Stop Trying To Stand Up Straight

A big part of your communication comes through body language. Body language can significantly alter, not only how you come across towards others,  but also how confident you feel about yourself. Fake it until you make it? Adopting a good body posture seems to be the best strategy.

But what’s a good body posture? Your mom knew what a good body posture was when she constantly told you to ‘stand up straight’ and to ‘stop slouching’. But you, being in the midst of your puberty, obviously didn’t listen to her. Now you’re 20-something ( or younger/older) and you run into all the research on the benefits of having a good posture. Of course, you also want to have these benefits so you do your utmost best to remind yourself to pay attention to your posture.

Still the question remains what a good body posture consists of. A good body posture is one where, starting from your pelvis and lower back up until your neck, your backbone is straightened out. That’s what people and your mother mean when they talk about standing up straight.

posture

Good body posture

But the issue here is  that  you’ll inadvertently slip back into old habits and that trying to radically alter you body posture in a short period of time will lead to frustration or overcompensation.

Now this article might seem to be targeting young men but what I’m saying actually applies to everyone; we all live in circumstances which structurally impose bad postures. Sitting behind a computer 8 hours per day 5 or more days a week isn’t very beneficial.

This also means that assuming responsibility for these circumstances is unfair to yourself.

Thus, you might wonder, if constantly reminding myself to stand up straight doesn’t work, what does?

There’s two steps involved: the first one is to accept your body as it is and the second one is to tackle the problem at its roots.

The concept of unconditional acceptance plays a pivotal role in Buddhism. Most people assume this is only acceptance of your thoughts and emotions (mind) but it applies just as much to your body. In fact, a clear distinction between mind and body doesn’t even exist in Buddhism, but this matter deserves a different post.

Thus, the first step is to unconditionally accept your body as it is and sit and stand in whichever way feels the most comfortable.

Even if your backbone has a shape similar to the S on superman’s chest.

Even if your fysiotherapist tells you most of your physical problems are because of your bad posture.

Even if your mom tells u to stand up straight.

Now the second step is to take the issue at its roots.

Last year I was following a course on public speaking . One of the things my instructor tried to drill into the students was that your body posture is the most important thing in public speaking. This is so because it allows you to use the full potential of your vocal boxes, be more confident and in control while talking and give a better impression on your audience. So every lesson consisted of straightening our backs and reflecting on our postures.

A good friend of mine later on did the same course. We discussed how the instructor emphasized a good body posture and he remarked how difficult it is to maintain a good posture because of all the unused muscles that you suddenly need to use. As a matter of fact, there is at least 10 muscles active around your lower back and you need your lower back to lift the rest of your upper body.

screen-shot-2015-01-18-at-6-24-37-pm

See, there’s at least 10 muscles active around your lower back

So how do I train these muscles, you might wonder? By starting yoga, by taking lower-back exercises into your workout regimen or by planking.

If you do these things consistently you’ll start to notice that your body postures changes gradually towards a better default mode. Some point will come where slouching doesn’t feel comfortable anymore and you’ll start wondering why in heaven’s name you ever slouched or didn’t sit up straight.

I can talk from experience. I still slouch occasionally and I sometimes catch myself not standing up straight. But after half a year of consistently practicing yoga and strengthening the muscles in my lower back, sitting in a position which is bad for my back also feels bad. Now, whenever I sit in front of my laptop I prefer to sit in half-lotus stance and a straightened back.

So my take-home advice is to stop trying to discipline yourself into standing up straight but to shape your circumstances in such a way where it feels comfortable to adopt a good posture. At the end of the day we’re imperfect beings with a limited amount of willpower and most good things take time and consistency.

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2 thoughts on “Stop Trying To Stand Up Straight

  1. I feel like i’ve gone through similar stages you described, S-shaped pain & slouching, dealing with overtly simplistic worldviews of physical therapist, yoga and planking – (which according to my most recent physical therapist has no benefits at all, because its passive training of the muscles). acceptance remains a challenge, pain is a problem child and sitting in lecture halls is reminiscent of backpain purgatory. also, you’ve motivated me to make my own blogpost site. thanks! finding the comfort zone in training should always carry greater weight than gravity defying perfection.

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  2. As someone who is used to small back-pains I have found out that the trick to training the lower back is to adjust your whole area and lifestyle. As you say, back exercise, yoga etc., for me, a huge change was made when i started adjusting seats, stretching, adjusting bed and pillows and making constant reminders for myself to adjust my posture!

    Great post!

    Like

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