Some of the things I have learnt about sitting up straight.
When I was young we were told to sit up straight, I particularly remember it at meal times. I am grateful for it, sitting up tall does change the way I feel in my mind, it increases my sense of confidence and helps me to feel more lively. But … there are a few things I’ve learnt about sitting up straight that I didn’t know before which have changed my life and given my body a new freedom.
When I was told to sit up straight as a child I would immediately thrust my chest upwards, pulling my lower back forwards, and stay there dutifully. (Hah! I bet my mum will laugh at that and say: “No you didn’t! You never sat still!”) Well, maybe I stayed there for a short time. In my 20’s I had lower back ache, yoga helped. When I was about 25 years old I saw a photo of myself sitting on the grass. My lower back was curved forward like a banana ready to split. How come so many people commented on my ‘excellent posture’ when it looked like that?
Well it wasn’t excellent, it was troublesome. I have continued to practice yoga for over 20 years, as well as exploring other bodywork techniques. What I have learnt is that I am more like a tree than I thought. I am strong, and I am supple. And I have learnt of course that my mum is right! Or at least - no-one should ever sit still!
Like a tree our bodies are continuously making fine adjustments. Our incredible supple, living, growing breathing muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones (yes bones are alive) need movement. They are not dead, they are not like the legs of a wooden table fixed in their final creation. Our bodies are breathing, living, and constantly busy; there’s a lot they need to get done, and there’s a lot involved in doing it, they need to move and fine tune themselves. The slightest adjustment of one muscle inevitably requires the slightest adjustment of another, subtly re-aligning the bones they attach to, and so the chain reaction continues. Sitting still is not about holding our bodies in a fixed position, it’s about allowing our bodies to carry out the minute (or not so minute) adjustments it needs. Sitting still is about feeling comfortable, allowing freedom for adjustments.
I highly recommend that next time you sit still, maybe at your desk or at dinner, notice your body sway. If it feels stiff or rigid then make a conscious sway from the tummy or the lower back, let it do whatever it wants. It doesn’t have to be big (though it could be), no one else needs to know.