When you’re busy at your computer, reading, or watching TV, you may forget that you’re also sitting - until you get up, and feel pain or stiffness. As with all our activities, how we sit makes a big difference in how we will feel. Feldenkrais lessons help you become aware of how you habitually sit, and what changes would contribute to greater comfort.
"Good posture" is usually believed to entail standing up straight and strengthening some critical muscles to maintain that straightness. (The muscles most often seen as being in need of strengthening are the abdominals and the back of the shoulder muscles.) If you have ever tried to achieve better posture through such means, you probably realized that it is futile, and that in fact even if you can manage to “think” about standing or sitting straight, you forget the minute you go to do something else.
For many of us adults, standing and sitting upright are such routine functions that we don't put much thought into how we do them. That wasn't always the case. If we followed a typical course of development as infants, it took us about six months after birth to figure out how to sit up on our own without support. We did lots of experiments and explored many variations of sitting with decreasing support from caregivers and chairs. In the process, we developed and pulled together balance, strength, and flexibility with other aspects of our rapidly growing bodies that were and are shaped and supported by skeletons. We likely gained pleasure and motivation from being upright as it allowed us to see, hear, smell, taste and notice our position and place in the world from a whole new perspective. Notably, we had to discover how to orient and hold a big head (that was proportionately much larger than it is now) on top of a spine (with over twenty moving pieces) that merged at the base with a pelvic bowl that attached to long legs. This is a very abbreviated inventory of the pieces within the puzzle box of the independently sitting baby.
“I want to have good posture,” is a request I get from many of my clients. One client, Glen, was a magician who wanted to improve his posture. He said his posture looked menacing to people and he wanted to appear more friendly to his audience. I asked him why he thought he appeared menacing. He said that because of his nearsightedness, he frowned a lot and his hunched shoulders added to this sinister impression.
Many postural habits begin in childhood, and often we aren't really aware of our tendencies. Habit dulls the sensory awareness: if you sit a certain way long enough, your brain will stop noticing that it's not comfortable. For instance, many computer users mouse with the arm held a long way from the body. This position creates static load - essentially, you are holding up the weight of your arm all day. A similar strain happens in the shoulders if the head is held too far forward. But the inherent strain may not be noticed until it becomes pain - by which time injury may have occurred to the connective tissue.