One of the very first things we notice about others on a subconscious level is posture and body language. We form impressions about people we don't know, often without conscious understanding of how we arrived at those ideas. An example of how I came to notice this: when I first started dating my partner, Austin, I went to the O'Henry Pun-off in Austin, Texas and noticed him up on the stage performing the role of moderator. I sat in the audience a little irate that he did not mention he was doing this. (What's up with that guy?) After a while, I realized that the guy on stage who looks and sounds a lot like Austin, was probably his brother. Now that I know his brother, they look nothing alike, except for the same mouth, his brother is taller, has curly hair and more of it, their eyes look nothing alike. I was picking up on posture and body language - and it was screaming at me - this is the guy! Now that I am familiar with both of them, I can't see the body language similarities the way I did when the relationship was new.
Our posture lets others know our habitual states of mind: are we upbeat? Are we chronically depressed or worried? Do we move with grace and vitality, or do we drag ourselves through life? Are we optimistic, or do we tend to look for things to go wrong? Our physical presence is constantly broadcasting messages to others, whether we care to or not. Having been on the planet long enough to observe how others age, one thing I have noticed about postural deterioration in aging is that working out with weights, or even various forms of ethnic dance do not prevent the hunching or gait issues I associate with less-than-graceful aging. At a recent yoga workshop I attended, the instructor said something along the lines of, "forgive yourself for your posture, it's not yours." We get it from our parents, our culture, our lifestyle habits, and from our mental and emotional habits. Improving posture requires diligent, but relaxed, practice. We can't force ourselves into "good" posture, we relax our patterns of holding (body/mind/emotions) and ALLOW an upright, comfortable posture.
Nia is a movement and lifestyle practice and a lot of the postural cuing I use in my classes comes from Alexander Technique, one of the movement forms the Nia Technique is based on. "Sensing yourself being lifted from the top" or "being drawn up like like a plant towards the sun" offers a sense of lightness and ease in sensing our way into a comfortable, upright posture. Other cues you hear me say might be"lifting your heart" and "allowing the shoulder blades to slide down the back." What does any of this have to do with the Reach Routine?
This week we are learning the Reach Routine, developed by my first Nia teacher and trainer, Holly Nastasi. Reach is designed to help release holding and tension around the shoulder girdle. We think of the shoulder girdle as the scapula (shoulder blade), the humerous (upper arm bone), and the clavicle, the small bone that rests at the anterior top of the rib cage and connects the humerous to the sternum. True freedom in the shoulder girdle allows for full range of motion, lots of space between the shoulder and the ear, and an open-hearted posture (the shoulder blades can relax down and back, and the shoulders do not hunch forward). We will be moving in ways that promote flexibility, mobility of the shoulder joints, and stabilizing the shoulders by building more strength in the core muscles that support the arms and shoulders. I hope to see you in class (either Timberhill Athletic Club, or Chintimini this week. See my schedule in the sidebar.
What kind of messages do you want your posture to send out to the world? Open-heartedness? Happiness? Ease? Freedom? Uprightness? Your steady, diligent, relaxed, gentle movement practice can get you there.
For a little more on posture see The Science Behind Posture and How it Affects Your Brain.