The first question that I ask a new client is why they've come to see me. They've come to improve their posture, obviously, but why? Are they in pain? Do they want to look and feel more confident? Move more efficiently in order to improve their workout? Many people take Alexander Technique lessons with me for these reasons, but there's another very common one...their mom, husband, girlfriend, brother, best friend, boss, director, soon-to-be in laws, or the person they went on a date with last Friday night told them that their posture is terrible. Worst part is that they are hardly aware of their terrible posture until it's become beyond terrible or they see themselves in a mirror, window, or photo, which sends them into an embarrassed state of shock.
Folks who fall into this category usually arrive for their lesson panicked. They think they are a hopeless case that can't be fixed. First, I usually end up assuring them that their "terrible" posture isn't quite as terrible as they think it is. Then they want to know what they have to do to fix it. I then shift the conversation a bit to the topic of awareness. The biggest problem with this person's posture is that they are unaware of it and most people who come in for any of the above reasons are in some significant way unaware of their body position.
So, why are so many people so unaware of how they are holding their bodies???
The answer is proprioception, our 6th sense. I'm not talking about psychic abilities, but rather our ability to sense body positioning. Proprioception is actually it's own sense and has to do with nerves in your joints telling your brain where you are in space. If you put your hand behind you, can you still sense where it is? Can you touch your nose with your eyes closed? (If you do it before the glass of eggnog.) That's your proprioception at work and it mostly works pretty well for most people, even if your posture isn't great, but we tend to adapt to our habits and so does our brain...so your compressed down, squeezed in positioning may actually feel normal or straight even when it's not.
Here's an example...
When most people come in for a first lesson and they show me what they think is standing up straight, they are actually leaning back. When I help them align themselves so that they are actually more straight and centered, they feel like they are leaning forward...like they're on a ski slope...and they look at me, helpless again, swearing that they will never be able to maintain this more natural way of standing. After a few lessons, they start to realize that they can and that what felt new and weird now feels more normal and the old "bad" posture is harder to go back to because it doesn't feel right anymore.
I used to dread seeing myself on video because how I looked seemed so foreign compared to how I felt I looked from the inside. The Alexander Technique helped me make my proprioception more accurate. How I feel like I'm standing and moving is more often what I'm actually doing. I'm not shocked and I don't feel like I want to hide when I see myself on video or take a selfie.