Forcing yourself to sit or stand up straight simply doesn’t work well. We've all tried (myself included), yet despite this strategy failing to work we pretty much continue to do the same thing.
Sure, a select few people with will-power of steel have successfully 'fixed' themselves upright. Unfortunately this usually results in a stiff bracing with limited freedom of movement, restricted breathing, and elimination of the sense of ’naturalness’ in posture or poise. Try it out yourself (though I recommend doing your best not to become desensitized to your own stiffness in the process).
Now Einstein supposedly said something to the effect of ...'insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results'. So are we all insane? Maybe, but I think we've actually got quite a few tools to re-imagine this problem. Here's one:
Re-imagine Posture as Readiness For Movement
The science behind how posture works is tricky business and there’s still much to discover. Sometimes what’s found seems counter-intuitive to our normal approach. For instance, some research suggests that overly bracing yourself may actually work against your own automatic (largely subconscious) postural control; sort of like interfering with your own postural auto-pilot.¹
Excessively contracting your trunk muscles to hold good posture may be causing more ’noise’ in your system, limiting the ability of your brain to do this skilled balance work for you.¹
One idea to re-frame what ‘good' posture means in your own life is to view it as a state of readiness for movement.² For instance...
If you’re slumped, collapsed, or (it’s opposite) stiffly braced, then you’re less ready for movement in any and all directions. If you’re balanced, engaged, and lighter on your feet or seat, you’re more ready for movement in any and all directions.
In standing, sitting, working at a desk, and everything in-between, a fuller expression of ‘good’ posture is often a simple by-product of being more ready to move.
So the next time you catch yourself ‘fixing’ your posture, instead of ingraining a worn out old strategy, why turn an old idea on it's head? Re-imagine posture without bracing and test out a new state, position, or set-up to access your readiness to move.
Resources/ People/ Ideas related to the Alexander Technique in this post
1. Reeves, N. P., Everding, V. Q., Cholewicki, J., & Morrisette, D. C. (2006). The effects of trunk stiffness on postural control during unstable seated balance. Experimental Brain Research, 174(4), 694-700.
2. Jones, F. P. (1997). Freedom to change: The development and science of the Alexander Technique. London: Mouritz. *"posture as a phase of movement”.