In some of my recent posts, I've talked about the flip-flopping effect of slouching and then attempting to correct the slouch by pulling the shoulders back and lifting the chest. Slouching isn't so great, but lifting the chest and pulling the shoulders back is slouching too. It's slouching backward. When truly standing up straight, we're neither forward nor backward. Instead, we're balanced in the middle, comfortable and breathing effortlessly. Recently, I ventured into to one of my favorite subway stations to try on some hats and further investigate this phenomenon.
Let's take a look at the photos below and make some sense of the title of this blog, "Good Posture Means Wearing Your Own Hat, Not Someone Else's".
Welcome to the 23rd Street N/R stop in Manhattan, where the walls of the station are decorated with tile-composed hats similar in style to hats worn by various prominent figures (the name of the person printed below each hat). The hats have been placed on the walls at levels that correspond to the heights of the people who would have worn them. Here I am trying on hats. Let's see what I discovered about my posture . . .
Endeavoring to place my head under this hat belonging to someone shorter than I am, I tipped my head back and down and adopted a slouch. I'm shortening myself here and clearly will not succeed in inhabiting my full height while wearing this hat. It's also not very comfortable. I feel compressed and lack energy. My breathing feels shallow.
Let's find a higher hat. How about this one? It might be a little too high, but maybe I can fit into it if I stand up really straight!
The problem here is that in my effort to stand up straight, as predicted, I slouch backwards and actually move farther away from the hat. I'm lifting my chest and pulling my shoulders and head back, which leads me down in the opposite direction from the slouch, but I'm still aimed down, compressing my spine and rib cage. I feel rigid, uncomfortable, and short of breath.
How about I put on my own hat and stand up at my own height instead of trying to fit into these other hats. That feels better! I'm standing much more upright than when I tried on those other two hats. I feel relaxed, energized, and I'm breathing more fully without extra effort.
I used flip-flop between slouching forward and backward all the time and I wasn't even aware of it. The Alexander Technique helped me figure out what it feels like to stand up at my full height . . . and wear my own hat!
If you'd like to read another Posture Police Blotter post inspired by NYC subway tile art, check out this one at