Aidan O’Mahony won Dancing With The Stars. The girls were better, all but Kerry people would agree. But the footballer did make great improvement from day one to becoming the ultimate winner. He probably made the greatest difference on his journey. “Zero to hero” as judge Julian said. https://youtu.be/MxKr-I0FuO8
A lot of the talk during the show was of posture. In the beginning, Aidan’s posture was stiff and his performance wooden. But he would have been admired for his posture on the football field as a multi medal winning All Star for Kerry.
So, what is this posture thing so often talked of? If you have good posture wouldn’t it transfer from the football field to the dance floor?
Maybe it is our interpretation of posture. Often it is defined in the way we hold ourselves. And while that is not completely untrue, it is misleading. In finding a frame for dancing or taking a free kick, you want to find the space in your joints and as you balance and focus on alignment. However, “holding” is the misleading part. Muscles are meant for movement. If we hold our muscles, we fail to be flowing as we move.
You, the viewer, have become an expert on posture while watching dancing shows, team games or athletes. If a person is not flowing in their activity you see it, you know it. You know when it works and when it doesn’t. You might not know how to make improvements but you can recognise who is performing well and who isn’t. Sit in a football stadium and listen to the experts around you speak to all the faults they see in the players. We are wonderful armchair experts.
To recognise posture complaints in yourself may be more difficult. It is hard to notice internally. When the dancers were told to improve their line or frame, the tendency was to put it on. Put a frame on their posture and tighten up. Rather than allowing the frame to come from inside, soften the muscles and direct the activity. When the intention for the movement comes from inside, it is free and fluid. this improved over the weeks as they learned to go inside to find their resources.
Posture is after all how you feel inside, moment to moment.
If you feel good, you will move well. Look at how much Denise was enjoying herself last night. If you are overthinking, hurting or sad, your posture and movement will reflect that. If you are comfortable and know what you are doing, you will use your body in a way that is elegant, free and fluid. Look at Aidan on the football feel which is his home. He flows and is comfortable on the ball. Give a ball to judge Brian and see how he does with it. He may surprise you because he does know how to move. He might not do so good if several 15 stone footballers are coming at him.
Posture is changing shape. In dancing, you are constantly changing shapes, to every beat of the music and all the milli-seconds in between. In sport your attention is constantly changing to the process of the game and being in the moment. It is changing in connection to the movement of the ball, connection with your partners, opposition and environment. Life changes moment to moment and so do you.
So, what is the right posture? A question I get asked thousands of times
How can there be one right posture? How can a dancer, sports person, human being get through life with one posture? Just know if you are holding, that's not it.
Let me put it this way. It depends on what you are doing. Good and useful posture is using the minimum amount of muscle tension, and energy, for the job in hand. It is connecting to what you are doing and thinking. If you are thinking of the next step you are already using too much tension. If you are clear and in this step right now you are here and in it. You have the power of now. It is mindfulness in action, in the zone, connection. That leads to excellent performance.
Bad posture is out of balance, excessive muscle tensions, rigidity, jerky movement and poor performance.
Posture is part of what is happening right now. If you are looking at your phone reading this, notice the posture you are in and if it is stiff or free. If you are sitting at a computer how is your posture? Can you know from your own senses or do you need a reflection, to tell you if your posture is good or bad?
Posture is essentially balance. If I am out of balance it may be because of poor posture. Habits of holding that have set into my muscles, and my thinking. If I understand how I am designed to balance and move as a human being I can invite myself to use less muscle tension and be more in myself. It depends on what you want.
If you want to be in your whole strength of your full person to spin a lady above your head, you need good posture and balance. You can get away with a lot when you are not on camera. If you are regularly sitting at a computer all day the reason to improve your posture might be to free yourself of back pain, or neck tension. Or your wish may be to improve your confidence and how you stand on your own two feet in the workplace.
Posture can be a goal but I find if you replace the goal of good posture with a passion, it incentivises you more to take care of yourself. After all, the body and mind you have are yours. No one else drives you. You are the one to move you around. You are the one who feels good and bad in your body. Aidan improved his dancing posture and enjoyment of dance so that he could win Dancing With The Stars. A compelling incentive to prove himself to the naysayers. He is a competitor after all.
I’m not saying Aoibhin and Denise didn’t want it as much as Aidan did. They were truly brilliant and inspirational in their commitment to every dance, every long line and trusting lift. They all brought their best game last night. And you can see and feel and know the joy of dance and the connections the whole group made on their DWTS journey. It was a beautiful thing.
So to those who wish to improve their posture. What is the real reason you would like to improve your posture? What incentive do you need to feel good in yourself? What goal will move you to make the changes to live more presently in your body and mind? To put you back in the driving seat of the vehicle you live in. Because that’s what we’re really talking about. Do you want your vehicle (body) to move well and look good?
Think about it.
Alexander's technique offers tools for life. Not just for posture.
PS Individual lessons to explore your unique postural habits can be made by appointment.
Contact me now 087 6503523
Photos and clips thanks to RTE
“Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?”
