Second Habit: Stand Tall

I have distilled posture down to four simple rules:

  1. Breathe out strong. Feel your abdominal muscles work as you breathe out, which strengthens your core. Then feel your lower abdomen expand as your diaphragm fills your lungs full of air. Your chest can expand at the end of the in breath, not at the beginning.
  2. Lift up your sternum, letting your shoulders be relaxed and free. My wife calls it “loosey goosy shoulders.” No matter whether you are sitting, standing, walking on flat ground, walking up hills or stairs or lifting something, your sternum is always lifting up. With your sternum lifting up, you do not squander your life force with excessive side-to-side motion while you are walking or having your head lean out forward. These first two rules stabilize your core. They resolve at least 70% percent of what can go wrong in posture, gait, lifting, or going up and down hills or stairs.
  3. let your head float up to its sweet spot where it takes the minimum amount of energy to hold it erect. Your ear lines up directly over your shoulders. Your forehead rocks just slightly forward, so if you had a miner’s lamp on your forehead, its light would shine on the ground about forty-five feet (15 meters) in front of you.
  4. Keep your feet parallel when walking or standing, even though it might not feel natural at first. This causes your inner (medial) muscles to develop in your legs, pelvis and up into your lower torso, front and back. The medial muscles enhance your prowess in every sport.  

Our body is mostly consciousness and energy with 15 very powerful circulatory systems running their energies up and down our torso, arms and legs. As powerful as they are, all our circulatory systems are easily kinked by a slumping posture, favoring injuries or letting our feet toe out.

The better our posture, the more powerfully our circulatory systems run. Our life force can express its fullest potential. Our innate intelligence has clear, open channels for all its communication throughout our entire bodymind. 

The simplest definition of health is: Every cell communicating clearly with every other cell. Good posture creates a stable platform for dynamic health within our body, mind, and spirit.

We are living more of our life wide awake. Our health shines through. Our vitality increases each year even though we are getting older. Our bodymind processes all its functions more efficiently. A strong flexible body creates a strong flexible mind. We make better decisions. Elegant posture is neither arrogant nor is it irrelevant.

Walk Like This
The newest research from all over the world indicates that: When walking, or running, land on the midpoint of your feet—not on your heels. Feel the arches of your feet expressing upward as you push off at the end of your stride. Practice the “short foot exercise” where you shorten your feet by making your arches come up without clawing your toes. That makes the arches of your feet more active in your gait.

Walking with your arches expressing upward tones up all the front and back muscles of your legs, torso, and even up to the top of your neck and head. This way your gait does not fall onto your legs in a side-to-side manner that causes the knee/feet dysfunction so many people experience.

Walking this way makes your whole body feel incredibly alive and turned on. You are aware of your feet throughout your entire gait, like most animals are. You feel more connected to Mother Earth.

Begin to feel your feet all the way through their contact with the ground. If you go for a twenty-minute walk in correct posture, you will literally walk most of the misalignments out of your spine and extremity bones. You actually realign your spine. But if you walk around slumping with your feet toeing out, you walk all those pesky misalignments right back in.

When you have problems that you can’t just “walk out,” seeing a chiropractor is a great idea. Chiropractors are specialists who can help you work out the kinks in the realignment of your spine and extremities. It is amazing how much better every aspect of your health becomes when you see your chiropractic doctor at least once per month.

Walking erect with your arches expressing upward, just walking out to your car feels magical. The whole architecture of your bodymind is enchanting. All your muscles and ligaments function more effortlessly. Every year your energy levels increase dramatically.

Walking out to your car this way, or walking down a flight of stairs without having to look at your feet takes you back to the sense of exhilaration you experienced as a child doing simple movements with your body. Everyday life becomes more exciting.

As you move with whole-body awareness, all your senses are fully present in the moment. Whole body awareness—the awareness of your whole body in its totality—is spiritual awareness. It is mindfulness. Standing tall and sitting erect stabilizes your awareness fully in the present moment, the here and now. 

