As a kid, someone I revered told me that if I constantly looked down, my upper back would eventually stay curved over. A dowager’s hump would form. It would be permanent. A very scary thought!
Now I know that a dowager’s hump is more complicated than just habitual poor posture. As a child, though, these words made an impact. I began to think about how I was standing both inside and outside the dance studio. Proper bodily alignment in the studio had helped me improve my dance technique. It made sense that standing tall elsewhere might make a difference in my non-dance world as well.
When I got my vision tested in the second grade and wound up wearing glasses for my severe nearsightedness, I realized that poor eyesight might have contributed to my slumped posture. I had to get closer to perceive the words on the page of a book and I needed to be closer to the ground to make out where I was walking. The advent of glasses helped me look up. I felt more in control and confident because I could see the world around me better. While I disliked the heaviness of those first glasses – pink and winged but highly fashionable at the time – I loved seeing more clearly and my posture straightened.
I continued to dislike the actual wearing of glasses throughout grade school especially when I was outside running, playing or dancing. I would take them off but I kept my head up. By the time I was a freshman in high school, I’d only put my glasses on when I was in an academic classroom. I thought boys wouldn’t pay attention to me if I walked the school hallways with my glasses on.
It was during this time that I began to unconsciously memorize what all my friends were wearing each morning as we met at our lockers. It was easier for me to differentiate colors as I walked by the milling students than facial features. I recognized my friends by watching the colors that approached. Gradually, I also noticed how those colored shapes moved. Soon I could tell who was approaching by the way a person walked or stood. I also began to sense that person’s mood and emotional state.
What I was comprehending was that we communicate with each other by non-verbal means, not just with words. With practice, I knew instantly how a friend or family member was feeling before they even spoke. Posture, both still and ambulatory, revealed volumes.
Sometimes these observations got me in trouble such as when a person didn’t want anyone to know how they were really feeling. Acting on the information I learned from studying non-verbal clues could feel invasive to others because I was getting underneath their masks. At those moments I needed to respect the mask, even if it was superficial and false. Refining my observation of posture helped me to know when to pretend not to see what was underneath.
Whether we are consciously aware of what our posture says about how we feel, the message is being sent. How we stand at a given moment indicates what our current outlook is. Are we excited, sad, bored, relaxed? Posture can demonstrate whether we want to be where we are – in this instant; during this week; at this phase; or in this year.
Posture becomes an indicator of our attitude towards our lives. Posture can illustrate our personal philosophy.
What are you saying?
© 2010 by Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.