Conscious Movement Coaching for Functional Fitness and Well-Being

In a previous article  on 'barefooting' I mentioned that my experience with increased use and resulting 'foot exercise' has changed the shape, strength, size as well as arches of my feet, I sense in a corrective way from being primarily shod most of my life.  While standing, our pelvis/pelvic girdles, legs and feet can be perhaps thought of as the 'guided' foundation of our evolved upright postural position and movement, which is a big deal really although taken for granted.  Intelligent and appropriate barefooting in my experience can help to recreate a wider/happier 'toe' area, especially across the metatarsal area.  Along with shifting the weight-bearing focus more to the ball of my foot with increased 'spring' and strength  as well as widening the base of this area of the foot has proved to enhance my upright balance...playful self help ; )  

Posture, as a functional position and movement relates more broadly to our body image, sensory (kinesthetic) awareness, structural control, stability, alignment, balance and mobility in space (use).  Postural evaluation I believe would benefit from a more systems/holistic view than the single common upright position generally measured regarding healthy use. One such systems approach evolved years ago by Dr. Robert Manatt Martin MD who suggested six basic 'human' postures or functional bodily movements in two categories.  

The first common postural group produces compression and shortening of stature and the second uncommon posture group produces the opposite forces, those of elongation or decompression.  The six positions: standing, lying down, forward bending, back bending, inversion (eg. hand stand) and brachiation (eg. hanging by our upper limbs), which in my view represents a more complete and useful picture of our postural health and ability.  He relates: " the uncommon postures, when properly employed, will counter and correct the damaging effects produced in the body by gravity from exclusive use of the common (compressive) postures."  In other words, it seems it may be beneficial to get down n' active and up and fully engaged like the playful beings that we can be.   Playful yoga class anyone?

In terms of positioning of the pelvis in 'space', my view or 'normal' in the last few years from mat work, reading and an n=1 case study has changed some/evolved.  From the more vertical positioning of the pelvis that I 'learned' from anatomy labs and classes as well as movement teacher training I now prefer a more natural or ancestral position where my pelvic 'bowl' is gently tilted forward (or same as sticking my butt out a bit ; ).  I feel this positional shift of the pelvis along with changes to my feet has helped to promote a stronger and healthier functional posture, especially sitting and standing.  These changes have also included a breathing pattern improvement- more freedom for natural abdominal (diaphragm activated) and thoracic breathing which I feel has promoted a more relaxed yet alert state of embodiment (so...good for someone like me more prone to anxiety;).  

Esther Gokhale refers to this pelvic angle as the "anteverted position" of the pelvis.  Philip Pawley, a knowledgeable Alexander Method practitioner recommends 'sticking out our butt when seated' for genuine good posture  SmilingBackMethod site.  

Also helpful for upright posture is imagining a link between the lower ribs/navel and tail bone (which helps 'constrain' the arching of the spine and opening upwards of the ribs), an active and vital diaphragm muscle, the feeling/visualization of a strong upright spinal column, an 'open' heart/chest topped with 'wide' relaxed shoulders with the scapula (shoulder blades) located or moving 'neighbourly' with the back rib cage area.  

I'll finish this post by leaving you with three upright standing posture suggestions/understandings:

Feet: for most of us shod folks it would assist our upright standing and walking posture well by naturally widening the area of the foot at the base of the toes through barefoot use (foot exercise; ) and/or using toe spacer exercises or products.

Pelvis: when standing or sitting many would benefit from a more natural 'slightly tilted anteriorly' pelvic position, again more along the lines of 'allowing your butt to stick out some'. Also remember to use well your 'core' support through the transverse abdominal girdle and accompanying back muscles, particularly the erector spinae muscle group and by the imaginary diagonal line between your anterior lower rib cage and tail bone.  

