Season 1, Episode 3

Watch out, it’s the posture police! 

We talk to Lindsay Newitter of the New York Posture Police. Lindsay is an Alexander Technique teacher who specifically helps office and desk workers overcome the pain caused by bad posture. 

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About This Episode

Watch out! It’s the Posture Police!

Posture Police

Lindsay came up with the Posture Police when she decided to double-down on helping office and desk workers suffering from postural pain. As an Alexander Technique teacher she’s used to helping people from all sorts of backgrounds, but many of her clients were office workers, so choosing to help them was a no-brainer! Listen in and see if her advice can help you too.

Transcript

James Crow
Hi, everybody, it’s James here of Posture Stars. And today I’m talking to Lindsay Newitter of the New York Posture Police. Good day to you, Lindsay.

Lindsay Newitter
Hi James.

James Crow
Thanks very much for coming on. You’re talking to me all the way from New York, today, I’m over in Manchester in the North of England. And you’ve taken some time to go through your particular view on what posture is and how you can help people with their posture?

Lindsay Newitter
Yes! Yes, helping people with posture. It’s something that, that I came to gradually as an Alexander teacher, because I found that people came to me, you know, really wanting to solve specific problems. And I was teaching something that can that can kind of, you know, help with everything. But I found that everything can sometimes mean nothing. And that there were a lot of folks, especially working in offices, having posture problems. So I decided I really wanted to tackle that. I think that one of the most interesting things to address is just people’s idea about what they need to do, to sit up straight stand up straight, like what, what they’re thinking of as good posture. And a lot of my clients will come in for an initial lesson. And they they’re really frustrated, because they’ve been trying to sit up straight for a very long time. Maybe since they were children, maybe somebody was bugging them, their whole childhood. And often, they just feel like, they can’t do it. And they feel very uncomfortable doing it. And they, they feel discouraged and like, Oh, they must be doing it wrong. You know, they’re, they’re not good at it. And I can give them some confidence, really, and say, “Well, actually, there’s actually an issue with the way you’re doing it. And if you try it this way, you’ll find it to be more comfortable, you might even start to feel just less stressed in your body less stressed in general. And like you’re not having to make this such an effort that it really shouldn’t feel like an effort to hold yourself up straight.” So it can it can. People have to have a little bit of a mind shift about that. But it can actually be quite a relief. And I love getting to that moment with people where they feel this relief of like, Oh my god, I don’t have to do all that stuff I was trying to do there actually is a different way to do this.

James Crow
It’s amazing. Isn’t it the way that when people tried to sit up straight, they’ll just stick all this extra effort on top of everything they’re doing and yeah, tense and tighten. Then they can’t hold it and they they either forget or they get tired and they let go and of course it’s quite demoralising.

Lindsay Newitter
Yeah, they get into the, you know, slouch, and then like hold and they flip flop back and forth.

James Crow
It’s a shame it isn’t an exercise. It’d make a great exercise, to do that all day, isn’t it? S louch and sit up straight.

Lindsay Newitter
But what I like to tell people is when they try to sit up straight like this, that they’re actually slouching backwards.

James Crow
That’s a great way of putting it. Yeah.

Lindsay Newitter
Well, you know, nobody likes this one (demonstrates hunching forward). Everybody thinks that looks unattractive. And that’s a really good way to connect with people. Because, you know, nobody wants that, unattractive, hunching forward. But I show them that, you know, just holding your shoulders back all day, lifting your chest, arching your lower back, that you’re slouching just as much in the other direction. And even though you might think it looks better, it’s not it’s not going to be good for your back. And and you probably look kind of stiff.

James Crow
Yeah, people look stiff. When they do that, then, yeah, often, I see people who are trying to impress with their posture, and it just shows a sign of weakness really to be putting all that effort into, into trying to do that. Maybe people at home right now they could do the shoulders back thing and just see how that feels for them.

Lindsay Newitter
Yeah, yeah, you can try that backwards, slouching, just holding, holding your shoulders back, lifting the chest. You know, that’s, that’s the way our bodies can move. But it’s not a way to stay all day.

James Crow
It makes me feel anxious when I’m doing it. And I feel a bit short of breath as well. I think I’m not gonna do that any more. So, when we started, you said you were an Alexander teacher and a lot of our listeners, yeah. They won’t know what an Alexander teacher is. Alexander, teachers teach Alexander Technique, which is I like to think of it as a form of self awareness. But yeah, you’ll probably have your own angle on it.

Lindsay Newitter
Yeah. Well, that’s part of it. And just starting by being aware of what, how, you’re holding your body, how you’re moving in the first place, and then looking at, well, what if you start to undo some of those habits that have been causing issues. And so starting with what’s going on in the first place, and seeing if you can stop that and then starting to recognise a way that the body can coordinate that is more, where it’s functioning more as a whole and where there’s less strain.

James Crow
So that’s probably a good time for me to ask my first question then of our series of questions, and that question, Lindsay is “what is posture?”

