Are you interested in improving your physical posture? What about your emotional posture? People often include improving posture as one of their goals when working with me as a fitness professional. Less often, people consider the impact of their emotional posture, which is the mentality/attitude they adopt inwardly as well as the way they express themselves outwardly in various situations.
I’ve had a variety of structural issues most of my life. Some of these issues I believe I was born with, while others were created after my 1200 lb. horse flipped over backward and landed on top of me when I was 12 years old. Both likely worsened after a car accident in July 2008. Though I may appear to have good posture, I actually have many rotations throughout my body that aren’t meant to be there. This has resulted in excess stress on the tissues, causing some muscles to be unusually tight, while others are weak. I’ve experienced symptoms of fatigue, weakness, pain, and muscle spasms.
I had tried many therapeutic modalities over the years, in addition to my knowledge of corrective exercise, but couldn’t find long-term relief or healing from
chronic pain and physical limitations. Finally, through regular Rolfing work
with Stephan Evanko, I’m gaining greater understanding of the role my nervous
system plays with my physical issues, and am grateful for the slow, but sure
progress and relief I’m experiencing. I’ve used many tools over the years to
assist clients in improving both their physical and emotional posture. However,
Stephan gave me a new tool, which I’ve valued for both its simplicity and
Stephan first gave me the advice of “leading with my heart” as a way to reduce chronic pain and improve how I move in space. I have actively worked on my posture for many years and am often complimented on the way I carry myself. However, I’ve also learned that there are almost always deeper levels of progress to be explored. He also mentioned how this same approach can improve the way we relate to the world.
I pondered this dual benefit for the next few weeks as I avidly practiced. I visualized myself projecting my heart literally out in front of me as I moved. I began to make the connection between this physical posturing and reduced frequency and severity of pain in my feet and hips. I also noticed that I was more likely to be open and warm in engaging with the world.
I’d venture to say most people are guarded in some way, both physically and emotionally. We subconsciously alter our posture and gait to avoid moving through stiff or painful ranges of motion. If we have desk jobs, or even if we spend hours on email and Facebook, we end up with tightened/shortened muscles on the front of our bodies. This creates further muscular imbalances and unintended consequences. We have all experienced challenging relationships and loss, resulting in emotional pain. Our bodies prefer the path of least resistance, so we subconsciously build in defenses to avoid feeling both types
of pain again.
How often do you greet the world chest up and heart out? This can feel vulnerable on many levels. But consider this: the word “courage” comes originally from the Latin word for “heart” (“cor”). So in putting your heart out there, you are being literally courageous. And consider this quote from the writer Anaïs Nin: “The world shrinks or expands, according to one’s courage.”
So I offer you this encouragement: that incorporating the simple cue of “leading with your heart” may be the easiest way to improve not only your physical posture, but also the way in which you relate to the world, and the way the world relates back to you.
To Your Best Health!