Don’t Take Your Posture Seriously

girl with Graucho Marx facemask

Your posture is too important to ignore. And your posture is too important to take seriously. Really. You heard me right. And I am a posture and movement coach. Let me explain.

F.M. Alexander’s observations about posture, habits, and the connection between mind and body underly what is known today as the Alexander Technique. Alexander’s genius lies in these observations—significantly how the relationship between your head, neck, and back influences your overall functioning.

Alexander was also keenly aware of the common obstacles that got in the way of his pupils’ learning—and progress. Another part of his genius was in addressing these obstacles as part of teaching his work. These are not obstacles just to learning the Alexander Technique and improving one’s posture but obstacles to learning anything. A foreign language. Swing dancing. How to speak in front of an audience. To ignore them is to keep the roadblocks in place that prevent progress toward your goals.

The number one obstacle is shared by most adults. We hate to make mistakes. And we avoid them at all costs. How about you? Be honest.

The problem with trying to avoid mistakes is that they’re essential to learning. Read the story of any famous inventor—it’s full of all the mistakes and failed attempts made before that one discovery the world knows about. Edison reportedly made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts before he created the lightbulb. We may never know the exact number, but he certainly didn’t get it right on the first try. Young kids are not afraid of making mistakes. That’s one reason I’m convinced they learn things more quickly than adults. Unfortunately, they’re often taught to fear mistakes as soon as they enter school.

I started tap dancing as an adult, just over 20 years ago. There’s a phrase that comes up in the class from time to time—Frankenstein Hands. It’s when people are trying to get a whole bunch of new steps, they’re trying hard to get it right—and not make any mistakes—and their hands stiffen up and claw-like—like Frankenstein.

When I try to get something, especially a physical skill, and I’m trying hard not to make any mistakes, I just get tense. Which usually doesn’t help me in learning what I’m trying to learn. If I can be OK with screwing up, I’m noticeably less tense and things just go better—and I enjoy the whole thing a lot more.

I practice this a lot in my tap class. I don’t take myself too seriously, I welcome my mistakes, and I don’t try to get everything right. It’s a safe place for me to screw up. But I had to decide that my tap class is a safe place—what I call a low-stakes place—to make mistakes. Because I know that mistakes are essential to learning.

When I work with clients, part of my job is creating a low-stakes place in which their learning can take place. And the best teachers I’ve encountered over the years take time to create these low-stakes places. But you don’t need my permission to have a low-stakes place. Create your own—or many of them. You just have to decide for yourself. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Enjoy the process of learning—and making mistakes.

Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay 

P.S. If you like this blog and are craving more information on moving better and feeling better sign up for my monthly e-newsletter. When you sign up you’ll get a free booklet with tips for exploring your posture (that has nothing to do with standing up straight and pulling your shoulders back. I promise!). And once or twice a month I’ll pop into your inbox with new ideas for you to experiment with. In addition, you’ll be the first to know about any upcoming events, local, or online.

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