Recently, someone said that they saw me walking down State
Street, looking “very lord of-the-manor.”
But it did get me to noticing how I, any other similarly
vintaged folk, carry ourselves. What I started seeing were certain
themes: Older women who look like stiffened ballerinas. And the
aging dudes, swaggering down the street like silver backed apes.
Everyone seems to be so aware of their posture, so intent on being
an older person carrying him or herself in a particular way. I
suspect we are all trying our damnedest to not look old and broken
down, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Yet, I started wondering if we aren’t missing something with all
of this self-conscious posturing. Is Pilates and and all of those
“weighted workouts” taking their toll on our individuality? Are we
posturing instead of standing easily in our own unique
With such profound questions I need to consult the experts. And
when it comes to the body and how it moves, my money is on Ann
Brode, a Certified Somatic Therapist and a longtime maven of the
Santa Barbara healing community.
I recently asked Ann about these postures I have been noticing.
Am I making too much of how one stands?
No, assured Ann. “The way we are in our body posture says a lot
about who we are, our personal history and our emotional
Yes, but what about the ballerinas and the silver-backs?
“Your observation of men and women of a certain age in our
community reflects the influence of the health industry,” which is
“Currently, we are between two streams of influence: The fashion
industry’s slouchy, sexless, skinny look and the health industry’s
athletic, aerobicized look. If you glance around, you will also
find examples of posture that is decisively unhealthy… slumped,
slouched and physically disengaged, the couch potato look. One
posture tries to defy gravity, while the other is succumbing.”
Ann said that both extremes of posture—either the “hypertoned”
or the “hypotoned”—are unhealthy.
“Perhaps the ultimate sacrifice in both postures is spontaneity.
With the hypertoned, rigid posture, there is often no rest, no
variability, no softening to emotional expression. With the
hypotoned, collapsed posture, there is no strength, no resiliency,
no access to joy. Both of these extremes are an injury waiting to
happen and resist an authentic experience of the ebbing and flowing
that molds the creative life.”
So it seems that being too toned and not toned at all is not so
good. What happened to just, you know, moving like you?
“There is a definite art to our own unique posturing,” she told
me, sharing with me the delight one can have by seeing someone we
care for walking towards us in their own, unique manner. There is
an artfulness to each of us as we stand in the world. “And, like
any other art,” Ann said, “It is about conscious intention and
practice that desires mastery. We get feedback constantly from our
body: bones moving as we breathe, the variable pressure of our
hands on the steering wheel. Many body awareness programs, like
Pilates and yoga, pay attention to this feedback and should help us
awaken our own body intelligence.”
There are also emotional feedback loops which inform this “body
intelligence.” In order to access them, we must train ourselves to
tune into the messages inherent in, say, a tight jaw, the
“butterfly” stomach, a heaviness in the chest.
Tuning into the present moment of the body will, according to
Ann, “encourages us to move towards the artistic and away from the
mechanical experience of the body.”
The “art of posturing”—as opposed to merely “posturing”—means
that we must “allow our body to move easily from one moment to the
next and not get frozen in one mode of expression, one attitude.”
Dr. Michael O.L. Seabaugh is a licensed clinical psychologist
with a psychotherapy practice in Santa Barbara. Comment at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit his
web site/blog at www.HealthspanWeb.com for more
information on the topics covered in this column.