I remember often as a kid my parents would tell me that I should sit up straight. I didn’t really see what the fuss was about and largely ignored the advice, continuing to sit with my nose in a book, or reclined in whatever position felt comfortable. It wasn’t until I saw a picture of myself with friends when I was in my late teens that I noticed how horrible my posture was. My neck and shoulders naturally bent forward. By the time I had finally become self-conscious of my posture I had to work to undo years of slouching. It has not been easy, and I have not fully succeeded by the age of 30, but I have largely overcome the effects of bad posture through a constant attention to maintaining good posture.
Do you notice how actors in movies always just seem to have good posture? Athletes, dancers, equestrians, politicians and other people in the public eye can give the impression that good posture is a natural thing that we all have. I would argue that most if not all of those people have made a conscious effort toward good posture, to the point where it looks effortless, much like a well-trained public speaker appears like he’s having a natural conversation with his audience. Because the people we see and admire make good posture look natural, we can assume that we naturally have it also, especially when we only see ourselves from the front when we look in the mirror. I have learned that bad posture sneaks up on you, and for people like me who didn’t start out right, it takes an active fight everyday to not look like a slouch.
These days I notice that bad posture is becoming an epidemic among teenagers. Young ladies can develop a hunchback appearance, perhaps from looking down at their cell phones texting all day. Young men who play guitar or video games can have the problem and not even realize it, and then it can be a serious blow to their confidence when they finally notice. Is anyone going out of their way to motivate and properly instruct young people on how to sit and stand up straight? Perhaps we can learn something from the English culture of Jane Austen when young people were given elaborate instruction on how to carry themselves in public.
We should be aware of ourselves and understand our tendencies. Tall people can feel self-conscious about their height and perhaps subconsciously slouch downward, while shorter people might naturally have better posture while making the most of their height. People who work at a computer and/or a desk need to be extra careful, but those who work on their physical fitness have an advantage. If we’re relaxed much of the time then balance muscles that support our skeletal frame are not being exercised as they should. This is as much a challenge to myself as anyone.
The best advice I’ve ever heard for proper posture is to imagine that there is a string tied to the top of your head, pulling firmly upward. This helps you to extend the spine, put your shoulders and head back, chest out, and your chin up and back slightly, without exaggerating any of those movements. Daily stretches and strengthening your core are good ideas as well. A brief search online reveals possible routines that can help.
A focus on good posture can help with self-confidence, balance, and breathing, and can serve as a reminder to bring your head up and take a look at the world around you. It takes effort, but it’s well worth it. My point is, these things might need to be explained by parents and anyone who has an impact in the lives of young people. A bit of tough love can be something they’ll be grateful for later.