If I Change My Posture, Will It Change My Life?

Not the author. Image credit: http://www.etsy.com/listing/68233364/store-closing-50-off-stand-up-straight

Not the author. Image credit: http://www.etsy.com/listing/68233364

I’ve got this theory about my posture.  I’ve been thinking about it for so long now that I am convinced it’s true.  Surely, there are hundreds of studies/articles to back up my anecdotal evidence, but I’m not looking them up.  (In case they don’t exist.)

My brilliant notion is that if I change my posture, my life will change.

My shoulders are droopy; they curve forward toward the ground.  Even at my desk right now, I can feel them creeping up as my neck cramps and my spine rounds.  None of this is new– I’ve had this same posture for years.  If I had to pinpoint the era when this ergonomic travesty began, I’d say about 1989.  That’s when my breasts arrived, uninvited and unexpected, even though their arrival was foreshadowed during Human Health class in fifth grade.  Since then, I’ve spent most of my time hunched, adjusting my posture into all manner of unnatural poses to minimize the size of my breasts.  (Relax, Freud-o-philes, I’m well aware that this has something to do with my profoundly uneasy relationship to my sexuality, but let’s just take that as a given and move on to my brilliant thesis.)

Last weekend I was standing at the park pushing Simon in the swing, and I decided to try an experiment.  For five minutes I am going to stand up straight even if it means my breasts stick out farther than I am comfortable.  I kept Simon aloft by pushing him with my left hand and took a deep breath.  Five minutes.  I held my phone in the right hand so I could time myself.  I never even made it thirty seconds.

OK. Fine.  So five minutes was too long.

I altered the experiment based on my constitutional inability to stand up straight for the same amount of time it takes for Simon to suck down a cheese puff.    I looked around the park and evaluated everyone’s posture.  I saw a fit woman in a red tank top whose spine was an unbending vertical plane.  There was a father with a baby strapped to his chest in a Bjorn and a toddler on his back, but it seemed unfair to judge his posture since he had 40lbs of offspring clinging to his person.  As I watched, I thought about all the things I could do to make myself stand up taller.  Yoga, obviously.  New bras, definitely.  Deeper breaths, more meditation, a massage here and there, being more present– hell maybe even Crossfit.

By God, I had all the answers.  Soon I’d be straight as a West Texas highway.

But like the overweight person who knows all about exercise and nutrition, I know that doing those things may be essential, but they aren’t enough.  And they aren’t the starting point for me. The real starting point is this question: Am I ready to stand up straight– to be taller, to be more ME and to stop hunching and hiding parts of myself that scare me? And the answer is not yes or a no, but a surge of feeling.  One part is excitement and that’s the part of me that shouts YES! I am done curving toward the Earth like someone who’s guilty.  I am ready to embrace the power and authority that comes with owning all parts of my body and refusing to stoop.  Another part of me is afraid to change because it’s been a long 25 year run with these curved shoulders– it’s more than a habit, it’s an instinct.  And I’m going to have to deal with myself in a way that I wouldn’t if I kept on curving.

When I think of standing up straight– shoulders back and chest out– I feel both more vulnerable and more powerful.  A tiny voice in my head says who do you think you are standing like someone who is important? And the answer to that question, which I take seriously even though the voice is bitchy and makes me want to kick it with my cowboy boot, is I don’t know but I’m going to find out.

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45 thoughts on “If I Change My Posture, Will It Change My Life?

  1. I hope you’re ready to be you. I adore the you that’s you. And yes, as a yoga teacher, I really do believe that posture is life changing. Stand up tall, girl!

  2. I’m a sloucher, too. My mom used to thump me in the back and tell me to stop hunching over like Quasimodo. She’s a lovely woman.

  3. I found this really interesting, I also sit and stand in a hunch like position. I feel uncomfortable when I stand up straight, boobs pointing forward. Although, I only feel uncomfortable because it seems like a lot of work to stand up straight. I’m lazy that way. I’m going to try to do it though, I would hate to be a true hunch back later in life.
    Great post.

