Are you a habitual 'slumper'? Have you tried to slump less but found that 'sitting up straight' is soon just as uncomfortable? Do you worry about how slumping makes you look and feel, and about the effect it may be having on yourhealth?
You're not alone! Slumping is very common habit which many of you find difficult to address. You may even be attached at some level to your slump, even as you realise that slumping is not doing any good. To slump may be associated with relaxation and letting go, even though in reality slumping is not particularly comfortable or relaxed. Over time slumping may lead to back pain and other problems. It places a great strain on the back and hips and the same time compresses and contorts your internal organs, preventing them working to their full efficiency, and has a negative effect on your energy and overall health.
You may be all too aware of this but still find it difficult to change. You may intermittently try to compensate for your slump by pulling yourself back (which we call ‘sitting up straight’). But while this may look superficially better it only adds to yourproblems by creating a new level of tension in the back to counteract the pulling down in the front. Needless to say this is tiring and soon wears you out. Unless you are very determined, you soon revert back to yourslump. If you are unfortunate enough to have the level of determination required to continue with ‘sitting up straight’ then in time all that extra tension may do you as much harm as slumping around was doing!
4 reasons slumping seems hard to change
There tend to be three levels of resistance and misunderstanding which get in the way of you changing yourslump:
- Faulty beliefs and reasoning.
- Emotions and attachment to the status quo.
- Inaccurate sensation and feeling.
- Focussing on parts rather than the whole
You may believe that ‘sitting up straight’ as you were told to do as children is a healthy antidote to yourslump, and you may be under the impression that what you are doing when you think you are ‘sitting up straight’ is becoming taller and more upright — when in fact you are compressing yourself and pulling back and down. And because you may believe that the only alternative you have to slumping is to use excess muscular tension to ‘sit up straight’ (which you find uncomfortable) you may at some level think that to slump is yourbest choice out of only two options available to us, without realising that there is a lovely third option which involves no feeling of effort at all….
Familiarity feels comfortable. You no doubt have emotions and feelings about yourslump and may even be unconsciously attached to it as some level! It may have started as a reaction against being told by a well-meaning adult to ‘sit up straight’ which (correctly) felt unnatural and uncomfortable to you — so even now there may still be a subtle association of the slump with feeling free and that you are ‘doing yourown thing’. There may be some latent teenage rebellion involved! Yourslump may also have served a protective purpose for us, a way of curling up against an unfriendly or unsympathetic world. You can be quite attached to these feelings, which makes them hard to give up.
Inaccurate Sensation and Feeling
When you 'misuse' yourself over many years by alternately slumping and 'sitting up straight' it starts to affect yourkinaesthetic sense (i.e. your physical sense of yourself and where you are in space). Alexander called this 'Faulty Sensory Appreciation'. This means that you are no longer getting back accurate feedback about how you are aligned. Many people feel, for example, that they are in balance when they are actually leaning quite some way forward or back. They may feel they are standing up straight and aligned when in reality they are pushing their hips forward or backwards quite a long way. When you don't have an accurate picture of how your body is in relation to itself and the world it becomes difficult to make beneficial changes — because you may not be doing what you think you are.
Focussing on parts rather than the whole
The body is a single system! Because you are basically an unstable, upright being, a change of alignment in one part of yoursystem will have a knock on effect on everything else. But when we have a problem which manifests in one area of our bodies we tend to focus on that area when often the problem is being caused by issues elsewhere. Slumping is not really about the upper torso and shoulders, but more about a lack of overall support in our system. To be able to really let go of slumping and to release into an easy and relaxed uprightness we need to change the coordination of the whole, connecting more to the ground and releasing upwards from the feet into ease and support. This is something we all did naturally as a young child but which many of us lose as we grow older. The good news is that it is a completely fundamental part of yourdesign to be able to do this, so you can learn to do it again!
Finding a way back home
So how can you get yourself out of this muddle? The first thing to realise is that addressing one or two of the three levels of ‘blockage’—beliefs, emotions and sensations—is often not enough. They are interrelated and a block at any of these levels can get in the way of the change you want. You need to address all three. Hopefully this post will have started you thinking along those lines. If I have at least convinced you to stop trying to ‘sit up straight’ to compensate for a slump (or to stop telling others to do so) then I believe I will have done you and them a favour!
If you would like to explore some of these ideas further then an Alexander Technique lesson is a good place to start. A teacher can give you a new kinaesthetic experience, showing you how you can be effortlessly and ease-fully upright without either slumping or ‘sitting up straight’. This experience is a powerful challenge to all three levels of yourblocks to change. You may be surprised at how nice it feels to let go!