Posture is the Mind, Body, Spirit connection that we can access daily
(We would like to give Meredith Clemons a huge THANK YOU for her time and emotional vulnerability in writing this post. When Shanna first asked for her to write this piece, we could have never imagined such a beautiful and raw article. We have included links on how you can find & contact Meredith at the bottom of the post.)
“Are you a swimmer?” I heard a customer call out as I stacked piles of carrots for sale at a farmer’s market. It was the middle of July. Hot in the shade, sweaty, sticky, humid by 9am. Tank tops only. It was that kind of summer day. “It’s just those shoulders…” she said.
I’m not a swimmer, except for a couple of seasons in middle school, but based on the number of strangers who have asked over the years, maybe I missed my calling. Instead of a swimsuit, I chose a leotard. Instead of swimming, dance. Bizarrely similar uniforms, but completely different standards for the ideal body. Where in swimming my broad shoulders would have been an asset, in dance they became an over-sized burden. Breadth was never the goal of a ballerina.
My "Problem" Area
And so it goes that my broad shoulders have always been my “thing” – the problem section of my body. Unfortunately, many of us have one. Some story we’ve been told about what is and isn’t normal for a human body.
I always thought I was pretty successful at hiding that shoulder shame. I set out to make them appear smaller by changing my posture. With my shoulders sloped forward, my chest slightly collapsed in, I reasoned that they would appear narrower, less broad, less embarrassing. I was sure that appearing smaller would make me feel better and more confident. I figured I could just trick all of the people around me, they’d have no idea, and I would magically stop feeling insecure.
Posture as a Physical Representation of Your Emotional Being
I never put much thought into how that posture made me feel in the world. Frankly, it was not very comfortable, but over time it became my normal. I had ever-cycling upper back pain, lower back pain, mid-back pain, neck pain. Pick a spot, it at some point was uncomfortable. I never connected why I was uncomfortable, and I never paid attention to the feelings about my body that my slumping posture brought up. I thought I appeared fairly comfortable in my skin, but seeing candid pictures was always a shock. Instead of looking less broad and confident about it, I looked incredibly insecure. Despite my best efforts, I looked ashamed.
Of course, I wasn’t conscious of all of these feelings in real time. I was just continuing to slump forward, telling myself I was fairly confident and didn’t have negative body image despite all of the evidence. Clarity came during my 200 hour LYT yoga teacher training with Lara Heimann. A huge part of our coursework involved posture analyses, driven by the reality that the way we move through the world directs the way we move on the mat. We trainees watched each other practically grow taller overnight as we each found the optimal setting for our skeletons and discovered the strength that standing tall truly requires.
Improve Your Posture, Change Your Internal Narrative
My postural work during training was certainly physical, but every physical realization was met by an emotional one. Moving on the mat, trying new ways to stand tall, years and years of shrinking began to unravel. When your body no longer remembers how to stand tall, it takes mental and emotional grit to invite yourself to come out of hiding. The work comes in dismantling the body narratives you’ve told yourself a thousand times. The work comes in writing new stories that embrace all that you are. The truth is, moving through the world in partnership with our physical vessels sometimes is more about courage than about physical strength. The more courage I practiced, the better I felt about who I am in body and in spirit. Walking out of the studio by week three, I held my shoulders back and broad, my chest open, and my heart forward.
Standing Taller with Courage and an Open Heart
In the time since our training, my postural practice has continued. Old habits die hard, and posture is no exception. Some days I find myself lightly slumping, shrinking slightly back from upright, but for the most part, I stand taller. Gone is the traveling back pain, and gone is the shoulder shame, both replaced by a calm comfort in my skin. I’ve realized in learning to stand taller, that posture is the mind, body, spirit connection that we can access every single day. It is not just a physical habit but a means of redefining how we want to move through the world. Every day, I face an opportunity to courageously rise and carry on with an open heart.
Want to connect with Meredith? Or learn more about LYT Yoga?
Where you can find Meredith Clemons:
Check out our episode on LYT Yoga with Lara Heimann: Episode 4: Get LYT Up by Yoga