This week I fix my posture
If you’ve done yoga you might know the frog pose. Ooooh, yes, the frog pose! When people do the frog – on their stomach with their bent legs splayed out at each side, stretching at a right angle to the torso – they cry. I’ve been in classes where the whole room is weeping, all sweaty and snotty, hoping no one’s noticing. Not from pain, but from a deep, sad emotional release as the pelvis slowly opens.
This is because, as I learnt during this week’s journey to stand up straight, the pelvis is the body’s brain, and like our brain it stores a stack of emotion in its dark recesses. The frog, then, is The Notebook for the groin, the “Hallelujah” (Jeff Buckley’s moving version) for the hip-flexer. And the pelvis, my friends, is a joint in serious need of a good hug.
I don’t know about you, but everyone around me these days is in hip/back/neck pain, sees their osteo/physio/chiro more often than their own mother and is constantly “getting back into” pilates/yoga/Core Attack classes. Surely this isn’t right. Surely there’s a better way. As they say in the NatGeo docos, I decided to find out.
Me, I come from a long line of women with dowager’s humps and men with tilted gaits. Add to this a career behind a computer and a very fat brother (well, he was fat as a baby; I was eight when he was born – at a hefty 12 pounds – and I’d carry him on my hip; it’s thrown my spine out to the right) and I now resemble a Twistie. A stale, soggy one.
This week, the contorted pain of being a Twistie finally had me see Anna-Louise Bouvier author of The Feel Good Body (who developed the Physiocise technique for posture) and the bubbly mood expert on ABC’s recent Making Australia Happy series. She calls me a “floppy”. I have super flexible joints that I struggle to keep vertically aligned, which is affecting my energy levels.
But she also says the way I slouch is making me sad, it’s dragging me down. “It’s making you protective and feel fearful,” she says. She tells me to imagine a torch extending from the centre of my chest, forward. This will keep me balanced right. So will this mantra: “two feet”. That is, stand evenly on both at all times. She also tells me not to run. “Runners hunch over…it shines their beam down. You’re creating energy, but also casting it off, which sends mixed messages to the body.”
Now, this is the thing about posture – it’s increasingly been seen as something that’s not just mechanical, to be fixed with cracking and core work. More studies are showing that how we stand affects our happiness levels. Last month, Psychological Science published a study that found when we stand expansively (wide stance, chest broad) it can help us make powerful decisions and speak assertively. Equally, you hunch, you feel flaky.
Extrapolated, our sad pelvises could well be making us sad as a whole. But what to do?
A few days later I visit Larry Cohen, a specialist in the the Egoscue method (Anthony Robbins and golfer Jack Nicklaus are fans). In his polite way Cohen tells me I have a ski jumper posture (I lean forward, as though grabbing at life) which makes all my muscles grip from behind to keep me upright. “You can’t let go,” he says. Which, might just be true. Of my Twistie nature – my left shoulder leans forward while my right hip reaches back – he says this is indicative of a skeptical nature. I lunge myself forward, but then curl over and draw back to protect my heart. Pessimists, however, tend to droop their shoulders and their guts; aggressive types walk from the hips, their forehead jutting forward, their knees pointing out. “It all comes from the pelvis…when we’re tight emotionally, we hold the tension here. It’s deep-seated.” So to speak.
The remedy for me, he says, is not about trying too hard, but to lie on the floor. And do nothing. Rebuilding core strength comes later. As a skeptic, I trust the floor will support me and gradually I’ll let go (both in my pelvis and psychically). The interesting thing is, I’ve been given exactly the same advice by a host of different healers over this past year of searching for a better life. What’s that they say about the hipbone connecting to the…
**When I interviewed both Anna-Louise and Larry, I was interested to know what chairs they use for work. Two interesting things:
– Anna-Louise advocates the most no-brainer, simple IKEA hard swivel chair. No padding or adjustables. Her approach is it’s better that our muscles do the work. She sits forward on the edge of hers, feet flat to the floor.
This is it:
– Larry is so passionate about the subject he distributes these Get One chairs by Ergotherapy Australia, designed by Australian physiotherapists.
He lent me one to try. I do have to say it’s changed my whole sitting style. It’s designed to support your back when you’re sitting forward, peering at a screen, but also has settings for when you sit back on the phone etc. It has a tipping action, that keeps hips higher than knees and has you perched erect all day. I’m giving it a whirl while I write my book. I shall report back!
I’d be interested to know what you’ve heard/found works for you….tricks?…chairs?….osteos?….pilates?…