The way we support ourselves in our posture and movement says a lot about what is going on in our nervous systems. Many of our habits form on a subconscious level, which can make it difficult to change them. Some of those habits take away our ability to fully utilize our strength capabilities.
The first step to find that strength again is sensing what our bodies are doing at any given time.
Posture and Support
Take, for instance, someone who has a stooped posture. Their shoulders are sloped forward. Their head is tilted forward. Their pelvis is slanted. I would not say that someone who stands or sits like this has bad posture, but it can reduce their strength capabilities. For whatever reason, their nervous system has deemed it necessary for their body to support itself this way, perhaps as an anxious protective measure to guard vital organs.
Trying to “correct” the posture will prove futile because the body will continue to hold the underlying pattern of support. Instead, we need to address the subconscious patterns by making them conscious. By contracting the muscles that create this posture and then voluntarily releasing the tension, the nervous system can learn how to reshape its patterns.
Support and Movement
In movement, too, we see inefficient patterns arise because the nervous system has forgotten how to move the body in a free and easy way. It has gotten stuck in a sort of feedback loop that restricts range of motion and often causes damage to the body because of these restricted, repetitive motions.
For instance, think of a runner who has been injured. The injury might force their nervous system to create new pathways for the body to move in order to keep running. After the injury has healed, these patterns of movement can stick around and cause inefficiency. The nervous system does this to help with survival. Wild animals rely on their ability to move for survival. If they are injured, their bodies must come up with ways to keep moving or else they won’t be able to escape predators. Humans are the same, except we have the ability to recognize these patterns and reshape them after the injury has healed.
Once you can recognize where your body’s movements are inefficient and turn the subconscious patterns into conscious ones, you can start to regain the strength that you lost. Not only does “unlocking” these inefficient patterns allow you to use and build muscles that will aid in efficient movement—the simple act of “unlocking” the efficient movement pattern restores the strength that comes from efficiency and pain-free movement.
Anyone can sense how their body supports itself, and anyone has the ability to consciously shape their movement patterns to regain the strength that they have lost. All it takes is the patience to gain awareness of the body, and perhaps the guidance of a professional.
Carol is a physical therapist, a co-creator of Integral Human Gait theory, a certified Feldenkrais practitioner, and a Senior Trainer in Movement Intelligence. Focus, Align, Teach and Inspire! These qualities not only describe her work, but they also describe her presence. She is passionate when it comes to reconnecting learning with human function and health. Carol is in private practice at MontgomerySomatics.com in Columbus, Indiana.