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!