The Language of Your Posture
Posture as a form of communication
Body language, non-verbal communication, and posture. Three related tools that work together to either support or detract from your healthy living goals.
We’ve already spoken about actions and state, two types of non-verbal communication. Now we’ll take on big #3 as we explore posture, a piece of what’s often referred to as “body language.”
As a structural bodyworker, I freely admit that I am obsessed with posture. I’ve studied it since 1992 and evaluate it nearly every day.
Most of the people who visit me professionally in my capacity as a structural specialist do so for one reason. Pain. That fact should give you a hint as to where I’m going with this brief article. Problem posture causes pain.
The clinician in me feels obliged to explain that direct control of your posture comes from your muscles and connective tissue – specifically, how well-balanced they are in terms of their capacity to relax when you ask them to. Most of the time, that is.
Sometimes, posture isn't under your direct control
Here’s the rub. Although your muscles have long been recognized as “organs of voluntary motion,” (Galen, quoted in Kuriyama’s The Expressiveness of the Body, pg. 144) it’s not always so easy. Your muscles, and even your bones, will conform to your habitual movement patterns and your most common positions in space.
When this happens, some of your tissue will become virtually impossible to voluntarily relax.
The process of conforming your tissue is based on one thing:
Attitude is a funny word. It refers to how you think about things, and it also describes your position in space. Specifically, attitude refers to the way in which your state predisposes the shape of your body.
How your state forms the shape of your body
Did you get that? Wolff’s Law of Bone Transformation tells us that the shape of your body arises from the mechanical stresses you place on it from day to day. You are so powerful that The Language of Your State can literally transform your skeletal structure!
Unless, of course, you maintain an empowered state most of the time. Confidence, generosity, compassion, and other similar states match your natural balanced posture. It’s states like poverty, hopelessness, and arrogance that cause the changes you don’t want.
So, no, your massage therapist, chiropractor, physical therapist, or yoga instructor cannot single-handedly change your posture from the outside. They can help, of course – thinking great thoughts won’t loosen fibrotic tissue like therapy can. But no matter how skilled a practitioner you find, there’s always going to be a missing piece they can’t reach.
Fortunately, you can!
Ultimately, you are in charge of your state. And that’s a very good thing.
The posture communication system works in reverse as well. Sustain an injury that fixes your posture into an unfortunate position and you may find it more difficult than usual to keep your spirits up. It’s not just because you’re sore. It’s our old friend attitude. And in this situation, a structural specialist should be able to help you get back to normal.
Survival of the fittest. Posture is adaptive.
Posture is an integral part of the body language that communicates your state to the world. Current scientific research backs up our personal experience in this regard. Posture communicates emotion.
We can now safely conclude that our ancestors didn't have to risk the whole tribe when the lead scout spotted a saber-tooth tiger. His posture told the whole story — silently enough that everybody else could sneak away.
(See “Fear fosters flight: A mechanism for fear contagion when perceiving emotion expressed by a whole body” by Beatrice deGelder and colleagues, in the November 23, 2004 of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol 101, no 47, pp 16701-16706. www.pnas.org).
If you want to impact your communication with the world at an entirely new level, take a good look at your posture. A specialist can help you with a precise and detailed postural analysis, as well as support you with therapy to improve anything undesirable you may find.
Check it out for yourself
You can get a general sense of things on your own – by looking closely at yourself in the mirror or, preferably, by teaming up with a friend.
Posture and state — a healthy combination
If you want to do your part in a therapy program aimed at back pain, neck pain, headaches and the like, begin by learning to manage your state.
Posture affects circulation, the function of most of your major organs, and some conditions of the nervous system as well, so managing your state will support treatment of concerns in these areas, too.
Improve your posture and your state both, and you’ll have a winning combination. You may need support in doing this, which is of course the intended purpose of this website and the resources you’ll find here!
NEXT STEP – complete the Communication Style Quiz with Part 2: Explore Your Inside Conversation