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The philosophy of posture:

can we control where we are heading?


“There are thoughts which are prayers. There are moments when, whatever the posture of the body, the soul is on its knees.”

― Victor Hugo


I've recently came across an article about the opioid addiction in the U.S. and something inside me moved. It is not like I haven't been exposed before to social collapse, addictions and massive political damage. All topics have struck me from several angles throughout my life, sometimes involving people close to me and sometimes just from the media. But there was something about this article that connected a lot of darker dots. It touched upon one of my main concerns: The disembodiment of modernity and the absence of what I call" physicality of meaning". Self-destruction is a universal human characteristic, but something about the physical self-destruction we are experiencing in the past decade seems more grotesque. The diseases of our times are not horrifying because they are inevitable but because they are 'chosen' and normal.

Collapse in the Stony Throes by Eleanor Díaz Ritson
Collapse in the Stony Throes by Eleanor Díaz Ritson

As an artist I am sometimes confronted with the idea that art will not change the world altogether. I do think that it can change the world incrementally, in very small pieces in which with some luck can influence locally, 'the butterfly effect'.

As a teacher I think that the world is much less relevant than the person who stands in front of me. Helping them to change themselves means the whole world to both me and them, even if just for a brief moment.

Some of the addicts and victims in the article seemed like their posture has collapsed altogether. An inner ghost rather than a spirited center. Maybe digging into the question of "what is posture"? and how to practice it can be somewhat of a remedy and even a precautionary practice. Maybe it can be an perspective in which we can see better and understand the human turbulence of our era.  


The Idea

The idea of posture and what it contains is full of different perspectives and goals. It's embedded in society like roots of a big tree spreading far and wide.  Body language, anatomy, discipline, wellness and a healthy sense of self are all considered to influence and construct it. Posture covers very similar topics across different cultures and among different disciplines. Apart from nuances the idea is the same; the posture represents capacity and skill and it is like a resource that you bring with you to any situation. In this article I will present a few of the possible directions of thought about it and will argue that drawing a line between them can create a potent and a long-term holistic practice.

How do we imagine the things that hold us together? Painting by William Kentridge
How do we imagine the things that hold us together? Painting by William Kentridge


It is important to note that I don't have any formal education on this topic which provides me with some advantages and some disadvantages. My general idea is that assessing posture should be divided into two frameworks: internal and external.

A Greek sculpture of a discus thrower.
A Greek sculpture of a discus thrower, when looking closely at a moving posture, what do you notice?

The internal assessment is based on pain and function. If I experience pain in any sort of neutral or resting position my posture is degrading. If there is any physical function (sensing the world) that is not accessible for me despite a proper learning and training period, my posture is probably hindering me.

In external assessment I like to look at people during movement rather than stillness to asses their posture. When I see a disconnection between ground, stacking of the body and breath the missing piece would probably be postural.

In both external and internal, an improving posture is a posture that's in a learning process. When I pick up a new skill or adapt to a new surrounding I will naturally "work" on my posture and consequently improve it.



Here the nuances are endless and very quickly split into specific schools of movement and cultural details. For that reason, I propose a simple look on posture that is based on 4 cylinders and a dynamic center line. The ground is the 1st Cylinder, the pelvis (hips) is the 2nd, the ribcage and chest the 3rd and the skull the 4th.

A clear center line should pass through all 4 cylinders both visually (externally) and sensationally (internally). Obviously, addition of weight or large external forces influence the clarity of the line. Finding clarity both in daily situations and in situations of resistance or dynamic changes is the physical skill that should be developed as a 'good' posture.

Drawing of muscles of body with 4 centers
Notice the 4 centers and ask yourself if you can sense them and the connection between them in your body.


The mental model that connects posture with action is intention or will. During infancy we develop certain basic habits of arranging and stacking our body according to the action we want to perform. Later, we begin to express our perspectives on the world with our likes and dislikes and the actions we habitually perform and pursuit. While the choice of actions is personal the arrangement of the body is universal. All physical actions begin with the ground and gravity, the body is in the middle and the action we'd like to perform is ahead of us.

The Fall of Icarus - a story about intention, desire, posture, or all of them?  painting by Jacob Peter Gowy
The Fall of Icarus - a story about intention, desire, posture, or all of them? painting by Jacob Peter Gowy

The mental process of posturing/aligning towards an action, a task (or a project) can be understood through a physical metaphor. Imagine someone behind you calls your name and half a second later throws a fast volleyball towards you. If you just turn your head the volleyball will hit your midsection and fall to the ground. However, if you rotate your head, see the ball, quickly shuffle your feet, sink your weight in a downward diagonal forward and position your palms in front of your belly you will be ready to catch the ball effectively. An efficient arrangement towards an action, task or a project is the process of mentally directing oneself towards the goal.



The emotional posture is an interplay with our desires. The great philosopher Jaques Lacan thought of desire as the lack that moves us forwards in life. A sense of missing that gets us out of bed in the morning. He believed that this lack will never be fulfilled and even if we get close to it, it will unconsciously get replaced with something else. The question is how do we posture towards something we can never achieve but we need to keep on pursuing?

I humbly take an approach less extreme and think that healthy desire needs to move us forwards at times and also be put on hold on others. Mental health is diagnosed also by our ability to not define ourselves by our happenings. Relaxing the direction of our body in order to enjoy a meal with friends, a walk to see the sunset or to eat a piece of dark chocolate on a weekend are all postural achievements just as much as squatting, jumping or pirouetting. A body that can take on an easygoing direction is fundamental for a body that picks up intense actions regularly.


Leonardo da Vinci study of the womb.
Leonardo da Vinci study of the womb. Do you recognize this posture within you?


In my opinion most of fitness and movement trainings deal with expressive posture more than anything else. How to express resistance, waves, stability, balance, endurance, etc. In a nutshell, the more versatile your vocabulary of postural expressions the better. Stacking under an overhead weight on one side and waving, bridging and rolling on the other. However it is important not to neglect other expressions that we've used to perform as children and we tend to forget. Curling like a ball in moments of despair, caving the chest when hugging a loved one and lifting the sternum to the sky in moments of excitement and pride. Because the inner world is not satisfied with the role we take upon in society we need to learn to express different postures in accordance to what really happens to us inside. If not expressed, things will eventually explode or stagnate.



"It can be soul destroying to see that everyday we are losing people to what could have been preventable deaths. People who manage to feel good about themselves don't do things that endanger their bodies… traumatized people feel agitated, restless, tight in the chest. You hate the way you feel and you take drugs to stabilize your body and balance your feeling". – Gabor Mate/ In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

I believe that physical and mental health are strongly connected and that many of us are too often on the edge of collapse. This doesn't mean we can't function because coping and suppressing mechanisms can hold things back for a very long time. More than that, social support can be the difference between depression and hanging on.

My experience both in observing myself, artists who worked for me and students is that self-practice can be a very potent tool that can lead to equilibrium and to get out of tough periods without resorting to self-destruction. Controlling one's posture and allowing it to move freely is one hell of a goal. It takes discipline, consistency, grind and sensitivity. My point is that these can be learnt on the journey and don't need to be inherent attributes. In a naïve manner, I still think that if more people embark on this journey, we will lose less people to the dangerous and dark corners that the human being is capable of. 


The scarecrow from Howl's Moving Castle by Studio Ghibli. The end of a frozen posture is not always determinate...
The scarecrow from Howl's Moving Castle by Studio Ghibli. The end of a frozen posture is not always determinate...


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