How do you have your stake?
If you want your tomato plants to grow upwards, you might want to tie them to a stake, to guide them in the direction you wish. So if you choose a nice straight stake they’ll follow its shape upwards. And if you don’t, they’ll tend to meander across the ground. We’re a bit like tomato plants. We also grow in the direction we’re guided. In our case it’s not a piece of wood that’s doing the guiding, but rather our habits of movements. And this can be a problem.
We grow according to what we do
Our bodies grow depending on what we ask of them. If you regularly lift weights, your body responds and grows stronger arm and shoulder muscles – you grow in response to what you’re asking of your body. Similarly, if you don’t use your arm and shoulder muscles for a long period of time, they’ll weaken – there is no stimulus for the muscles to remain strong, so the body does not strengthen them. This also happens with your posture. If you spend a long time slumping, you will gradually grow into a slumped posture. And if you spend a long time standing excessively upright, you will similarly grow into a fixed and rigid posture, reflecting your habits. Our daily habits of movement – how we sit, stand, walk – come to define our shape. In the end, we are what we do.
Why does this matter?
The posture we grow into affects how well our bodies can function. We need a certain amount of length for our spines to work effectively. When we limit this length, whether by slumping or overarching, we compress our spines. The discs between the vertebrae will be consistently squashed, and eventually nerves may get affected, or discs damaged. Given long enough, there will almost certainly be pain. Of course, our bodies consist of much more than just spines. Our organs will also get compressed, so our breathing may be affected as our lungs are restricted from expanding as fully as possible; and our digestion may be affected as we spend our days consistently squashing our abdomen by sitting in our old, familiar slump.
So, our habits of movement influence the posture we grow into; and the posture we grow into affects how well our bodies work. They way you hold and move your body is a constant influence for good or for ill, and every day it is impacting on your health in a fundamental way. You may see it already, you may not, but it is certainly happening.
What to do?
If you’ve never thought about the posture you are gradually growing into, you can start today. You can put in a stake, and start growing in the direction of your choice. This is the work of Alexander Technique teachers, who can show you how to be easily upright, and how to change the way you think about movement. You can replace old, unconsidered habits with new, considered ones, and you can become a tomato plant that has the chance to grow to its full, natural height. And, you can have the comfort and health that come with that. So how do you have your stake at the moment?