What is Posture? (Part 1)

Read Time: 2 min

So what is posture?

If I have a student who comes to me for help with improving her posture I start by finding out what she means by posture. Because how she chooses to think about, define and conceptualize posture is going to impact how she is going to try to improve it. And the stumbling block to improving her posture can very well start with how she is thinking about posture.

Historically Alexander teachers have refused to use the word posture or to say that what they did had anything to do with posture. This is mainly because society’s common conception of posture creates its own problems. In place of the term posture, Alexander teachers often would and still frequently use the terms poise, Use, ease of movement, balance, and coordination.

man standing at attention in military posture
Good posture is not about standing up straight

The all too common suggestions we are given for improving our posture shed some light on how most of society defines posture:

  • Sit or stand up straight!
  • Pull your shoulders back and down!
  • Hold your tummy in!
  • Tuck your tail!
  • Flatten your back!

What do all of these suggest? First, a right position or shape we need to adopt. Second, a degree of effort we need to exert to make that position or shape happen and keep it all from falling apart! Exhausting!

Perhaps even more importantly, the above also suggests that posture is simpler than it really is.

If it were simple, then lifting your chin and pulling your shoulders back and down would be a quick fix. Done!

It is important to realize that posture is not as simple as standing up straight. In fact I might go as far to suggest that it is not about standing up straight at all.

As an Alexander teacher, I have no problem using the word posture. It is a word that we all know and relate to in some way or another. However, I conceptualize posture differently.

Take some time to think about the following three statements . In the second half of this post, which I will publish tomorrow, I will talk more in depth about them:

• Posture is not a right position
• Posture is an integral part of everything you do
• Posture is not just physical

Picture credit: Body Learning by Michael Gelb

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