Season 1, Episode 9

Posture Ellie’s Posture Advice

 We talk to Posture Ellie, who is a Postural Alignment Therapist trained in The Egoscue Method (and a 200hr Yoga Teacher). She works with her clients (of all ages and with all sorts of conditions) to improve their posture and restore a greater range of movement through each joint in the body.

About This Episode

Posture Ellie’s Posture Advice

Posture Ellie's Posture Advice

I had a lot of fun talking to Ellie about how she can help posture, how the lifestyle choices and behaviours we make can make a massive difference, and words of wisdom about exercise, running and HIIT.

Transcript

James Crow
Hey everybody, its James. Thanks so much for coming back to the Posture Stars podcast. Today we’re gonna be speaking to Posture Ellie, who is a postural alignment therapist trained in the Egoscue method and also a 200 hour yoga teacher. She works with clients of all ages and all sorts of conditions to improve their posture and restore a greater range of movement through each joint in the body. Hello, Ellie, thanks so much for coming on today. You’re in the UK like myself? Are you down South somewhere?

Posture Ellie
Well, depends on what you call down south. But for you probably. I’m in Worcester, which is kind of half an hour further south in Birmingham.

James Crow
I know the place I was on the chair training day, not too far from there in Yate with the Ergochair training people, well worth going on. They’re a really, really nice bunch if you’re interested in chairs. And let’s face it, like my listeners, no one is. So I’ve asked you to come on, because I’ve seen you a lot on Instagram at Posture Ellie and I know you’ve got a great website as well, which has evolved quite a lot over the last few months I can see. And you work intensely with posture?

Posture Ellie
I work intensely with posture, I think intensely about posture, I’m always thinking about posture. But yeah, it is pretty much my bread and butter, helping people with their posture.

James Crow
It is the curse of the posture work isn’t it, that whenever you see somebody you’re just thinking, hmmmm!

Posture Ellie
Yes, exactly. I know so many of my clients are like that as well, you start pointing out the things with them in their appointment and they’re like, “Now that you’ve told me I can’t unsee it, I just see it in everybody” and I’m like “Welcome to my world!”

James Crow
Do you do a thing after a couple of sessions, with my clients, I sort of take them to one side and I say “Now that you can see it in other people, just don’t nag anybody because they won’t thank you for it. Don’t nag your partner because they won’t have had sessions and they will be able to change it!”

Posture Ellie
Yeah, they’re like, “I just don’t understand why people don’t do anything about it.” And you just think when their time is ready, they will come, they will find it when they are ready to find it. And then they will come and find their way to me.

James Crow
And to be fair, I think more and more that’s going to be happening in the near future because loads of people have been working from home. There’s also a big switch towards well-being as well, which is fantastic. And I think posture is going to become much more in people’s thinking, particularly as we move towards, in social media, people being in view more, people being judged more. I think they’re going to worry about their posture. I don’t know whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Whether whether it’s a good thing, that they’re made more aware of it or a bad thing that it’s become more visual.

Posture Ellie
I mean, my opinion on that would be that the aesthetics of it are not a positive thing. I don’t do this for myself, and I don’t sort of work with my clients. From my perspective at all, for this outcome of how you look, it is an outcome of how you feel, how you move, how much energy you have, the level, you know, being pain, free living into old age, this is nothing about aesthetics. For me, it is about how you feel within your body. So, you know, it’s good, but it’s coming more into, I guess, common rhetoric and people are understanding perhaps a little bit more about what posture is and what it isn’t. But I don’t like the fact that it might be making people feel more self conscious, because it’s nothing about that, you know, it’s it’s about trying to get people feeling good, not not looking good and looking good is a byproduct of good posture, but it’s certainly not the goal for good posture. Not from my perspective anyway.

James Crow
Yeah, I’m totally with you. When I when I first started working in this in this area, what I was trying to think how can I sell this to people and I was really clear that it would improve their appearance. And then after a while, I kind of cut a lot of that out where I’ve seen it in what I’m saying. Because well also you know, you can improve your posture immensely and still have ostensibly, on the outside, what would look to someone else like not good posture. You know, if you if you’re born with with an issue, that you’re never going to be fully upright, then that’s the case, you know?

