Wellness By Mary Jaksch By Mary Jaksch Posture reveals all. It’s as if our hidden self speaks through our posture. It offers clues about character, self-worth, and mood. It reveals secrets. For example, if you are unsure of yourself but want to project a confident image, tell-tale signs will give you away. Even if you try to square your shoulders, and pump up your chest, other small posture changes will signal that you are posturing. That is, you are attempting to lie with the body. It doesn’t work! Posture – a barometer of emotions Posture is like a barometer of how we experience the world. On one hand mind-states influence posture; on the other hand posture influences mind-states. I once saw a Peanuts cartoon where Charlie Brown is standing around with his shoulders slumped and his head hung low. Lucy asks him, “Why are you standing like that?”, “If I straighten up I can’t stay depressed,” Charlie answers. Check what happens to your mind if you stand with round shoulders and hang your head. Then straighten up, little by little. Does your mind-state change? When you straighten up, start from your chest bone. When you straighten up there, the whole spine unfurls. In many meditation traditions good posture is valued. This is because a balanced body creates a balanced mind. Posture reveals character Are you a peaceful person? In that case your body may be relaxed and poised. Or are you an angry person? In that case your may be tight and your muscles bunched. Posture also says something about where your mind tends to be. People like me who tend to bend forward while walking tend to embrace the future, whereas people who lean back while walking tend to look back at the past. Five tips for developing good posture Take up a body practice that helps you to develop posture awareness (yoga, Tai Chi, Feldenkrais, etc). I have found body practice very good for me. I practised karate for eighteen years but have now switched to yoga. I’ll often do twenty minutes of yoga before meditating. Notice your habitual patterns of posture. How do they relate to ingrained mind-states? One of the things I suffer from is tension in the shoulders. It tends to come on when I feel a load of responsibility (which is most of the time!). I find it helpful to simply notice my raised shoulders and then to let them go.Notice your posture when standing. If your shoulders are rounded or your back swayed, stand against a wall and re-align your body. (Do this a few times each day). I’m always surprised to find that the wall tells me I’m still bent, even when I feel at full stretch. Then I find some areas in the spine that can be stretched even further. Notice your posture when sitting. Do you slouch? Can you sit upright, even on the sofa? How is it when you walk? Catch sight of yourself in shop window. Do you bend forward or do you lean back? What does this signal about you? Notice the posture of people you meet. What does their posture say about them? It’s good to explore posture with interest, not with a critical mind. The more you notice what how your mind-state relates to posture, the easier it will be to improve your bearing. And even more importantly: If you improve your bearing, your mind-state will also lift in return. What do you notice about your posture?