The Single Fundamental Principle of Good Posture

I’ve spent about three years now studying posture. My posture is now “finished”. It took three years to figure it all out because, in all the vast resources available, not one of them spelled it out in terms of a single, actionable principle. I am going to do that now:

  • All posture problems are caused by muscle shortening. Stretch out every single muscle in your entire body to its natural length, and you will have perfect posture by default.

A relaxed muscle is not necessarily a lengthened muscle

Shortened muscles are caused by habit. When a muscle is contracted for a long period of time, it loses its “muscle memory” of its correct length, and stays short even if it is relaxed. Muscles can be contracted by both unconscious emotional processes (e.g. becoming tense due to anger or anxiety) and conscious actions (e.g. using a computer).

Imagine for a moment a piece of string. You squash it up so it’s short (this is muscle contraction). Now, you stop squashing it together (this is a “relax” signal). If left alone, that piece of string won’t magically relengthen by itself. It will stay bunched up. You need other strings to pull on its ends to stretch it back out to its original length.

Ordinarily in real life, if you were doing something that involved a muscle being contracted for a long period of time, when you resumed normal activities (such as getting up and walking around) it would first relax and then be stretched out by those other activities (other muscles would help lengthen it). So, if you’ve been sitting down for a few hours, when you stand up the muscles that were contracted would first be sent a “relax” signal, and then the normal motion of walking around would stretch out the muscle back to its natural length.

There are two problems which can occur, however, and which cause habituated “bad posture” (chronically shortened muscles):

The first is that sometimes the relax signal is not sent to the contracted muscle — particularly where the muscle was contracted by an emotional process. We see this with anxiety for example, where the stomach muscles tend to tighten and pull the head down (as part of the body’s “contract” response, seen in full effect in animals when they curl up into a ball). So people walk around with tight muscles because their emotions are continuing to send “contract” signals to those muscles. Anger is another example which would cause jaw muscles to stay tight. A “relax” signal could be sent via meditation, or some other purposefully relaxing activity, but often people do not take these steps required to send those “relax” signals.

A non-emotional example is extended computer use. Walking away from a computer, the thought processes that were in effect during the computer use are often still going on, so the “relax” signal fails to get sent to the arms, shoulders, and other muscles that were contracted while working on the computer, since your mind is still operating in that modality (most thought processes have correlating muscle contraction patterns which take place across the body).

The second problem is when normal activities such as walking around are not sufficient to fully stretch out the shortened muscle, even if it has received a “relax” signal. With computer use as an example once again, perhaps your shoulder has received a “relax” signal, but those muscles are still shortened into the “use mouse/keyboard” position. Just walking around is unlikely to stretch those muscles back out to full length, because this was an “unnatural” position maintained for a long period of time. In such cases, a specific stretch in the exact opposite plane of motion to the contraction is required to return the muscle to full length.

So, while many resources out there are focused on relaxation, such as the Alexander Technique, and there are also methods focusing on stretches such as physiotherapy, I am yet to see a method which provides specific instructions to not only relax muscles, but also stretch them back out to full length. Another vital step is to learn how to find shortened muscles within your field of body awareness, in order to know what to stretch. This is vital because, through bad habits, many muscles, e.g. those concerned with the pelvis as just one of many examples, may well have “dropped off the radar” in terms of your conscious awareness. They may be shortened, but you won’t notice this because you’re so used to them being short.

The pelvis is a good example of where I have not yet seen a comprehensive guide to resolving the shortened muscles which cause a tilted pelvis (and the myriad posture problems which follow on from that disaster). Physiotherapy just says, “You have a tilted pelvis” (great, now what?). Alexander Technique provides visuo-kinaesthetic exercises for better walking, breathing, and motion, which send “relax” signals to the pelvic muscles. Yet, if you’ve been sitting at a computer for 20 years with bad form, you literally need to stretch those muscles back out in addition to simply relaxing them.

My method, and forthcoming posture school

This is where I come in. I now have a complete method, from start to finish, for how to locate, relax, and stretch every muscle in the entire body. My “method” right now is in the form of four full A4 pages of notes.

What I need now are students who are willing to pay a reduced rate for lessons and be my “guinea pigs”, so I can turn these notes into a comprehensive guide which I can release in the future.

My method is targeted mainly at heavy computer users, since long-term computer use (with unconscious bad form) is probably the most powerful way to absolutely ruin your posture. This is a niche that no one else seems to really be covering at the moment, but which is important since we’re all computer addicts now, in the developed world. However, my method will work for any problem since the principle is always the same.

Here’s an example of why you need something like my method if you are a long-term computer user:

In Esther Gokhale’s book (and several videos you can find on YouTube), she advocates a “shoulder roll” for good form both when using a computer and for walking around.