Posture Ellie
Yeah, I mean, I would say that I think very few people are actually born with postural defects or genetic issues. But I think you get into murky waters where people have no memory of a time before them having bad posture. So they attribute their bad posture, sorry, their bad posture to their genetics, but actually, it’s the way that they were born. It’s the way that they were kept in a chair for too long as a baby, it’s the way they weren’t given enough time crawling. And all of these things will then dictate someone’s early childhood posture, but actually that’s not genetics, that’s environmental and it can be changed. Because most people it is environmental. There are a few people that do have things that are “wrong with them” when they are born, but most people it’s absolutely environmental and it can be changed, which is Empowering and wonderful, but can maybe make people a little bit defensive because the narrative that they have told themselves or that other people have told them their whole lives is actually, in my opinion, sometimes quite wrong. But you know, they do have the power to change something, if they do the right things in order to do it.

James Crow
I have it the same with some of my clients that they’ve sort of said, “Oh, well, you know, life is life has made me into this shape and its lifestyle.” And then suddenly, they realise that they don’t have to accept that and that they can make positive change. And it’s like a veil’s lifted from them. And they think “Oh, gosh, I can actually make improvements in myself, and it doesn’t have to be other people doing it ‘to or at’ me.” Do you see it that way?

Posture Ellie
Yes, I completely hear that. And that’s why, for me, so many clients, I think, find me in the end. I am admittedly, I think, a kind of last chance saloon for lots of people. They’ve done that round of the surgeons and the physios and the massage and the osteo, and all that kind of stuff. And they haven’t found the solution that they’re looking for. And the people that – it’s not a question of not gelling with me, but the people that we want the same things out of this process, I guess, is the people that want to put that power and work back into their hands. They’re sick of spending money on people that are doing something to them, which changes things temporarily. But it doesn’t change the movement patterns that have caused that in the first place. They want to take charge of their movement patterns. And from my perspective, I don’t want my clients seeing me forever. I have wonderful, lovely clients, lots of them, I will count as friends. But I see it as a sign of not succeeding, if they are dependent on me regularly. I want it to be that they are like my fledglings, and I’m, you know, they have a few sessions, they start understanding what’s going on, and then they fly free. And then they have that power to look after themselves for the rest of their lives. That’s very much what I’m all about.

James Crow
Yeah, totally, I’m with you on that. As I say in my first session, my job is to make myself redundant. But then I put in a caveat and say it’d be nice to see you four times a year afterwards. And if life is so much better just give me 2% of all future earnings. Know how many times that’s happened? Never, never!

Posture Ellie
Yeah, it’s one of those things where what I want for my clients is not for them to be pain free, which might sound weird. My goal with my clients is not for them to be pain free. My goal for my clients is their body to be as functional as it can be. So you can be pain free. But bordering on that edge of it just takes one wrong move, it takes one fall in the street, it takes one bending over in the shower, and you know, your back going or something like that. I say that because that always tends to be something that comes up quite a lot with my clients. I’m not aiming to get my clients pain free, I’m aiming to get them as functional as they can be. So this doesn’t ever end, not in a way of I want to have sessions with them every week for the rest of their lives. But you becoming pain free isn’t the end goal, that’s part of the process. The process is maintaining that function for the rest of your life. So to your point, there is an argument for saying come back four times a year because it is like seeing a personal trainer, you’ve just got to keep mixing it up, adapting the exercises the body and making sure that your body hasn’t changed in another way. You know, your posture six months ago will be different to your posture now and you’re different with your posture in another six months, either negatively or positively. You might be doing really good work and improving things. Or you could becoming more and more sedentary in a kind of compensatory spiral of pain and problems that things are getting worse. But posture is very dynamic.

James Crow
Totally yes, posture is a process rather than a position. Anyone can adopt an improved position and say, “Look, my posture is better.” But how are they going to empty the dishwasher with that position, or take the beans off the top shelf? Well, I think we’re into the realm of my very first question.

Posture Ellie
I’ve answered, everything already!

James Crow
No, it’s perfect. So here we go. What is posture?

