With 25 years of working with bodies and minds this is what I know to be true.
If we as saplings aren’t tended, loved, made safe, bolstered, and supported, just like trees we grow up a little wonky. Our posture will be off. We won’t move so well, fundamentally we won’t BE so well. The tree will look gnarly and windswept, the human will look what I can only describe as ‘confined in her/his skin in a stricken like pose. Internally things like IBS happen, constipation is very common in this uptight held way. Structurally it will show up as hyperextended knee joints, locked up pelvis, chin raised, forefoot dominance. From the untrained eye, you’ll see a pot belly (hyper lordosis of the lumber) and duck butt. As in it sticks out (anterior postural tilt). As gravity and ageing occurs this will transpire into disc issues usually in the lower back and neck. The body can only ‘hold’ this gait so long before issues start making themselves known.
In western medicine this is put down to ageing. Medications are administered. Joints replaced. Discs removed. Surgeons like mechanics fixing a car but never addressing the road.
Not many consultants would ever ask about your family life, your upbringing, your sexual development, your maternal or paternal nurturance when you visit them with disc issues or inner ear problems.
It’s my belief that this holding, this tension is the precursor of behavioural issues as the body/mind try to ease this dysfunctional rigid state that it finds itself in… like a river wanting to flow, we are all in need and want of a flow state. Energy moves. Always in a forward trajectory. We all crave the peace and calm of serenity. When we are not in this state we find ways to soothe. Serenity will find us when we are high, drunk or in a constant crave for chaos to get the come down after. Addiction to stress becomes normal, because stress is familiar. There will be drama in relationships and fallings out and gossiping.
This can lead to addiction as this need to soothe becomes a subconscious fixation. Disclaimer: nobody escapes childhood unscathed to some degree.
The nerdy part of this is if we look at the superior postural, posterior lines (connections) of the body, the curves in the spine may form in an unhealthy way. They will form because gravity means we really have to get upright as human beings/doings to run from that sabor toothed tiger… why its all the sabor toothed tiger I don’t know. We have to develop rigid tensor fascia to keep us in survival locomotion. The tonic group of muscles we need to survive as a mobile human being. To stay independent. To stay, as they say, when trauma is unresolved ‘an island’. Where nobody can get close. Needless to say relationships aren't fulfilling.
We come from a squidgy baby body, and once we are upright the front and backs of our bodies behave in very different ways.
I believe the front of us is highly reactive to life. It crunches and braces in reaction to things and the back of our bodies work hard to accommodate that. We are not so different to hedgehogs. Bristly backs and curled up tummies.
Too much bracing, from too much external chaos weathers our bodies. Like a lone tree on top of a hill exposed to the elements.
Working in addiction I see the shame and guilt more pronounced in posture. I then, with my obsession with my gait, movement and psychopathology training started to observe the structural integration that we can apply.
Here is a simple lovely way to listen deeply to yourself.
Lie on your back. Preferably with your lower legs raised or a bolster under your knees. Bring some length into the back of your neck. Your legs in this position will also bring some space into your usually compressed lower back.
Now scan through your body in your mind starting with your right hand thumb, fingers, hand, wrist, forearm, elbow, upper arm, shoulder, chest, ribs, waist .. bring all your awareness to your right hip and feel the muscles in your right thigh simply fall away from the bone… and so on.. keep going. Once you’ve finished with your right side, go to your left side….
The signs you will notice are your tummy might rumble, you might get an itch on the side of your nose, or a blissful sigh might escape your mouth…
Do this a few times a day and just as you probably noticed as you were reading this, there is a different sensation as parts of your body you didn't even realise you were holding simply relax.
No matter how you grew, we can gradually change course of anything, you can also transform your gait. You can transform your DNA. Your past does not define you, and only the brave strip away those protective layers that once served us so well.