Easy, right? For many people, this will actually work. However, being someone who literally used a computer every day for 20 years, sometimes for 16+ hours, what I did not realize when I first started my posture work is that I literally did not have the range of motion required to do this shoulder roll.

My muscles all over my upper body (most of the muscles in the upper body are actually dedicated to moving the arms) were so short that my shoulders could literally not be moved into place in the way this video suggests.

Once I figured out that I had to actually relengthen those shortened muscles, it still took me many months to figure out specific ways to actually do this. That is what my notes are: painstaking trial and error to return a very badly-treated body to its natural state of affairs.

I now want to make this information available to other people, so they can fix themselves in a far shorter period of time.

Posture lesson details

What I am offering is as follows:

  • You have to be able to visit me in Coventry, England.
  • A lesson will cost £20 GBP, which is about $34 USD at the current exchange rate.
  • The lesson will last 1–2 hours. The idea is that the lesson ends when you feel you are happy in your understanding and have enough to work on for a while before the next lesson. I am keeping lessons fluid like that on purpose, as this is helping me turn my notes and ideas into a proper course.

I know this is a long shot in terms of actually having enough readers within the UK (or who are willing to travel here — I had one reader visit me from Poland!), but I figured it’s worth a shot to get things started.

If you are interested, get in touch!

There are myriad benefits of fixing posture. Many of them are emotional in nature. For example, learning how to spot tightened muscles and consciously relax them can rapidly lower anxiety if you are prone to that! Just learning good breathing (which is a result of relaxed, lengthened muscles) can reduce any negative emotional response vastly within seconds.

But the most straightforward selling point is as follows: I will never have back pain again.

I will never “hurt” physically for no reason. I’ll never have to quit a job due to back, arm and shoulder pain (which actually happened). That alone has been worth the three years I’ve dedicated to this area. I also gained over an inch in height!

Once again, if this is something you feel you could benefit from, get in touch!

UPDATE: I just realized you’d probably like some proof, so photos will be uploaded soon!

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6 Responses

  1. shaznay says:

    Have you heard of foundation training? You can check out the videos on youtube, for example. I think it gives a reasonable response to your looking for a “comprehensive guide to resolving the shortened muscles which cause a tilted pelvis” e.g. the use of the “founder” exercise.

    • Illuminatus says:

      Hi shaznay!

      I watched the following:
      It is excellent, and is exactly the sort of thing I want to teach.

      All of those exact exercises were already in my “method”. I worked them out myself. How? Well this is where I want my method to really stand out. I want to teach people how to “scan” their body, using their conscious awareness, and quickly find where muscles are still shortened. The principle is as follows: by lengthening a few muscles, you can learn what a “loose” muscle feels like. Then you can do an internal “scan” of your body and simply “feel” where muscles are still short, as they will feel tight in contrast to the muscles you know are now loose. Then you can make YOUR OWN EXERCISES to lengthen them — your body can tell you how; you just need to learn how to interpret and act on those signals.

      I believe this is where ALL these methods, including yoga, originally came from — people using their body knowledge, their intuition, their right brains, to know EXACTLY what to do. The messages are all there, coming from your body, all the time — people who create these methods have simply learned how to INTERPRET those signals and turn them into corrective actions. The problem then is that the teachers teach the exercises without teaching the principle behind where those exercises came from — the intuition, the feeling body. I intend to teach anyone how to make their own exercises. I want to teach BODY KNOWLEDGE.

      Maybe you can help me with this question, though. Do you know of any methods which specifically teach how to unlock / stretch out tight/twisted shoulders/chest/arm muscles? There is something specific that happens when people use computers a lot, with bad form. And I’m talking about 20 years here (for me), sometimes 16+ hours a day. That is, that the mouse hand gets “frozen” in the mouse position; the keyboard hand frozen in the keyboard position. What happens is that the muscles on the inner surface of the arm, leading into the chest, become extremely short compared to the outer ones — leading to a TWISTED arm. And, more horrifyingly, what I am calling a “migrated shoulder”. This was where muscles which should have lain on the top of the shoulder had literally MOVED downwards towards the chest.

      Because all muscles in the body are linked, this sort of thing will have EXTREME consequences for posture, as they will result in the chest being pulled in — which pulls the head down and does all sorts of other fuck-ups.

      I have not come across exercises tailored toward resolving these yet — and, believe me, it is HARD. I’m hoping this will be another area my method will stand out. If you know of any videos or guides addressing this arm twisting problem, please let me know!

