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A recent article from The New York Times discusses Beth Linker's book "Slouch: Posture Panic in Modern America," which challenges long-held views on the significance of posture. Historically, proper posture was seen as a sign of good health and an indicator of moral and intellectual superiority. This belief became entrenched with the rise of the American Posture League in 1914 and was fueled by concerns over national health and racial "betterment."

Linker, a historian and sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania, argues that there is little scientific support for the idea that good posture is a marker of health, intelligence, or moral standing. The obsession with posture began in earnest following Darwin's theory of evolution, linking bipedalism to human advancement. However, posture soon became a societal marker distinguishing the "civilized" from the "primitive," and by the 20th century, it was associated with racial and social hierarchies.

“Your posture looks pretty good. And it doesn’t matter — that’s the whole point of my book. It’s fake news.”

Despite the lack of concrete evidence linking posture to long-term health outcomes, the campaign for posture correction gained significant traction, even intertwining with efforts to combat diseases like tuberculosis. This societal preoccupation with posture correction persists today, with products aimed at correcting posture perpetuating this outdated notion. This raises questions about the societal values we uphold and the extent to which we should be vigilant about our physical form.

Linker's critique extends to how posture has been used to assess a person's character and potential, likening it to the pseudoscience of phrenology. She argues that posture assessments are scientifically unfounded and inherently ableist, promoting stereotypes about physical and moral capabilities based on outward appearance.

The article concludes by questioning the effectiveness and necessity of posture correction for otherwise healthy individuals, suggesting that the body's dynamic nature defies static norms of alignment. This reflects a broader call to reassess how society perceives and values posture.

In response to the article, I sought the insights of Jaimen McMillan, a respected figure in the field of movement education, therapy, and coaching. With over 50 years of experience, Jaimen has dedicated his life to exploring human movement and its possibilities. His approach, Spacial Dynamics, challenges traditional notions of static posture. It views the human body as a dynamic continuum of body, space, and awareness, offering an alternative perspective on posture.

Jaimen's response to the NY Times article provides an alternate perspective on posture. He emphasizes that true alignment enhances all senses, suggesting that the body, in its entirety, acts as a sensory organ. This holistic approach sees posture not just as a physical stance but as a dynamic interaction of the body with its surroundings, which he prefers to term "carriage" rather than posture. According to Jaimen, the carriage reflects one's spirit and resilience, transcending physical limitations and societal expectations.

"Your body is like a compass. Hold it correctly and it will help you find your true bearings."

His philosophy reminds us that posture is more about the continuous interaction with our environment and less about conforming to static, often oppressive norms. It's about how we "carry" ourselves through life's challenges, connecting with the earth, ourselves, and others in a meaningful way.

As we reconsider the cultural obsession with posture, it's time to embrace a more fluid and forgiving understanding of what it means to stand tall.

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