Chest and Shoulders:  healthy shoulder/arm and chest position in my view is way enhanced by strengthening movements and functional use such as Dr. Martin recommended (he was an accomplished gymnast); so a variety of postural positions (or variations that you can manage ;) such as arm balancing (inversion) and weighted pulling like pull ups/chin ups or pushing like push ups can be of benefit.  Mostly, we would benefit from functionally strengthening up our upper back; it's a benefit in my view to 'seat' our shoulder blades to our back rib cage area. This supports a more open chest and I would add a more open heart and 'human' presence.  Soo... shoulder girdles stable yet relaxed ; )

Intention, Attention and Awareness as a bonus: Remember to pause during your day, perhaps while taking tea to centre and realign through these inner 'sensibilities'. These 'meditative moments' can be a valuable 'practice' to help maintain/recreate an upright postural 'home-base' while standing or sitting during your day.

What postural tips, suggestions and understandings might you recommend to add to the conversation?  

Towards living a healthy, wholesome and happy life,

12/10/2011 01:36:23 pm

You recommend pushing your bum out a little bit. However, personally, I feel like I need to do the opposite. I feel like I need to engage my core by ,metaphorically, zipping the zipper from the pubic region to my belly button.

I do however agree that it would be beneficial to stick my bum out while sitting, because that would prevent slouching. Its just that i feel like standing is a whole different story, and i feels like sticking my bum out while standing is just allowing me to not use my core and back muscles...

12/10/2011 01:37:09 pm

12/10/2011 06:12:41 pm

Hi Surya--
Agree that 'pushing' is counterproductive, also agree the transverse girdle -front to back- supporting our pelvic bowl has a prime stabilizing function. Just seems the phrase or directive of "zipper up" or "tuck your tail" commonly given/used in movement classes are 'external directives' that can lead to an exaggerated restriction of breathing and an over correction to a 'flat back' versus the more natural slightly tilted forward pelvic bowl mentioned in the post.
Soo...seems to me that attention and awareness of positioning, stability, alignment and a certain tension is central to healthy embodiment and postural positioning, and your on the case ; )<
As both sitting and standing are 'evolutionary' upright postural positions a certain upward tensioning helps counterbalance earth's gravitational force and assist in the onward and upward trend towards trans evolutionary hirstory unfolding.

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Mary Saunders
11/26/2012 12:47:24 pm

I found a book some time ago about the people who carry heavy bricks balanced on boards on their heads, in the tropics. They do this 6 or 7 days per week, and are healthy into their 80's and 90's. It has to do with figuring out posture that is properly upright to bear this weight efficiently. I will see if I can find the title and author. Thanks for this information.

Mary Saunders
11/26/2012 01:38:33 pm

I went to look up the book I remembered, and I was pretty astonished. As I recall, it was about $20. Now, it must be out of print because, the lowest-cost used copy is over $80. The name of the book is Ageless Spine, Lasting Health, by Kathleen Porter. I took the author out to dinner after her local talk on the book. Here is a link to the Amazon description.

Don Carmichael
11/26/2012 03:12:24 pm

Hi Mary--

Thanks...seems like she has a new updated edition coming out in search ; )

Mary Saunders
11/26/2012 03:33:04 pm

Thanks. I was so pleased to be able to find the E-Mail with the reference from among my 9,000-plus E-Mails, that I didn't google very far. I am sure the new edition will be interesting. I teach group-ex, and as I look out at my participants, I am reminded about posture and the constant cues I am supposed to give about it.

10/14/2013 06:26:10 pm

Mary Saunders
Thanks. I was so pleased to be proficient to treasure the E-Armor beside the dictionary from midst my 9,000-plus E-Sends, that I didn't google quite widely. I am dependable the unfamiliar volume choose be remarkable. I guide classify-ex, also as I watch external at my players, I am reminded about stance besides the durable prompts I am putative to provide about it.


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    Greetings, my name is Don Carmichael, the conscious core strength guy.  I'm grateful and happy to offer up my work as a holistic Kinesiologist.  My wish is that this type of work through gentle collaboration will encourage, inspire and support awakening your sense of embodied well being: stronger, leaner, healthier and happier at home and at work.


    December 2011
    November 2011



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