      Thanks šŸ™‚


      • shaznay says:

        I don’t know anything specifically for that (expect not many google hits for migrated shoulder!), but you talk a lot about stretching, but these days stretching is not so fashionable. While it still has its place, a lot of physio people put a lot of emphasis on myofascial release (e.g. foam rolling), dynamic mobility exercises, and strengthening. So in the foundation training, it is about simultaneously stretching and strengthening through different ranges of motion.
        For shoulders, I came across this recently, which I liked:
        One thing they mention is “play” – so rather than prescribing 2 minutes of that, repeat this 10 times, to actually try a range of things free form, explore. And the key here is movement. So I think rather than making your own exercises, if you just play around, move, put yourself into different positions, find weak spots, hone in them, you are going to naturally use your body awareness to figure out what you need. Probably. Another avenue: free form dancing. A right brain activity, signals the body to relax, and move into ranges of motion which you might “need”. But the difference in what you are suggesting in your method is the use of conscious awareness to deliberately target areas, as opposed to more spontaneous and non-conscious movement. So I wonder if they end up in the same place and get similar results.

        • Illuminatus says:

          I think we are on different pages here. From that article: “The goal isnā€™t necessarily to stretch a particular muscle, but to open your shoulders into new positions that allow a freer movement pattern.”

          No, I feel the goal HAS to be to stretch specific muscles which have become shortened. I simply do not feel any of these resources are addressing the very specific problems caused by very heavy computer use. I watched the video, too. Yeah, these are good general movement exercises. But that won’t fix a “migrated shoulder” IME. (I have tried a ton of these, btw — in 3 years I think I tried about everything!)

          I think I would have to get some photos up to really explain what I mean. Since I have now fixed my migrated shoulder, however (the muscles have literally moved upwards, back to where they’re meant to be), I would need to find a student exhibiting the condition in order to explain it and the solution. I could make a video of myself doing the exercises I created to get everything back to where it should be — and they look NOTHING like that video, and could NEVER be achieved by something else like “free-form dance” — but I have a lot on at the moment and need to ration my time.

  2. shaznay says:

    So there are specific problems (e.g. migrated shoulders from computer use) and specific ways of dealing with them (e.g. specific stretches) but what I was getting at was the general methods by which one can self-treat – and how one gets there (conscious vs. non-conscious, “intuition or feeling body”) – particularly “how to find shortened muscles within your field of body awareness, in order to know what to stretch.” (and then knowing in which way to stretch them)- so in terms of the approach you are suggesting, could you say something more about the general principles you are suggesting, that which makes it unique?

    • Illuminatus says:

      Ah. I just re-read your last reply in that context. What you are saying is similar to what I did, yes.

      “So I think rather than making your own exercises, if you just play around, move, put yourself into different positions, find weak spots, hone in them, you are going to naturally use your body awareness to figure out what you need.”

      Yes. I did that A LOT. Free-form movement is one way of finding those “trouble spots”. I also discovered principles from that, which could be repeated on other body areas. E.g. one principle is that every joint should be able to move in every direction, the only limitation being where bone meets bone. So a ball joint should be able to rotate until the bone of, say, the upper arm, literally meets the bone of the the shoulder encasing – the “socket”. That is a LOT of range of motion. Yet, put your arm in various shapes (I will have to do photos I guess), and you will find that, indeed, you cannot move it in certain directions. Why? MUSCLE SHORTENING. And that tells you that those are the very muscles which need to be stretched out. And I have various approaches to stretching them out, since generally you cannot do them all at once (when they are bunched together they are very resistant to stretching). So I not only found a PRINCIPLE, but also a set of SPECIFIC EXERCISES which I could then repeat on OTHER MUSCLES. So I disagree with the “So I think rather than making your own exercises” part of your quote because this will result in repeatable exercises if you pay attention.

      So, yes, free-form movement, plus awareness = principles and exercises. And progress can be rapid once the lightbulb goes on! But there is another way I figured this stuff out. That is by generating body awareness even while static. What this means I can “sense” bunched/tight/short muscles even while just sat there doing nothing. I can feel them. This came from getting a lot of experience of what a non-shortened muscle feels like. In this method, I get everything visuo-kinaesthetically. This means I get a combo of visual and “feeling” representations. I see the body as a brightly lit or yellow “template”, and the trouble spots appear as dark spots on that template. This is also something I use for emotional upsets, and it came from lots of mindfulness meditation. It is the mindbody becoming aware of itself. I can “see” any kind of disturbances (emotional and physical become one in this mode) and manipulate them visually. Gross example – if I am constipated, I can “see-feel” the block and “push” it along within this visuo-kinaesthetic representation. I can also do things like dilate my pupils and slow my heart rate down at will. It is this kind of body knowledge I wish to teach, because it has so many applications.

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