  4. Good for you! Stand tall and proud. Just don’t be shocked if you get flirted with by one of the cute dads at the playground. P.S. As a lifetime member of the Itty Bitty Titty Committee, I do the exact opposite – stand up super straight, chest out, to make mine look bigger! The grass is always greener…

  5. I was always hunched over, but the Egoscue exercises are changing that, and it feels awesome to be standing up straight – not only does it look better, but all the energetic benefits you articulated so well are there when I let them be – more than ever.

  6. I love these words. It sounds like you are ready to embrace the power and authority to end the hunching. That small voice might never go away, but the answer can overpower it. So inspiring – I love it!

  7. my grandmother used to walking around putting books on our heads, saying “Stomach in, chest out, shoulders back.” it has stayed with me, and any time i see a drooper bring it out. get yourself a book and stick out those boobs. it also makes you look thinner… 😉

  8. It’s not the bra (mostly). Think Wendy Davis. Imagine your boobs chanting gay pride slogans: we’re here, we’re (not) queer, get used to it. Be fabulous (or fake it) and dammit: TAKE UP SPACE IN THE WORLD.

  9. Just your headline made me sit up straighter at the computer! Did anyone else have teachers who put yardsticks down students’ backs inside their shirts to teach them to sit up straight?

    I love how you have made the connection between posture and self-image. For me, it is not the standing up straight (when you’re 5’1″ tall, you ALWAYS want to look taller), but learning not to cross my arms. In reality I’m trying to cover my big stomach, but it comes across as unapproachable, grouchy, hard-line, etc. Our bodies DO tell our secrets!

  10. For some reason while I was reading this post my mind kept flashing to that scene in A League of Their Own where all the girls are in finishing school and the instructor walks around saying “heads up, backs straight.” I love that you wrote this, and hope that you are ready to walk straight, and show the whole world your fabulous self.

  11. If I slouch my muffin top is worse. Boobs must stick out farther than my belly. Great post. Go. Be tall! Be you.

  12. As always, I totally relate to this. My boobs caused me to slouch forever, too, and sometimes I still do. Exercise helps, but I can only be bothered with that when my pants get too tight, and then as soon as they’re not, I quit again. Genius right? But the real deal is exactly what you said: are you read to stand taller, and be YOU. I hope so. The world needs all of you.

  13. I completely agree, there’s a lot to be said for standing up straight and sticking your girls out for the world to see! My posture depends on my mood, it can be extremely liberating to strut… but put me in a swimming costume and you’ll find me hiding in the fetal position 😉

  14. I LOVE your theory and will join you in standing up tall and straight today. I may need a few tries (and some decent drugs), but I’ll keep breathing through it. Great post!!

      • Okay, there’s also this head massager that was my favourite thing in the catalogue: “Melt away stress and tension. Enter a state of euphoria. It’s like having thousands of tiny fingers stimulate your scalp!” AND it makes you look like a space alien. That’s gotta work for at least a couple more issues. (It’s called the Somawave Helmet.) And I don’t even work for SkyMall.

  15. There’s a reason that I feel most confident in a pair of tap shoes or wearing ballet slippers. You’d think I’d hate my reflection in those wall-covering mirrors, especially with my tiny tern students, but size 14/16 me feels great because I’m using my body the way it was intended to be used. And I always take my space. I swear that it has been better for my confidence than just about anything this year.

  16. I can so relate to this. After a couple of decades of doing it, it’s habit and I’ve had a hard time undoing it now, even with exercise. But I’m trying! Hope you kick it.

  17. Oh, by God, do I get this!!! I’m 5’11 so I slump horribly because I hate feeling like an amazon woman. My granny used to smack me in the back of my head and tell me to straighten up. But I see myself in home movies, and I’m all do I really look like that? Like a candy cane at the bottom of the stocking? All humped and broken and ugly. So I get this. I stand straight for a few seconds and suddenly feel arrogant. Great post.

  18. I understand that there’s some metaphor in this post, but I am going to speak (eh, type) literally here. You must hold your breasts up high. You owe it to those of us who are 30 (AND BREASTFEEDING FOR CRYING OUT LOUD) and still waiting for puberty to reach our chests.

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