Rushing to pack or prep for a holiday, or simply over scheduling any part of my life leads to mental and physical clumsiness. I trip, bump into people, don’t make honest eye contact in everyday interactions (clichéd example – at the checkout counter). I double-schedule appointments and forget birthdays. The joys in life are easily passed over, as it becomes an effort to slow down, breathe, taste my food, and really be with the ones I love.
When I’m in a rush, focused on my to-dos, my energy slowly drains away as the day goes on. Every time I check off a to-do I get a dopamine hit, but then it wears off. Onto the next to-do to make my ego feel better and keep the dopamine coming! Can you relate?
In the process of being busy, I can lose my ability to feel joy and empathy.
Application: empathy not only gives us the settling feeling of connection but also makes it possible to hang with a diverse range of people. A skill needed for the work place, family relations and life in general!
From a postural perspective, focusing on the next task tends to leave the head sitting in front of the torso (forward head posture). The shoulders slump in, upper back rounds, lower back flattens, chest drops, while the belly and pelvic floor collapse. You may be doing this as you read right now. Notice, what’s your breath like as your head sits forward
For most of you, the breath shortens and sits higher in the chest, as if you’re responding to an emergency. Cortisol and adrenaline are released at a constant low level, creating all sorts of havoc in the body, including inhibiting our ability to slow down, digest, feel creative, and connect to others and ourselves. In this state, headaches, stomachaches, injuries, illness and self-defensive arguments tend to ensue.
An imbalance of forward focus can create a feeling of, “I’m alone in the world. If I don’t do it, no one will.” Your body and ego are on defense because they feel like they have to do to survive and be worthy.
Good news! This trick I recently learned from Mary Bond, author of The New Rules of Posture: How to Sit, Stand, and Move in the Modern World, is simple and effective. Thanks Mary!
Focus on a point in front of you as if you are a discerning art critic.
Notice the placement of your head. Notice your breath. Do you feel stable if someone were to push you?
(Stop reading. Try it.)
Now with your eyes still looking forward bring your attention to your periphery. How far can you see in either direction without turning your head? What colors? Does the space feel expansive, small, turbulent, or quiet?
Now imagine the space behind your body. Is anyone behind you? Is anything touching you? Does it feel empty? Heavy? How far back can you sense? Does it have a real or envisioned color? Begin to sense your peripersonal space. (PPS- the space your body can sense, usually within arms’ length).
Last, as you’re looking forward with a greater sense of your PPS, imagine that you’re trying to hear someone who is quietly talking behind you. I like to imagine a muse whispering to me.
This little trick, shifts the head back just right, lifts the chest a bit, lengthens the back upwards, lets the shoulders sit back with more ease, and gives space for the breath to expand.
Moving the head back in space and PPS sensing shifts us to, “I’m part of a community, centered in myself, with personal goals, but aware that I’m in relation to the environment, events, and people around me.” You can be and do in this space. This is the space athletes refer to as being “in the zone.”
For teachers, body workers, energy workers, psychologists, nurses, or anyone who manages or gives care to others, you can take this exercise one step further:
Take your right hand and wipe the back of your left hand, then with your left hand wipe the back of your right hand. Now take one or both hands and feel the back of your head, neck, back, butt, and legs. Bring your full attention to the places that have just been touched. This is your back body. Say hello. Now imagine as if you had eyes on the back of your body, what does this space look like, feel like, what’s behind you? Keep this feeling of your back space while you work on or with people, and there’s a good chance you will feel less drained and more capable of keeping your power while helping others to tune into theirs (instead of giving them yours).
MY CHALLENGE TO YOU:
Remembering to do it while in the go-go-go state is really frigg’n hard (I recently had a total fail when it would have been uber helpful).
Right now set a phone alarm or calendar reminder for this weekend. When it goes off, check in. Do you feel good? If not check into your PPS, let your body find it’s natural power posture. Reset and continue on.
At the end of the weekend do the same thing for next week. Set 1-3 reminders each day.
Another helpful trick is what I mentioned in the last blog: wearing a bracelet, ring, or string that will remind you to check in with your mental and physical “posture.”
Adjusting your posture while tuning into PPS is helpful if you’re interested in:
1) Improving your posture
2) Feeling more grounded and centered
3) Breathing with more ease
4) Keeping your power, energy and perspective as you interact with others and your to-do list.