Archive for alignment

Strong Posture

Stability in Movement

Ability to maintain your structure in balance with ease and grace.  Look at the picture of a Mountain woman.  See the ease of alignment in this snapshot of posture.  Note that the posture is not static.  It allows for efficient organization for a task–whether it be active or passive in nature.

Posture is not holding a position.  Posture is a recognition of stability that can be expressed statically or in movement. The different factors that go into posture can be easily perceived from first looking at a static arrangement.  A posture that is easeful, graceful and efficient is strong.

Elements of a Strong Posture

  • Proper alignment of the structure
  • A balance of weight and forces efficiently throughout the structural arrangement
  • Balance of the facilitation and inhibition of the neuromusculoskeletal system
  • Allows for ease of multi-directional movements
  • Breathing
  • Leads towards a pleasant mindedness

Proper Alignment

There are many excellent models to demonstrate this integration of the structure in space.  The body can be looked at as an assembly of parts that we place in a certain relationship with the adjacent part.  This reduction of the structure to parts has advantages for ease of learning.  One of it’s main disadvantages is one is often left with trying to do and hold a particular alignment.  Again not always bad, just incomplete if one stops with the postural process at this point.

So keep all the parts aligned–OK.  Well first of all we all are a bit different.  Our structures have limitations in range of motion or flexibility.  So keeping your head with chin tucked and your chest up can be a problem for some.  If you have a flexed thoracic or chest spine that is rounded forward, you attempt to move the chest UP, can lead to increasing your lower back to thoraco-lumbar backward bending curve.

This pattern of our individual differences can and does lead to increased mal-alignment vs improved alignment.   These compensations we all make are often unnoticed.  They are silent in our sense of our posture.  If we have an experienced practitioner with us they can point this out.  Sometimes a telling view of (unknown) tagged photo, reveals these postural mis-alignments.

Our ability to feel is often more limited to our ability to see.  (Not true for all).  So seeing it helps.  Having a skillful eye give us feedback can be very revealing.

Also training our sensory positional and movement feedback system becomes integral.  One way to aid in this training is to start appreciating where you feel weight throughout the different areas of the body.

Balance of Weight and Force

Actually we start with developing a feeling sense of where the body is aligned.  The above sense of alignment is based on seeing our alignment usually.  This next aspect is complimentary and uses not the visual sense but this ability to sense weight and pressure.

Often we can start at the feet.  Always start with a question also.

Where do you feel the weight on your feet as are standing?

Do you feel more weight on the front or back of the foot–or is it even feeling?

Now for background on this section–it is important to notice that the question is on what you FEEL, not on what you Think you feel or just notice what your mind in your head would estimate, etc.  This discrimination of feeling vs thinking/knowing, can be actually hard for some people to distinguish.  They haven’t paid attention to what they feel in weight or pressure or force for a long time.  Their response is on what they think it should be.

Also when someone says they feel the weight evenly on their feet–you might observe that they are leaning backwards more and have more weight on their heels and very little on the front of their feet.  Are they wrong in what they said?

Absolutely not!  That is important to understand.  The question asked above was based on what they felt.  It was not based on what they are doing.  Do you see the difference here?  Intellectually I am sure you do.  As we work together I find that many do not really “get” the difference.  It is important to understand this distinction between knowing and feeling of weight when we are trying to develop greater and broader ways of sensing.

Remember doing is based on feeling/sensing information.  You can not button your clothing or zip your zipper if your finger tips have been numbed from the freezing cold.  Do you remember how fumbling your actions were then?

OK.  This training of posture is more than just standing tall or lengthening, etc.  There is as much training here as with any skill acquisition.  It can be made simple at first.  In relearning it doesn’t have to become laborious.  But in teaching it well you would be served well by knowing and feeling all these aspects that underlie sensing, learning and doing for creating strong yet dynamic postures.

Balance of Neuromuscular Facilitation and Inhibition

This can be a very long section.  Let me give a simple example of what I mean here.  In classes I teach, I will look for someone who stands in a classic sway back and has more of their weight obviously on their rear foot.  We will go through the above section of feeling weight, etc.

Next I will simple muscle test their elbow flexors as a group in standing.  Their elbow flexors 99/100 times test weak in their sway back and back weighted position.  Then simple manually help them stand in an easy neutral.  So there isn’t an extension pattern bias in their posture.  Retesting their elbow flexion results in demonstrably stronger elbow flexors.  Wow it seems like magic.  It is amazing every time.  The flexors are suddenly stronger.  Why?  I propose that the extension pattern in their first stance was inhibiting their flexors.  Simply balancing out this inhibition of the flexors through postural readjustment allowed more normal function of these same flexors.  No weeks of strength training needed.

This balancing of facilitation and inhibition patterns exist throughout posture and movement.  A lot of positive training changes can be accounted for from this model and this type of work.