Posture Ellie
So I was thinking about this. And it’s so hard, I think, for me to put my finger on something and it’s almost easier to say what posture isn’t. Posture is not pulling your shoulders back and sitting up straight, that is not posture. Posture is not a yoga pose. Posture is a result of your movement patterns. And you have different postures for different situations. You have a sitting posture, standing posture, walking posture, you know, everything you do is a posture, but the way in which you perform that movement is a result of how functional the muscles in your body are. So there is no good thing as a good posture. It is all the work that you’re doing outside of the activities that you do, that will enable your body to hold itself in this strength alignment balance with “good posture”, but without you even thinking about it. So it’s not, it’s just not a conscious thing that you do, it is a result of everything else that you were doing with your body. And, you know, the fact of the matter is, is that not even 200 years ago, the world well, not even 30 years ago, 10 years ago, the world was very different place. But in the last 250 years, the world has changed beyond recognition, you know, our primal human bodies that are animalistic bodies that are kept fit and healthy through constant varied movement, challenge, stress, worry, you know, physical stress, all that sort of stuff. That’s how the human body keeps itself healthy. And movement is just being stripped away from us year on year on year because of advancements in technology. So it is a result of movement patterns, and people are getting increasingly bad posture. Because the environment that we live in is so noxious when it comes to lack of movement. Childhood development, schooling, universities, we are just sat in a chair from the moment we are four years old, and then we wonder why we can’t do anything else but sit in chairs comfortably. And its environment. Sorry, impassioned rant there!

James Crow
No, I’m with you, I’m as as passionate about it, as well. It’s incredible that so much of the things that we buy, that are supposed to improve our quality of life are actually having a negative effect on our life. Apart from the washing machine!

Posture Ellie
Yeah, I would agree. I would definitely agree with that, as well.

James Crow
Nowadays people are becoming so much more sedentary. I think it’s overstated, that sitting is the new smoking. But sitting constantly, certainly is, it’s a terrible, terrible way to spend your time.

Posture Ellie
And on paper, in principle, there is nothing wrong with sitting, sitting is no more negative for you than any other position that you do for 8, 10, 12 hours of the day. That’s what it comes down to. You could be stretching your hips for 12 hours, that wouldn’t be good. You could be sitting sitting in a squat for 12 hours, that wouldn’t be good. You could be walking for 12 hours, that wouldn’t be good. You know, it’s not sitting that’s the problem. It’s anything that we do for long periods of time. So one of the things I think is really, people are kind of losing that disconnect between, I don’t know. They sit all day. And then they try and take these wonky, stiff compensating bodies to these aggressive forms of high intensity exercise, that their bodies are frankly not capable of doing. It’s like taking the kind of battered up, you know, 1960s beetle or something to an elite marathon or something. It’s just people’s bodies are not fit for the purposes in which they’re trying to use them for. Because they are being told, sitting is the new smoking. You have to go and do this exercise and all your free spare time and like get your heart rate going and all this stuff. And when I see people running, like probably 96% of people that I see running down the street, I’m just hands over eyes clawing at my face, like what is happening. How does this person think it’s a good idea? You can see it in their feet, in the movement of their hips, their pelvis, the rounding forward of the shoulders, often rotation. We are trying to batter our bodies to be healthy. And actually it needs to be stripped way, way, way back. And high intensity exercise for most people does not suit them, layered on top of their sedentary lifestyle that they’re leading. Sedentary lifestyle needs a gentle approach to corrective exercises to get the building blocks of movement in place before that body is then ready to do the crazy things that they are trying to do with it.

James Crow
Yeah, and everybody is at the moment just jumping into the crazy stuff after we’re just coming out of sort of lockdown periods at the moment. The physio clinics, I work out at the moment, I’ve got people queuing outside who’ve been sat down for a year to a year and a half. And then suddenly they’ve they’ve gone to the gym and thrown themselves at it, as if suddenly, within one week, they’re going to be Superman and or Superman. So how do you help people with with their posture then Ellie?