The child-like joy you experienced as a child is not gone forever. You get it back one simple movement at a time.

Walking Up Stairs or Hills

When you notice that you are walking up a slight grade or up steps, stop! Come to full stop. Lift up your sternum so you are standing erect. Now, finish walking up the stairs or hill. You will notice that you use completely different muscles when erect.

Most people walk up hills or stairs leaning forward. Some even walk leaning forward on flat ground. This posture compresses both sacroiliac joints. With each step, your sacroiliac joint does a figure eight movement. Leaning forward compresses both joints and and micro-sprains the iliolumbar ligament, the most core (and vital) ligaments in your body. The resultant hip joint dysfunction, is the main reason people require hip socket replacement surgery, and is easily reversible.

Probably worse, leaning forward unbalances the whole musculoskeletal system out of phase. Many muscles work too hard while others under function. Since we have a bodymind, this imbalance discombobulates our consciousness so much that most people dislike going up stairs or hills. When we lift things and walk up hills or stairs with our sternum erect, every step heals and restores our bodymind. 

Every step, every movement either heals or destroys us, and time adds it all up.

How We Go Unconscious

Each faulty posture is actually a repository of unresolved, mostly unpleasant memories from earlier dysfunctional times. The instant we slump, our mind transports us back to the earliest memory this posture holds an unresolved emotional charge about.

Each slumping posture contains sensory/motor feedback patterns of old unresolved pain and suffering. The instant we slump, our brain takes control of our consciousness. Then it loads that old pattern with the feelings, attitudes and beliefs of that unresolved time over the top of what our eyes are looking at. That pattern gets superimposed over what we are experiencing. All our thoughts and actions reflect the old unresolved pattern.

We might be having a picnic with our family on a beautiful day. But our slumping posture loads all the pain and suffering from the earlier time to the forefront of our mind, and technically we are hallucinating.

In this hallucination, we project our unresolved feelings, attitudes and suspicions about the earlier time onto this present moment. More importantly, we project them onto our family (or whoever we are with). We are no longer in the present moment. We are in a past/future construct that our brain will keep dredging up until we resolve it.

The earlier unresolved drama gets superimposed over the picnic. For most people, these kinds of hallucinations occur dozens of times daily without their knowing about it. Our brain has programs for everything we have ever done more than once, and keeps them updated, even to the last time we thought about that subject.

Anytime we slump or start breathing shallowly, we go unconscious. The brain automatically defaults to being in charge. So, it acts like a disc jockey, playing what it considers the most appropriate tape for the situation at hand. We are reacting to outer circumstances.

That means every time we slump, favor injuries and breathe shallowly all our painful baggage from the past becomes “the elephant in the room that nobody talks about.” We are not living in the present moment with its beauty and infinite choices. And we unconsciously project our unresolved issues onto our loved ones and the people in our life. Ouch!

Waking Up

Every time we sit up straight or stand tall, we wake up to the present moment. The process is similar to how the first habit of breathing out strong wakes us back to the present moment. Every time we resume good posture, we wake up from yet another old mental/emotional pattern from our past. More importantly, how we handle ourselves replaces that old unconscious program with the more empowered one.

Every moment we overwrite our DNA. But until we wake up to the present moment, we keep overwriting our DNA with the same tired old stories our brain has generated for our whole life. When we are breathing out strong and standing tall, we overwrite our DNA in ever more empowering ways.

Practicing abdominal breathing and good posture replaces dozens of limiting thought-forms with more empowering ones every day, enhancing our self-esteem in the process. With this practice, we just about double our self-esteem every year. Life becomes exciting. Such promise awaits us.

We move—and experience life—as an authentic woman or man, free from society’s conditioning, free from the limitations of all the old stories about who we have been or what we can’t do. We become the lead actor as our lives transform into hero’s journeys.

Excerpted from Body Intelligence, A New Paradigm by John L. Mayfield, D.C.