An excerpt from the book, Healthy Posture for Babies and Children: Tools for Helping Children to Sit, Stand, and Walk Naturally
Many of us know that our children’s posture is a problem. We struggle to know what to do about it, having already learned the futility of simply telling a child to “sit up straight.” Truth be told, we often are at a loss to know how to inhabit our own bodies in ways that are comfortable and relaxed, yet strong and energetic. Can we ever expect children to know what to do, if we ourselves do not?
Teachers are frustrated, too. Many of the children in their classrooms are ill-prepared to participate in learning –their bodies are collapsed, and they are restless and unable to sit still and focus, or they are lethargic and “zoned out.” In the meantime, there are lessons to prepare, tests and homework to correct, administrative paperwork to complete, not to mention the aches and pains that come from being on one’s feet in a classroom all day.
It makes sense that posture is a topic that is easily ignored. The general attitude tends to be that it is something we should pay attention to, but it’s just “too hard” to maintain. We remember our mother’s nagging us to “stand up straight,” but whenever we tried, we felt rigid and uncomfortable, and our ability to maintain “proper” posture lasted hardly any time at all. And so it continued; we either gave in to slouching or we pulled ourselves up and held ourselves together with tension. Sound familiar?
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Our cultural ideal of “good” posture turns out to be all wrong. Truly good posture — natural posture — is comfortable and relaxed, while also solidly strong and upright. I wrote my new book to show how this is possible.
As it is with many other things, natural posture is simple but not entirely easy. It does take a bit of re-learning, as well as some practice. Doing this with others — parent and child, teacher and students — not only makes it more interesting and fun, but reinforces our efforts along the way.
I started out to teach children, but they ended up teaching me. While the programs I’ve conducted in elementary schools were at first limited to helping children know how to sit upright with ease, whether at their desks or on the floor, from them I learned the following:
- Children have a great appetite for knowing how to inhabit their bodies with ease. They are enthusiastically attentive and curious about how their bodies work.
- In a home and school environment that emphasizes acquisition of information and development of cognitive skills, children are grateful to be invited to feel what is going on inside their skin.
- Children respond well to being part of a process of mutual learning. They are fully aware when we are not walking our talk or practicing what we preach, and they appreciate our admitting that we, too, still have much to learn. They are inspired by our sincere commitment to improving ourselves and will follow our lead.
I will end with a brief story of what first inspired me to write my new book. Months after the conclusion of a pilot project at a public charter school in Hilo, Hawaii, in 1999, I had a conversation with the fourth-grade teacher. After the program concluded, she found it helpful to occasionally remind the children that she saw some “sad dogs” in the room. This reminded them that sitting up with ease begins with establishing the pelvis as the foundation.
One day, when she said she saw some sad dogs in the room, one boy blurted out, “That’s over!” My heart sank momentarily as the teacher recounted this to me, before she added that another child had earnestly called out, “No it’s not! It’s for your whole life!”
And so it is that working with children is always about planting seeds. Inspiring interest is the first step, because curiosity is the fertile soil in which seeds can begin to sprout. Our own enthusiasm and persistence for putting alignment principles into practice is the fertilizer that we add along with encouragement and supportive reminders. It may take months or even years for the seeds to bear fruit in ourselves and our children. You will forget and then remember many times over.
In the days that lie ahead, the best we can do is stay on course. The benefits of this will become clear to our children, and especially to ourselves, by how we feel. There is no guarantee that a self-directed process will unfold in someone else. Yet nothing will motivate our children more, now and in the future, than watching us reap the benefits that come from inhabiting bodies that are aligned, both literally and figuratively, with the truth of who we are.