by Jane Torvaney, Physiotherapist, Scotland
We all know that poor posture and slouching is not good for our posture – our spine is in a poor position and at risk due to the pressure going through it, our feet tend to dangle and don’t support us. Our chins poke forward, our shoulders roll inwards, our chest and internal organs get crushed when we slouch and therefore can’t work freely. If you try this yourself you can immediately feel the impact it has on your body.
Not a very loving way to treat ourselves!
But do you ever think about how you relate to other people when you slouch? Or how others relate to you when you slouch?
Recently I was working with students who were on study leave. We were talking about stress, relaxation and self care in the lead-up to their exams. I was sharing some supportive sitting positions with them and explaining why our sitting position is important.
As I talked to the pupils, I asked them to feel and observe what was happening when I changed my position. I slid down in my chair, adopting a slouched position while I continued to talk. For me, it felt awful – not only did I lose connection with myself in a physical sense I also lost the connection I had made with the students. I could feel my expression had changed, the words I used and even the quality of my voice was affected. Sentences no longer flowed and words lost their rhythm. I had to work really hard to remain focused on what I was saying. Everything began to feel more difficult and I had a sense that if I continued like this I would soon feel like giving up.
The students in return shared that they felt uncomfortable. They began to feel a little agitated and distracted, finding it difficult to concentrate on what I was saying. One student said that it felt as if a barrier had been formed between myself and the students. Another shared that she couldn’t be bothered listening any longer.
When I corrected my posture everything adjusted and settled back again.
This simple exercise confirmed to me that the importance of posture goes far beyond the physical, as does the responsibility I have in how I choose to sit, stand and move around. It goes far beyond just taking care of myself. As I have discovered, it is actually something that can affect a whole group of people who are in my presence.
How I do these things has a two-fold impact – both on my physical body and on how I relate to others.
If I choose to slouch in a chair for instance, I begin to shut myself off from others. In turn they get to feel this and may too choose to shut off. Thus the opportunity to connect and communicate openly is diminished simply by choosing how I sit.
Likewise, if I choose to sit, stand and move gently in a way/posture that supports me and allows particularly my chest area to remain open, an opportunity to connect with others is there.