I thought that if I kept a ladylike posture and only moved in a ladylike manner, it would be healthy for my body. However, much as I tried to follow posture and etiquette guidelines, I was swaybacked. My spine and shoulders hurt. My hip locked up easily. Efforts at physical labor were pitiful, because I felt pained and weak.
Learning a healthy posture took time. In vocal lessons, I learned to raise the rib cage. It was a simple step that my etiquette text had seemed to miss, but lifting and holding up the rib cage makes a difference.
Then I married and we started having babies. I bought several books about pregnancy, labor, and delivery. The Bradley Method had particular guidelines that would assist any woman, pregnant or not. Tailor sitting on the floor, squatting flat-footed, avoiding chairs, and bending over properly may not be “lady like,” the book explained, but they were motherly habits that were healthier than torturing the spine in a chair with one’s legs crossed all day. Best of all, these habits help the body prepare and progress through labor.
A friend offered me a cranial-sacral massage, and was it a godsend. Standing tall and moving smoothly comes naturally when your muscles and attitude are relaxed. It gave my hips some relief, as well.
Five months after one birth, though, I was positively miserable. My hips and knees screamed when I climbed steps or into the pickup. Several times I nearly dropped the baby (<10 lb.) because my left arm and wrist were painful, numb, spasming, and pathetically weak. A coworker told us about her wonderful chiropractor, so we decided to give him a try. Unlike my previous chiropractors, he is a sports oriented specialist using Active Release Technique, who works gradually to help the body align itself. He even gives patients stretches to perform at home to encourage the body to remain in alignment. I was so desperate, I consented to acupuncture in my wrist and between my shoulder blades; the treatment was successful. To this day I am constantly lifting children weighing 20-40 lbs without pain or numbness. Though one hip still gave me trouble, I was able to function again with the help of Active Release Technique and some acupuncture.
As my postpartum body gradually realigned under chiropractic treatment, my ribs started popping themselves into place until one day I stretched my arms upward and *SNAP* my sternum made a noise so loud I thought it was injured. Once I got over the shock, I realized my rib cage felt better than I thought was possible. From that day on I have been able to jog! I now realize that I never liked running as a kid because it was too painful. It’s amazing the pain you don’t realize is holding you back until the pain is relieved.
Some time later, I came across an article about peoples who have no back pain. Points 4 and 5 of this article were intriguing because they flatly contradict the usual rules of “Chin up! Stand straight!” Could these new tips possibly help? I tried. They did. Lengthening the spine and engaging the core accomplishes far more benefit than the usual advice. I believe these practices (along with hydration, vitamins, and walking) helped my cesarean scars heal quickly and properly. Every nurse and doctor examining me was impressed with my recovery. Perhaps there were other factors involved, but I suggest anyone undergoing abdominal surgery take a look at the above article. As for points 1 and 3, those are practices I have yet to achieve, especially since 3 feels silly and particularly unladylike in public. Maybe no one would really notice, so I suppose I can give it another try.
Eight years since I began trying new rules for posture, I found Roland Warzecha. He teaches authentic combat techniques and behavior to medieval reenactors. In his body mechanics video, he describes how people without structured shoes would walk. I have been practicing this “ball walking” for about three months, now. It does feel ridiculous at first, but in these weeks, my calves have shaped up considerably.
Most impressively, my hip, a problem I have had for twelve years, has stopped its regular freezing up. This freezing used to happen multiple times a day. The massage and our good chiropractor cut it down to every other day. In three months of ball walking, though, my hip has frozen only twice. Recovery is much easier, too; I can just walk it off in a few steps of ball walking.
Warzecha also discusses posture while sitting, reaching, and lifting in this earlier video. His description of “sitting straight” makes good sense by encouraging lengthening of the spine. I can sit still crocheting for hours without feeling sore, if I remember this advice.
These are all the methods I have found so far. There may be better ideas out there (please share if you know of any), but for now these practices are relieving my pain and helping me gain some strength. While I try to remember the ladylike manners in public, I have found that the healthiest postures do not necessarily follow etiquette, but the good design our bodies were given in the beginning.
Please share below if you have found other good lessons in posture.