledge our habits – however slumped or depraved they may feel – we will likely continue to be hounded by them. Here's an example: if I have made slumping "bad," if I have some judgment like it makes me look lazy or weak, as soon as I realize I'm slumping I will tend to bolt out of it like I just realized my fly was open. Part of me actually can't stand my own slump. It has come to represent both my laziness and my inability to achieve something as simple as sit up straight!

So what will I do instead? Likely, the opposite of slumping which is to try to adopt some military, rigid uprightness that I cannot sustain. We have a saying in the Alexander Technique: the opposite of wrong is also, sometimes, wrong.

Powered by self-flagellation, I pinball back and forth between slumping and overarching. This is physically exhausting and disappointing since I never arrive at the ideal of ease uprightness brandished on the cover of yoga magazines.

How come I look like such a caveman?

Well here's the good news: you don't have to try to discard or forget all your bad physical habits (which should be reassuring since this is impossible). The process of becoming an awake, upright human being means relating with our habits in a compassionate way. The less we fight against our tendency to hike up our shoulders or lock our knees, the more we free ourselves up to actually change. We can’t change what is already showing up; we can only change our response to it.

My 16-month-old daughter is a great teacher in this regard. When I try to leave the house in the morning, if I rush around and ignore her pleas and pant-grabbing for attention, she grows more upset and I can't get anything done. But if I sit on the floor and meet her in a present, welcoming way, before I know it she's scampering off and could care less that I'm leaving.

When we don't fight against our habits quite so much we find that they have less hold on us. So the next time you notice you're slumping or out of sorts physically, you can acknowledge in a friendly way whatever you’re experiencing. And just for a moment or two, remain in the place between noticing the habit and fixing it.

Your path to a healthy, sustainable posture depends on getting to know the habits which interfere. Knowledge of what tightens or pulls you down, in an intimate and not just analytical way, is an important step on your progress towards easeful upright posture. Your stiff neck or tight shoulders become your compass, which is your system telling you what to release in order to reveal the posture you were born with.

Dan Cayer is a nationally certified teacher of the Alexander Technique.  His next posture workshop for meditators at IDP, Letting Go of Fixation, is February 2nd.  You can register at this link:  http://theidproject.org/events/2014/02/02/meditation-posture-clinic-letting-go-fixation

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