We do like our own way. We humans like to be right. As we sit and observe the world and its actions it is quite clear to us what is right and what is wrong. But to turn the focus internally is a challenge.
To make change is a problem because everything we know feels normal or right, and so to challenge that and do something new that interrupts our logic or feeling, is wrong to the senses.
That is why habit is so successful. To break a habit takes will power, strength, commitment, discipline and consistency. It sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?
What if we embraced our habits? Well we embrace unconsciously the ones we want to keep, because we let them run. The habits we want to kick we punch and fight and cast guilt and shame upon them. What if we embraced the habits we want to change instead of shaming ourselves? It is only ourselves who gives the orders to change, out of guilt or some other useless state.
What if we listened to our whole selves, at the bigger picture, and discovered the why we want to change. The first why will be because the doctor/boss/parent told you it was good for you. The second why will be because they are right and you didn’t really like that way of being anyway, but it took an external force to show you what you wanted. But find a third why. A why that moves you towards something. An incentive. A carrot, rather than a whip.
A common why to change is posture. People often come to me because someone has indicated that they have poor posture.
- So what? Other people think you have poor posture. Why would you want to change for them?
- Well I keep pulling my shoulders back, but that doesn’t seem to be any good.
- So why are you really here?
- What do you mean?
- You are paying me money so that you can please other people’s opinions around your posture. What is posture?
- It’s how you hold yourself.
- Do you want to change how you hold yourself?
- Emmmmmm .... Confused face.
People don’t even know why they want to change. As a good friend and respected colleague of mine says “It’s all bonkers! People are bonkers!!!”
I was bonkers. Some say I still am, but in a new way. I was bonkers trying to fix my posture by pulling my back and shoulders to satisfy my respectable grandaunt. It never lasted and was awful tiring. But what was more bonkers was all the work, unnecessary muscle work, I was doing to trap my body into pain and dampen my natural spirit.
I didn’t know what posture was or who I was trying to please.
Once I learned that if I put my head on top of my spine, life becomes so much easier. It was in this moment sixteen years ago I decided I wanted to train in Alexander’s work, because I was eager to know more. Why didn’t I know this simple stuff as a teenager? Normal, obvious, biologically scientific, logical, self-care. Do less instead of more. I had always been working too hard. This is freedom and choice. Why is it just for performers? This needed to be shared with every normal person in the world. Now there’s a goal. A big, fantastic, altruistic, worldly goal.
But first I had to find MY personal goal. Make MY life easy and simple. Now that's MY kind of goal. Way better than improve my posture, a goal from another era. Of course I changed my posture on the way to the simple life. I changed lots of things. My energy improved, as did my confidence and bravery. I became less reactive and more responsive. I took my time to please myself and not jump to others demands so readily. My thinking is more balanced. I receive more information, read situations better and remember where keys are because I am more observant. And it all started from letting my head live on top of my spine with a free neck, rather than working all my back muscles really hard and out of balance. An understanding and acceptance of how I am made to move and be, took me out of poor skewed up posture and into gentle freedom and my full height.
So posture may well be YOUR goal. Posture is after all every move you make. It is a reflection of how you feel inside. Posture could be replaced with other words. Confidence. Presence. Acceptance. Performance. Love. It’s all the same work that will take you to your goal, whether your goal is to climb a mountain, win an Oscar, or get through the day in a good way, it is the whole of you that you take along the road.
But let’s look back at the problem you want to change, the thing you want to get away from. Can you embrace the problem and listen and learn from it? Can this be a way to learn about yourself, rather than push yourself in to contortions of change? Does it have to be hard? As Rumi said, can you let your life live through you? You may be surprised that the habits you wish to push away can teach you something. The pushing is exhausting and wrong anyway. But you don’t know another way because it feels right to you based on your current programming.
My advice is let yourself feel wrong. Right is so overrated. There is something new in feeling wrong. Wrong does not have to be painful. Wrong might just be odd or different. You won’t know where you are going on the road to wrong, but at least you will have stepped off the road you know to be right. And right just isn’t right anymore, is it?
But that's just a starting point. You may need help if you want to make lasting change. Help is here.
Love Fiona xxx
So I got up this morning thinking of my commitment to play, thinking of colour and interaction. The promise I made last night when I last wrote.
At first I was daunted. I didn’t know how this was going to work or how I was going to do it for 40 days or more!!! The only rule is that it has to feel good to me. Therefore authentically driven from the inside out. Not just an attention seeking exercise. So how to start the day? How about I never wear the same entire ensemble twice, at least in a week. Or if I do wear something to change it up so different pieces are worn for a different look.
As a multi tasker I thought this is a good way to go through my wardrobe and, after a days wear, release anything that was uncomfortable or no longer desirable to me. A practical side to the project, clearing out. Yes that feels good. Throwing out stuff, dishoarding, uncluttering, can be quite a challenge all in one go.
Oh look at my head taking over and my need to make this like I know what I am doing. Because in truth I didn’t know the clothes I chose to put on were going to make my day.
I chose a bright red tunic I bought in India 3 years ago and have only worn once. It’s cotton so ideal for hot weather so maybe not an excellent choice for a brisk March morn. At least the storms have passed and it is a nice day. The slits up the side allowed for great movement as I found myself kneeling and squatting a lot in my lessons today.
