The Anatomy of Posture
At 84, Lilian Jarvis shares her secret to better health
Why Posture matters…
Somatic Stretch® is about getting your body to work as well as it possibly can.
So what does that mean?
It means two things: that they “work” from a physical and physiological viewpoint as well as they can
and that they support themselves against the constant pull of gravity with a feeling of both strength and ease.
These two viewpoints are based on body mechanics and structure.
On the body mechanics side, our bodies are like machines.They’re made up of separate parts that move through the action of pulleys and levers, which in our bodies are our muscles and joints. And those pulleys and levers have to work smoothly and easily, as they do in machines to save wear and tear on them, and they have to work so we don’t need to use a whole lot of energy to move ourselves, either from one place to another, or in moving the separate parts of our bodies, as we do with exercises and sports, for example.
You’ve heard the expression, “oiled joints.” Well, our bodies need to move as though our joints are oiled. And that means that our muscles have to be “loose,” or supple, so we’re not all tied up with tight, tense muscles that make it difficult to move easily.
On the structural side, our bodies are like buildings. They have an inner framework, which is our bone structure. With buildings, the framework is built on plumb lines, which means that the walls of the ground floor are made 100% vertically aligned, so all the floors above, however many there are, can go straight up.
And why is this important? What’s wrong with having slanted walls?Well, you can have slanted walls but they need a great deal more support; once something starts to lean off its centre, or sideways, gravity takes hold and starts to pull it downward. That’s called structural strain.
So,with buildings, when the walls aren’t properly aligned and supported, they start to lean; floors get sloped and windows and doors don’t close properly, and cracks appear in the walls. Over time, if the building isn’t trussed up or repairs made, the whole building starts to degenerate and ultimately collapses. True, this can take a long time, but meanwhile, the building may not even be good enough to use.
In the same way, our framework has to be vertically aligned and sufficiently supported so gravity doesn’t drag us downward and cause structural strain in us. In our bodies, it shows up primarily as aches and pains, and, when we don’t pay attention to how we use our bodies, it can lead to injuries and illness.
The ground floor of our bodies is the pelvis, so that’s what needs to be straight in order for the parts of our body above it to be straight.
And a straight pelvis means that you don’t have an excessively arched back, or swayback, as it’s commonly called, because a swayback not only doesn’t support the body, it’s usually the first place that structural strain shows up—as an aching back. But once we get the pelvis straight, then the rib cage, neck and head can be straight above it.
The legs have to also be properly aligned strain falls on the ankles, knees and hip joints. And total body weight must be supported.
Now there’s a big difference between support in buildings and support for our bodies. Aside from the vertical alignment, which is needed in both cases, support in buildings comes from the construction materials, like concrete and steel. We don’t have that advantage. Our bodies aren’t made of concrete and steel and our joints aren’t welded together; they’re connected by soft tissue that allows them to move. That means they can go out of alignment. So, to support our bodies in proper alignment, we need certain muscles to be strong enough to hold the parts of our body in alignment and to also support the weight of our body against the constant pull of gravity.
In this abbreviated version of the Somatic Stretch training program, you will get the main exercises that, first of all, will help you to release tension and stretch out muscles so you can move the parts of your body more easily. You will also learn how to “find” the muscles that will help you straighten your pelvis, flatten your stomach and support your back. When holding patterns have existed for many years, exercises need to be done over a period of time before the patterns of tightness begin to release. Once learned, the exercises can be used as basic maintenance to keep the essential movement areas of the body mobile.
So move gently! As long as you listen to your body and avoid any ‘sharp’ sensations, you will be drawing blood and nutrients into areas that will return the favor with freer movement, an uplifting sense of vitality and an impressive posture that maintains healthy alignment!