If You Want To Improve Your Posture, Do These 2 Little Things

Free the tight muscles, and refresh the tired muscles.

Woman stretching spine Luemen Rutkowski | Unsplash

If you want to know how to improve posture, you need to forget all the advice and exercises taught to have a straight back and better confidence. You don't need fancy posture exercises because methods to improve movement memory work far better. Most ways to improve posture involve only two methods: stretching and strengthening.

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If you want to improve your posture, do these 2 little things.

1. Stretching

Stretching muscles generally involves pitting one muscle group against another or the muscles of one person against the muscles of another, as in assisted stretching, massage, or professional adjustments. The experience is generally uncomfortable and, if at all successful, is only temporary. So, old muscular tensions and posture reappear in short order. The movement memory isn’t changed, only temporarily overpowered.


Apply the same concept to other kinds of memory. Think of an unpleasant memory. (I’m not suggesting this to torture you, but to illustrate a point more quickly.) Stretching an unpleasant memory would be like avoiding remembering it or practicing denial. How effective is that? You tend to react the same way in a similar situation. There’s always a strain.

Movement memory is the same. The memory of the feeling of a movement and how to move controls your action. If you want to change movement memory, you need another approach. One that deals with memory and the way memory works.



2. Strengthening

Strengthening muscles to improve posture means only one thing. Those muscles aren’t strong enough to overpower their opposing muscle groups, which are always tight. Generally, those weaker muscles aren’t weak but tired from working against their opposing muscles. They don’t need strengthening. They need refreshment. Refreshment is possible only when their opposing muscles relax from being tight all the time.


Another effect of holding muscles tight from movement memory is your brain causes the opposing muscles to slacken, and the tight muscles move without counter-interference. We feel that slackening is a weakness, but it isn’t a weakness. It’s how coordination works. Although strengthening muscles to improve posture may be meant to work against that, it doesn’t work.

By the way, tight muscles are usually ticklish, sore to pressure, or pain from muscle fatigue. So, you’ve got painful muscles on one side and weak (tired) muscles on the other. Tight muscles drag you out of good posture, which makes good posturing tiring.

Can you strengthen muscles to correct your posture and have it stay corrected under those conditions? No, you’ll only make them tighter and sore and make yourself stiffer. Good posture is natural only as a condition of freely coordinated balance, not as a condition of effort, which you can’t maintain under ordinary conditions of life because you can’t continually pay attention to it. You’ve got to free the tight muscles, not make the tired muscles stronger.

That would be like trying to convince yourself that things happened differently than they did, that the old memory wasn't real. Known as self-deception, you can work hard to convince yourself, but how effective is that? You will still tend to have stress and strain in that area of life, won’t you?


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Now, let’s take on memory in terms of strengthening.

We’ve dispensed with stretching and strengthening as approaches to good posture because they don’t effectively deal with movement memory. We have dispensed with the standard notion of good posture itself. You don't need fancy exercises to improve posture.

1. When improving movement memory, you need to develop a more satisfactory experience of movement.

A more satisfactory experience of movement memory is a more satisfactory experience of movement in terms of comfort, motion, and action. There’s an alternative to stretching or strengthening that’s entirely natural and that everybody’s experienced in a simple form. It involves relaxation, rather than stretching, and refreshment, rather than strengthening. It’s called pandiculation. If you want good posture, learn pandiculation to free yourself of muscle tension that drags you out of good posture.

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2. Learning pandiculation makes good posture natural and refreshes yourself.

All other notions of good posture are incomplete and obsolete. Why? Because they apply to a non-moving position, and life is all about movement. If it isn’t moving, it’s dead. Take your spinal curves, for example. The lower back (or lumbar) curve exists to distribute the weight above (chest, shoulders, and head) and below (pelvis and legs) for balance. When you bend over to pick something up, your curve changes. If it doesn’t change, you’re stiff. The same goes for your neck curve. Balance-in-movement is the overriding of the imperative (or necessary purpose) of all posture. Balance is what makes all other actions possible. If you’re out of balance, you’re unstable.

3. Your curves change continually as you move to maintain an easy balance.

This is not to say there’s no such thing as too much or too little curvature in the spine. There are bad postures, but they can’t be corrected in any lasting way by adjustments or by holding on to a good posture. Adjustments don’t last, and holding a good posture doesn’t lend itself to good movement. You can’t go through life holding on to good posture, as soon as your attention goes to something else, you forget about posture. So, that approach is entirely impractical.

4. Notions of good posture are obsolete, and the alternative is good movement.

Good movement takes care of good posture automatically. And if you want to know how to fix posture, you need to improve movement memory, also known as your muscle memory. Good movement isn’t maintained by moment-to-moment discipline or by efforts to maintain good movement. That’s no more practical than holding on to good posture. Good movement is building good movement memory, which is done automatically and fine-tuned by the movements of the moment.

How do you develop good movement memory? You develop it the same as any other memory, by repeated experience until the memory forms. It’s a temporary discipline. It’s also a discipline few undertake. With movement, as with most other activities, most people stop developing with the minimum learning needed to get by, just as with handwriting, cooking, and even walking.




5. Next time you’re out in public, watch people walk. They're a pleasure to watch!

Many people lumber, some plod, some bounce, many lean to one side or come down heavier on one side than the other or come down heavy on both sides as they walk. It isn’t genetic, it’s movement memory.

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Lawrence Gold is a Wellness Coach and certified Hanna somatic educator.