I teamed up the red with simple black legging’s and my favourite boots of all time. A pair of red leather ankle boots I bought in Amsterdam in 2012 and have had serviced several times to get more miles out of them. They are a bit battered but deeply loved, and have not been out for a while. My black leather jacket, Johnny Cash hat and green scarf really cut a dash, or so I was told when I landed into the place I work. I received many compliments. I was beginning to enjoy my efforts.
Then during lessons while exploring the Alexander directions in different activities, picking something up from the floor, kneeling and getting up, walking, rising from a chair, I found myself using superheroes to help. Superman was great for the forward and up direction, and Wonder Woman useful for being aware of all the space around. I was really flying now.
Later, buying diesel, there was an aggressive queue. The place, the cheapest in Dublin, only has two pumps and limited space. There is a certain etiquette at busy times. It takes some observation of the sequence of arrivals, swift manoeuvring and accurate 3 point turns to get in and out efficiently maintaining the respect of other users. There were some disgruntled faces as chancers who thought they might slip in from a physically advantageous place, waited their turn, impatiently.
Me and my superhero self in my bright red outfit engaged openly, smiling at the gentlemen and exchanging in a way that left any competitive placings, from before I got to the pumps, dissolve. I was surprised at how good I felt. Often these mini battles would create a stress inside me, but today all is well and when I shared that with the world, I got it back. My three point turn was swift and accurate, like a pro, and off I went into the traffic.
The day continued well, and all my dealings went smoothly. Finding a parking space outside the bank door, coordinating appointments and moving freely and energetically greeting all along the way. Twas a grand day.
Was it because I was empowered by wearing red, or was it just a good day?
So today’s lesson – this is not a fashion experiment, this is social and personal. I wonder what tomorrow will bring.
Love Fiona X
Playing with Lent
Today is the first day of Lent. It’s a long time since I acknowledged it. Like Valentines Day I can love and show love anytime. I can commit to giving up a habit or focusing on developing one anytime. 40 days of lent might be a good time to focus on a challenge, as many others sync up with their commitment. It's good to have a support buddy or ten.
Ash Wednesday signifies this start in the Catholic practice, where there is a special mass to acknowledge the start where ash is crossed on your forehead. I was noticing as I crossed the road a girl with this black mark on her lovely face. It takes the eyes up. The brain noticing something unusual takes the eyes up to investigate.
I noticed many eyes look down as I passed them. Today I happened to be having a very free day and chose some pink and blue striped socks to bridge the gap between my calf length pants and Converse. I must admit it was not my best fashion ensemble but it did make me smile when others would take in the socks and giggle or change their expression. One woman stopped talking to her colleague as I passed, and nearly fell over herself as her eyes followed my feet. This was all very amusing to me, and reminded me of something.
A while ago I went through a phase of dying my hair not natural colours, pink and purple and blue. I thought it was fun but many would just ask, why Fiona? Maybe it was some sort of madness I needed to get out of my system. I’m looking professionally respectable at the moment, which doesn’t turn as many heads as a flash of pink or a rainbow of purples did.
Similarly I noticed where people’s eyes would go when they passed me. Usually their eyes went up to investigate what was different about my head. In the beginning I would have forgotten what colour my own hair was and just became aware of the looks. Then I remembered, and enjoyed the observations. My observation of theirs.
Something really interesting happened. As people looked with their eyes at the top of my head, they would go up. Their whole body followed the eyes up by their internal curiosity, often drawn there before they were even conscious of staring. But get this. As they went up, I went up. I was getting, mini Alexander lessons all over the place as I sported a bright blue fringe. Clearly mirroring was happening. Isn't it nice to think I gave someone an UP direction and they in turn gave me an UP direction.
Now it wasn’t my intention to draw attention. It was simply a wish I had for a long time to experiment with colour, but probably never had the bravery to do it. So colouring my hair was a little leap into the unknown. Isn’t every trip to the hairdresser, or home attempt with a bottle of colour or bleach in the bathroom? But playing with my hair was something I was doing for me, regardless of what the world or my mother thought. An act of boredom more than anything. But it taught me so much.
I think I will focus on doing something fresh and different for Lent. Maybe not every day, because that would be predictable, but a general commitment to exploring creative ways to dress, or draw attention somehow to help others in gentle ways interrupt their days for a moment. Put a smile or bewildered expression on someone’s face. Or let them bask in a moment of judgement if that is all they want to do.
For Lent I am going to play.
What are you not going to do?
Love Fiona X
PS If you don't know what "giving an UP direction " means try an Alexander lesson or workshop with me or a teacher near you. Or play with it your self. Imagine your head is a big balloon floating UP towards the sky and let your body follow it. Notice the difference in allowing your head to lead Up with this thought rather than trying to sit up straight. The movement should be head led and not tightening your back. If you find difficulty a teacher can put you in the right direction.
I am Fiona and I am exploring themes of meeting resistances and allowing ways through. The constant weeding, recognising the stuff that's in the way to live easier.