As I was rinsing cloth diapers for the wash, I found myself considering my posture. This is a very common occurrence for me since I spend a fair amount of time bending over a wash basin of some kind and then noticing the sad effect such a position has on my back.
Today I felt the implications in my shoulders. My first improving action was to retract my shoulders onto my back rather that maintaining their very forward position on my ribcage. But this only served to remind me that my back was in a strained position. The real solution was to bend my knees and fold my hips so that my entire torso adjusted to a better angle and level for achieving the task at hand.
For many years, I’ve wondered just what is the ideal position for lowering oneself to the desired level over a sink or other such work surface. Within a week of taking a class with Dana Davis at TSH, I had the good fortune to observe my toddler addressing that very question. I’ve been thinking of what I saw him do over and over again since then. Nearly every time that I’m tasked with washing or rinsing something. Which, as any in-home mom knows, is a very frequent occurrence.
First a little background (you know me, at least a little by now, there is always a background story). I’ve been studying movement for around twenty years now. And I’ve been a mom for almost two. So for something like eighteen years I’ve been catching wind of an intriguing idea: that the youngest among us demonstrate all sorts of interesting things about our bodies. And for the past two, I’ve been watching carefully and truly enjoying the show. It is amazing to watch the development of movement patterns, the nuances of position, and the pure expression of humanity that are simply a matter of course for each of us in the fist couple years of life.
For me, it has been important to be in the presence of my son consistently on a daily basis to make these observations. I can think of it in terms of learning body language. Just as with spoken language, immersion proves to be an important factor. Now, having spent 2 years in the nearly constant company of a baby, I can recognize the body language of his contemporaries easily. Whereas, before I was a mom, when I was incredibly curious about the expression of our basic movement patterns in the very young, and also often in the company of the very young, I was blind to it. It was right there before my eyes, and yet I didn’t see it. In the past two years I’ve very much appreciated this book for helping me to see and understand certain patterns.
In the case of working over a surface, the key to proper positioning is to use the main torso positioning mechanisms: the legs and hips. Rather than bending the spine at the waist and rounding the upper back forward to the detriment of the position of the ribs and the shoulders, the key is to simply fold at the knees and the hips to the move the arms to the desired level.
One day, my kid was standing on his high chair next to me at the sink. We were having some fun with bubbles and at a certain point he was really getting into it, rather than simply observing me. This was when he got serious with his position and did precisely what I just described. The outward effect may look a little odd at first, or perfectly natural depending on your framework of analysis. It looks odd because it’s not what most adults do. But for those of us who have been diligently working at reclaiming proper use of our human body, it looks absolutely perfect. (Sort of like some movie scene where the characters arrive at just the right moment on just the right day of the year to see some mystical truth revealed by a sunbeam – you know what I mean, right?)
So, today I was once again reminded of the very important posture lesson that my little guy granted me. And a new category for this blog was born. Not all the lessons are this easy or fun, for sure. But they are lessons all the same. And I’d argue that they are some of the most important lessons we have the opportunity to learn (second perhaps to those that we learn from our parents). So it seems to me that the more frequently we are able to remind ourselves that we are here to learn and that our children are excellent teachers, the better primed we are to actually “get it”. And likewise, the less likely we are to stage a dramatic protest in the face of some lesson which we are not too pleased with. So for today it’s posture, who knows what I’ll realize about my little teacher in the days and years to come. For certain, I am looking forward to each and every moment. Even the ones that initially seem quite unpleasant. I’m pretty sure that those will turn out to be the best ones…..