The Posture Movement
How Movement and Posture Extend Beyond the Physical
Posture. The favorite subject of bodyworkers worldwide. That topic of many an hour of study, many a focus of treatment, and much philosophical posturing. Pun intended!
Posture has everyone talking about leg length discrepancy, forward-head posture, and—always a crowd favorite—slouching. Does it really matter? Is it really important to straighten up? Yes, it is. But this would be a very short article if that was all I had to say.
Of course, it is important to stand in a way that is beneficial, sit in a way that is ergonomic, and walk in a way that is efficient. We learn about this in massage school. Analyzing posture and gait patterns tends to be one of the more popular classes. There is a deeper element at play, though, that deserves a brighter spotlight—movement.
MOVEMENT—PHYSICAL AND SOCIAL
The Merriam-Webster definition of movement is “change of place or position or posture.”1 Strictly speaking of physicality, we know this already. This is how we keep soft tissue and joints happy. Remember that the synovial fluid in all of our freely moving joints depends on movement for its production. And remember that lymph flow relies on the varying pressure that comes with the simple act of walking. With stagnation comes stiffness and rigidity. With movement comes fluidity and ease.
So, yes, it is important to move. Movement is a fundamental homework assignment for most clients suffering from posture issues. Stand up, stretch, walk, run, do yoga, breathe. Move. Ultimately, though, I propose that we look at another meaning of the word movement: the social movement.
A social movement is a type of group action. This happens when a group of individuals come together to create a larger change. We see it in communities when there is an unrest or dis-ease. We see it when there is political tension, when there is injustice, and when there is a cultural chasm. We see it when the parts of a whole are not functioning well together.
With this in mind, let’s look at the parts that make up a whole human. The cells, molecules, neurons, hormones, organelles, organs, tissues, and systems that define and dictate who we are act individually and together to create a living body. If we can envision these groups of cells and chemicals like we see groups of people in a community, we start to see things in a different light. When it comes to social dis-ease, aches and twinges are the picket lines demanding to be heard, repetitive strains are the local leaders lobbying for a shift in protocol, and chronic pain is the global outcry for a deeper change.
POSTURE AND MOVEMENT: BEYOND THE SKELETON
Posture is the embodiment of this particular version of social unrest. Extending beyond an asymmetric skeleton or an inhibited muscle firing pattern, how we hold ourselves is the expression of when one or more of the parts of the whole are in disharmony. There is a social, emotional, and psychological component to posture that carries significant weight. Ignoring these issues is the equivalent to a president denying the existence of an entire state.
What I have noticed in my years as a bodyworker is that correcting the degree of knee flexion, the length of the spine, and the tilt of the head is effective and should be addressed. Inefficient function causes pain and screams for attention. But there are also large numbers of people who practice careless computer-ing, sustained social media-ing, and continuous couch-potato-ing on a regular basis and experience no pain.
Similar to how a loud noise would be intolerable for someone who has a migraine, an inefficient tilt of the pelvis will create a pain response for someone whose parts are disharmonious. Paying attention to these subtle clues will be the key to guiding your client into wellness. So what can we, as bodyworkers, do to help? Create a new movement.
There are several ways to create new movement.
Introduce new modalities that bring a shift in body awareness.
Place your client in altering positions that will change the way a muscle responds.
Engage your client’s tissues in activation techniques that trick the nervous system into new communication patterns.
And, arguably most importantly, make sure you are connected to a health-care network you trust.
Anxiety, depression, childhood trauma, and threatening or oppressive situations are all out of our scope of practice. But, if you suspect your client is suffering from an internal social unrest, make sure you have the resources at hand to guide them to a professional who can help.
Scars run deep and grip many layers. Being able to refer someone to the right individual might be just as important as filling our offices of power with the right candidates. Managing those scars with the right team might be the link to a deeper harmony. You have the power to create a new social movement. Begin with your practice.
1. Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, “Movement,” accessed November 2019, http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/collegiate/movement.