Posture Ellie
So the way that I help people with their posture is through corrective exercises that are suitable for them. So one of the things I get asked when I’m doing, I want to say media, but then if I say that, that sounds bad. But if I do a magazine article, and they ask or comment or something, they say, “What’s the best exercise, you know, give us an exercise that we could give to people?” And the answer is there is no universal exercise that suits everybody because it completely boils down to your own compensations and dysfunctions. So for some people, they might not be able to move their shoulders, that is their dysfunction. For other people. They might be so stiff in their ankles, that’s their dysfunction. Other people, they can’t flex their hips, that’s their dysfunction. So depending on the body in front of you, the way in which I prescribe the exercises is very, very different. And obviously it will come down to confidence levels, mobility levels, severity of pain where you’re starting off from. But the answer is always a series of corrective exercises suited to that person that is working on expanding that person’s range of movement at the joints in their body at a pace that they can handle. So most people that come and see me will not be able to do the massively crazy difficult exercises that I have within my software that I don’t even like doing myself. Because they challenge me too much. Most people it’s going to be, like I mentioned earlier, very basic building blocks. Let’s just reduce some of that pelvic rotation, let’s reduce some of that thoracic rotation, let’s get your hips rotating. Let’s see how poorly your feet move. Which, you know, is something that I’m constantly dealing with, is how dysfunctional people are on their feet. And I feel very passionately about feet. But the way in which I help people is giving people this pathway towards moving in a better way, which ultimately, as a byproduct, will create less and less pain as time goes on. So it’s not a magic, you know, sort of magic cure. It’s not a magic pill, it’s not going to happen overnight. But slowly but surely, we unwind these years, decades of movement problems, and start sort of re patenting how that person wants to move. And I’m not focusing on their pain, because the area of the body that hurts is most often the area of the body that is bearing too much load or overworking, it’s compensating. The area that hurts doesn’t tell me anything helpful. Other than that’s why that person has come to me. I don’t care about the knee pain, I don’t care about the hip pain. What I care about is what else do we need to wake up in the body that will take that knee pain down or take that hip pain down? So yeah, when I’m with this, it’s people are kind of motivated to come to me because they’re in pain. But like I said earlier, it’s about movement and getting people moving better. And that’s what the corrective exercises do.

James Crow
You’re the first person who said to me that you wake stuff up in people. And my brain honed in on that and thought “Nobody’s ever said that before!” So can you tell me a bit more about that?

Posture Ellie
So as an example, one of the most common dysfunctions that I’m dealing with is an inability of the hips to flex within the hip socket. So the iliopsoas muscle, the primary hip flexor, is the muscle that’s supposed to bring the knee towards the torso, you know, when we’re walking, lifting the leg, most people are so abdominal dominant, so quad dominant, because of various exercise modalities that tell them to aggressively squeeze their core and tuck their pelvis under. Again, another rant I could talk about. So because of this kind of locking on within that sort of core region, they lose the ability to wake up their hips. So for most people that I see, I would go so far as to say that the underlying issue is that their hips don’t work properly. That’s really what it boils down to, for most people. And when I say about waking stuff up, I have the person in front of me on zoom. And I’ll be saying, “Where do you feel this, what muscle is waking up?” We’re trying to wake up. I know, they should be feeling this at the front of the hip, a kind of deep burn within the hip socket, that tells me that that person is woke up their their iliopsoas. And so I say where do you feel it and they’re like, “Oh, my quads, my abs, my glutes,” and I’m thinking “this person is compensating, they’re not feeling it in the right place. This is one of the reasons why they have their pain.” And then when they hit that spot, when we give them the right exercise, I just carry on a bit longer, and they get that burn, deep in the hips because I’ll say to them, “when this happens, you’re gonna know that it’s happening because you’re gonna get a really strong cramp in your hip, because it kicked into play for the first time in 20 30 40 years.” And then it happens. And they’re like, “Oh, you know, all of this time, I thought my legs were working as they should do because I could feel that I have muscles there, but the wrong muscles were doing the job.” So when I say wake stuff up, it is about waking up the dysfunctional stuff that has fallen asleep, that doesn’t hurt because it’s fallen asleep, but the other stuff around it or not even close to it, far away, may hurt, because they’re taking a load, due to that dysfunction.

James Crow
Sometimes when I go to the gym, I see people who are so front dominated, and they’re almost curled over like a ladybird or a pill bug.

Posture Ellie
If your whole goal is to look like that, you are bypassing function, you are too focused on having big pecs and big biceps and strong abs, that you’re forgetting about that kind of nuance of movement that is available to you at every joint, which if you focused on that as much as you did the kind of the big superficial muscle players that everyone can see. If you focused on all the other kind of unsexy stuff that’s too deep for you to see and doesn’t give you that aesthetic goal, you will have this whole body balance. But unfortunately, I think too much in the gym in the fitness world is about how you look. It’s not about how you move or how you feel. It’s just, again, it comes back to aesthetics. That’s all wrong.

James Crow
Okay. So You’ve told us what you think posture is and how you work with posture. And then in the midst of how you work with posture, you’d mentioned that no one specific exercises is really applicable or suitable to all people, which kind of stymmies me for my third question, which is always, if you were to give our listeners one piece of advice, right now, what would that be?

