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Snap Judgments

We meet someone for the first time. We instinctively “assess” that person, a process that can take place in a second or two. General appearance, speech patterns, verbal fluency, presence of an accent, ethnicity, age, gender, body habitus, configuration of the hands, eyes, and face––that’s it, we’ve made our split-second assessment. We have a distinct “take” of that person. It will be difficult for us to change our view no matter how much new information we’re later provided.

The head, neck, and torso are linked in an extremely delicate and vulnerable postural relationship. The head, besides housing the brain, eyes, ears, nose, and mouth, is also the locus of the two main balancing mechanisms, the optical and vestibular. The importance of the head’s balance in relation to the rest of the body becomes even greater when looked at in the context of evolution. The upright posture is the result of millions of years of development and is the most advanced stage of the evolutionary process…Failure to adopt the fully upright posture represents a failure to explore our potential to be fully human.[1]

Children make these types of snap judgments all the time. But as one gets older one realizes how complex people are, how multilayered and multifaceted, and how one’s first take of a person can often be wrong. We believe our first introduction is all we need, but there remain many unanswered questions: Where did this person grow up? Who were their parents? What life experiences has this person endured? In what ways have those experiences shaped this person’s outlook, temperament, and character?

Good posture concerns most people, yet we rarely think about what this means other than “standing up straight.” Moshe noted that the root of posture is post, which describes something fixed, static, rigid. He coined the term acture to suggest the way the spine dynamically aligns and realigns with every action. As he defined it, acture describes the way someone sits or stands when not engaging in any intentional act, the neutral position to which one returns after enacting some intention. Good “acture’ is that which enables one to act spontaneously with the greatest degree of freedom. These ideas provide an excellent, functional definition for truly good posture.[2]

Good posture implicates more than merely the physical. By aligning and centering our bodies in the right way at the right time, we can shape the space around us. Good posture––the “right” posture––opens our minds, permitting us to move past appearances, to sense that which exists beyond. With a relaxed-alert, upright posture, we create the right kind of energy. It’s not feasible or practical to think about this consciously; rather, “upright posture” should become our natural way of thinking, of seeing, of moving.

The slouched sitting position had a lower SNIP [sniff nasal inspiratory pressure] score compared to upright sitting position suggesting a reduced diaphragm tension and movement as a result of altered body posture. Prolonged slouched position may induce breathing disorder and affect surrounding structures including the heart and phrenic nerve. Individuals are advised to avoid slouched position and encouraged to practice upright position with proper breathing maneuvers.[3]

Because they work tolerably well in a variety of contexts snap judgments become habitual. Many, however, come to recognize the inadequacy and ineffectuality of split-second assessments. Too often in a contested proceeding, and in other areas, we do not pause to consider. The right posture can slow us down (and widen our horizon) long enough to take note of things we otherwise might have missed––“posture” in this context used to describe both the physical as well as the mental.

 It is well documented that posture control abilities in humans depend on the capacities to detect the environment and visual, vestibular, and somatosensory inputs…More specifically, this is achieved primarily by a feedback-control mechanism that includes dynamic regulation of sensorimotor integration by the “reweighting of individual sensory channels.” Vision and visual and spatial attention are among executive functions that are essential for successful posture stability and navigation through the environment…[4]

It may seem somewhat odd to suggest a relationship between posture and depth of perception, but in fact posture assumes its most significant role when others are involved. To move beyond the surface, to move beyond, we have to assume the right “posture.” For some this may seem irrelevant, beside the point, but for others this small change may come to make all the difference. Which will it be? Well, it all depends on your posture…

[1] Michael Gelb, Body Learning: An Introduction to the Alexander Technique, Pg. 44-46 (Henry Holt 1987)

[2] Steven Shafarman, Awareness Heals: The Feldenkrais Method for Dynamic Health, Pg. 99-100 (Perseus Books 1997)

[3] Ali AlbarratiHamayun ZafarAhmad H. AlghadirShahnwaz Anwer, Effect of Upright and Slouched Sitting Postures on the Respiratory Muscle Strength in Healthy Young Males, BioMed Research International, Volume 2018 (2018), Article ID 3058970, 5 pages, https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/3058970

[4] Lyubomir I. AftanasOlga M. Bazanova, and Nataliya V. Novozhilova, Posture-Motor and Posture-Ideomotor Dual-Tasking: A Putative Marker of Psychomotor Retardation and Depressive Rumination in Patients With Major Depressive Disorder, Front Hum Neurosci 2018; 12: 108 ; 10.3389/fnhum.2018.00108