Ease of Movement in Multiple Planes

When working to improve posture we must look at how it functions in movement.  Often when I just correct someones posture, they do it by holding something more.  They are trying to just do it better.  Standing better in the above example often is demonstrated by being stiff in ones posture.

If posture is looked at as a transition between movements, then we can become less stiff quickly.  If we have a forward head position.  Say we just correct it my doing that popular turtle movement of retracting the head and neck.  Well there are many things to feel in this relationship.  We will not cover the method of helping someone with a forward head posture per se at this time.

The idea is not in the simplistic and isolated cue of correction.  I want you to focus on how easy it can be to make these corrections if thinking about movement.  Now you have simply placed the head more over the upper back.  (I know this is artificial without addressing the other relationships–but bear with me, thanks).  Ask them to move the head by turning to look left and right.  Again work on this isolated cue of correcting the posture, but just add movement and then posture.  Repeat the posture with the movement.  Slowly or quickly sometimes the posture will become more easily repositioned without the previous stiffness.

There are many other ways of working with posture and movement together.  It becomes more dynamic.  I’m sure many are doing this combination.  It just can be refined more and more with all of these points together.


This is a key in life.  Right?  Not only because if you don’t–then you can’t (continue life).  But breath here helps coordinate all the aspects of the bodies reflex mechanisms with the voluntary mechanisms.  There is much to say about breath.   The most important is to establish normal diaphragmatic breathing rhythms in the new postures.  If you can breath well you can do well.  You will even be more sensitive in what you are aware of in posture and movement.

Breath is key not only for life itself, but in living of this life

Notice when someone stops breathing.  They stop feeling.  They become stiffer.  Posture implies movement.  Breath is the support of this movement.  Stop the breath or breathe shallowly and your posture and movement becomes shallow and imbalanced.

Pleasant Mindedness

Oh, this is so important.  In training, especially posture we not only hold our bodies but our emotions and mental focus.  Non of this is bad.  Just simply try encouraging:

Have a pleasant mind or

Are you enjoying?

Immediately I find them smiling and relaxing and enjoying.  Wow, this is also magic.  Having a pleasant mind while training is like breathing.  It makes all the difference in learning and acquiring new skills.

Now find out about your posture and work with some of these aspects.  Include those that may not be as familiar or used as much.  If there is any way I can help, just let me know.  If you are in the Northern California area, please consider a consult at one of my offices.

Postural Adaptation

Adapting to life through Posture

If you check out the above web site–you will see the work of Bill Dan.  A San Francisco artist that has a knack for balancing different shapes and sizes of rocks into an amazing display of “finding your center of gravity”.

This visual geometry of how you can show one segment finding it’s place of balance in relation to another segment makes me think of how we might organize our posture.  This sensory feedback of weight is critical.  It is not the only or possibly major feedback, but for this post it is the focus.  Also we are summating all the feedbacks dynamically in some integrated fashion.  Our maladaptive postures may actually be quite efficient for balancing ourselves at the moment.  Like the rocks in the picture–it is amazing we don’t fall over–or at least aren’t rushing to the Emergency Room more often.

It seems that we have posture defined statically and posture as in interim in our movement sequences.  In either case, we have a postural default that many of us keep coming back to.  (I know this is on interpretation of an observation, but continuing…).  When we evaluate someone or ourselves, we discover both movement and postural changes in and of  the structure and it’s relationships.  Say we have done a fair job and make some educated guesses on how to “improve” the system.  We look good for awhile–moments to hours and possibly (generously) for several days.  Usually in a short time our posture is back in that amazing rock balancing act.

Is this return to our “default” posture because we haven’t done the right exercise or done enough of it or what?  I’m sure this question becomes important.  I’m learning more all the time of what I don’t know (which is actually expanding faster as I know more–such an oddity is this inverse relationship of knowing less as you know more)  But forget the digression and let’s return to something solid like posture and rocks.

This postural alignment is maybe more fluid and interactive than just balancing out the mechanics of the musculoskeletal system.  The interactive nervous system must play a significant role here.  I’m wondering about how important should we be looking at emphasizing the sensory input of center of mass.  Working to highlight the awareness of this input and exercising to train the shifts of these different sensations may be significant for helping to change the “default” posture.  Of course doing all the re-balancing that “corrective” strategies gives is important.  But the emphasis of “what one is sensing proprioceptively and kinesthetically becomes important also.  How important and how to utilize this sensory training is one of my interests.

I think that correcting posture and then improving movement are great strategies.  I also find that spending time having a person develop the sensitivity to recognize say a balanced posture that allows for effective movement is extremely important.  Often I will have the person move in and out of their postural adaptations.  Spending time in each position until they “feel” and can more readily recognize the different sensations and adaptive postural changes.  I wonder if you are working in these ways.  I’m sure many are including this but clinically we might approach it differently and spend different amounts of time, etc.