Posture Ellie
I mean, I can give advice. I’m not going to give an exercise, but I can give advice. I could give advice all day. I think if I was going to give people one piece of advice, it would be listen to your body, for goodness sake, listen to your body. If you are trying to do something, and it hurts you, you are extremely lucky that you are able to receive that message from your body is your body’s way of saying, Please stop doing this. I’m in danger, I need you to stop. And if you carry on, I’m going to say runners because it my experience my runners and my most kind of belligerent clients who won’t stop running. But if you are continuing to do something that causes you pain, you are going to feel worse, like this should be so simple. But in a world of no pain, no gain, this is probably the hardest thing I have to get across to my clients. It’s like you gritting your teeth, holding your breath, squeezing all that tension. And fighting through pain is not the way out. The way out is through teaching breath, relaxation of the neck or wherever it is the person’s holding tension. The way out is through teaching your body to be more comfortable and relaxed, so that we can turn off this flight or fight mode. And we can actually start digging into the bits of your body that don’t work. Your body is gritting its teeth and fighting through something. You are just moving yourself towards injury, you know, moving, working, continuing to push through pain will never get you out of pain. And like I said, you would not think that that would have to be something I would need to say. I need to hit that home, every class that I do, I hit that home because people don’t get it. They think that every single other person in the class is experiencing that low level neck tension, or that shoulder pain or that knee pain. And I don’t have any pain anywhere in my body. That’s what being pain free is. Being pain free, is not having some tension in your body, because that is on that spectrum of your body is telling you something so please stop doing that thing. Don’t fight through pain, listen to your body and do more of the things that make you feel good afterwards. Follow that body’s intuition.

James Crow
You’ve mentioned twice now runners, I live right next to a country park in in a big urban area. And we see a lot of runners there. And when you mentioned fight or flight, you reminded me of that startle-pattern response with people’s shoulders raising and the neck tightening. And so many of the runners I see are in that fight or flight startle pattern as they run. And it just can’t be comfortable. And I look at them and I turn to my my long suffering wife. And I say, see that person, they’re ‘doing’ running, they’re not having a run, they’re not enjoying a run, they’re ‘doing’ running. And you can see the displeasure on their faces. It’s some form of self-flagellation or punishment. I’ve got myself into this physical state. And unless I punish myself, I can’t get out of it.

Posture Ellie
Yeah. And I think, you know, I completely get it. Because running is really pleasurable. You know, it’s very meditative. I would never do more than a half marathon. But I’ve done a half marathon before. And I get it, that kind of high that you get when you’re in that flow state, and everything’s knocked out. And that’s wonderful. But I just think that, like you said, it’s it’s kind of self punishment, I think it’s because we’re fed this thing of, if it’s not hard, you’re not doing it properly, you know. It shouldn’t be that having run, going for run is a struggle, or that you have pain. It should be that it is a pleasurable, relaxed, fluid experience. And then, you know, they get themselves into these spirals where they’re just looking at what orthotics they can put in their shoes, how fluffy their shoes can be, let’s put a knee brace on. All of these things are just Band Aid solutions to a global problem. You know, if your foots collapsing in, it’s not just your foot, it’s how your hips are interacting with your foot is what the shoulders are doing above that. And if only they would take a step back, leave the running for few months do this type of work set their body up for success and efficiency and function. And then their running would feel completely, completely different. But I completely agree with you. I see sometimes people just they look pained, they just look, it doesn’t look like that kind of easy flowing run that you see when you see that some of the really ultra marathon runners, that just make it look like a dance. Don’t they look incredible?

James Crow
Yeah. And we can’t be all as amazing as them but we can certainly enjoy exercise rather than making it a punishment or damaging to us.

Posture Ellie
Exactly, exactly.

James Crow
Okay, well that’s all fantastic advice. And I’m sure our listeners I’ve got loads out of that. What do they do if they want to find you, where are you?

Posture Ellie
They can get in touch with me through my website, www.posture-ellie.com or my Instagram or my Youtube @posture.ellie, both of those platforms, have got loads of videos and stuff that people can watch and interact with. And if they like what they see and it resonates with them, then do check out my website and you can have a look at that kind of process about becoming a one to one client of mine if you’re interested.

James Crow
There you go, folks. So thanks so much for coming on, Ellie. It’s been a pleasure to speak to you. You’ve maintained a really nice open upright posture as we’ve talked through the whole process!

Posture Ellie
I hadn’t noticed it’s so natural for me now, James. I’m joking! Thank you so much for having me, James. It’s been great coming on.

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