Lindsay Newitter
I would say posture is being centred, and not just being centred, but knowing how to find centre because when people think of it as a position, they have to hold it. And, you know, it can take a while sometimes to get somebody out of this mindset, they go like, Oh, do I have it right now? Is it correct now? Is it correct now, but really, we’re we’re moving all the time, even when we’re sitting still, we’re moving. And it’s not helpful to just try to maintain a position. If you have an internal sense of where your true centre is., and it’s something you can sort of always come back to and move through, then it’s like, you’re able to accurately gauge where you are in space to make subtle adjustments. So that you’re not maintaining a position that’s wildly off-centre for most of the day. You can start to feel what you’re doing. Yeah, I would say that one way, there are different ways to look at it. But one way to define good posture is starting to actually sense correctly where centre is.

James Crow
Yeah, that’s a really nice way of looking at it. So you’re talking about body sensing, then, and a lot of people when they talk about posture, do just talk about positions and you adopt this position. And this is the right position to sit in, for example, or this is the right position to stand. But what’s the right position to reach for that kind of baked beans off the top shelf? Or to put the laundry in? There’s no right position for that!

Lindsay Newitter
Right, yeah. And yeah, we were talking about the, you know, the the hunching or the sitting up straight. And when we, when we do those, these are all completely valid movements. When you reach for the beans, your shoulder will move forward. And it like if you reach for something behind you, it will move back. If you open a door, you reach to the door, it might move forward. If it’s way out in front of you, and then you pull the door open, it might move back. So there’s no isn’t a wrong way to move. It’s when we get stuck. And we’re sort of like held in certain positions, we sort of lose the sense of the possibilities of where our body can move.

James Crow
Yeah, those possibilities of movement and freedom of movement. Yes. So a lot of people lose that because they’re stuck in jobs, which require them to be sedentary, like office workers, drivers, aeroplane pilots, I end up working with loads of aeroplane pilots, really always. Yeah, they’re always stuck in their tiny little cockpits and not able to move. Oh, you’d think they have a great time. But no, they moan about it all all day about their job. I think they get well recompense for it. But other people, they they choose static postures, because they think that’s what they should look like uncle were hinting about earlier.

Lindsay Newitter
Yeah, yeah. So I think that’s kind of an outside-in approach, people are trying to imitate something that they think is correct, rather than learning to teach their body to sense what’s balanced. Another way to look at it. Yeah, and that’s another way to look at it, you know, we can sort of sense where centre is, and we can sense what’s balanced if we’re, if we’re, you know, holding ourselves all in one side all the time. Or if we’re throwing our head, this is a big thing with the Alexander Technique, throwing our head off centre, for a good part of the time, by the way we’re moving it or the way we’re initiating movement of the head.

James Crow
So I guess that brings us rather neatly to my second question, which is, how do you help people improve their posture? What is it that you do?

Lindsay Newitter
Well, at first, I just start by asking them what they do, and try to get a sense of what they’re spending their day doing. And I usually start looking pretty directly at some of the activities that they’re doing for a lot of the time. So it might, it might be sitting, that we might start with it kind of depends on the person. And I find that people have different learning styles that some people are able to start to sense their bodies more clearly, if they stay still. And others start to sense a little more if you get them to move. And ideally, you want to be able to do both. So I kind of I gauge how the person is going to start to learn best initially. And I get a sense of what they’re doing during the day. And we usually pick some activities that we’re going to do, we’re going to look at how they’re doing them habitually, how they can coordinate differently doing them, and how they can start to make more subtle adjustments. Because that’s kind of another issue is that people think that you know that they need to adjust something and they make this big adjustment. And the adjustments we’re looking at, you know, sometimes they’re very subtle movements, and sometimes they’re only just kind of redirecting your thinking just so you’re aiming your body in a different way. Like if you’re looking at the screen all day, it can really give you a sense of being kind of in this very small, narrow flat space. So just changing your perception of where, where your own space is in your body, of taking up space in the room, can change how you sit. That’s just kind of shifting your attention. So we play around with movement, shifting attention, contrast, like do this big movement this way. What does that feel like? And what if you did the same thing, but you did it a little smaller? And then what if you just changed your intention? When you did that?

James Crow
Oh, wow. So you’re working with people’s awareness of themselves and their environment?

Lindsay Newitter
Yeah.

James Crow
And their intention to move and the way in which they make movements?

Lindsay Newitter
Yeah, right. And you know, as you know, being an Alexander Technique person, it’s like, sometimes we’ve already set up the pattern for movement. before we’ve even moved. Just in thinking that you’re about to stand up, or you’re about to move your arm, that pattern is already in place.

James Crow
I love playing that game. We can play that with my listeners now. So yeah, listeners at home, what I’m going to do is I’m going to count you down from five to zero. And when I reach zero, you’ve got to make this really quick movement. And if you don’t get it done in time, then there’s going to be recompenses to pay. So are you ready 54321. And, of course, everybody’s already tensed up to be able to do whatever it is that they’re going to be doing. And I didn’t actually want anyone to do anything. I was just being mean, here on on this podcast.

Lindsay Newitter
My neck started to get tense, when you did that!

James Crow
I know!

Lindsay Newitter
Yes.

James Crow
Its incredible. So we have these postural presets that we apply to all sorts of activities, be they, you know, just sitting, driving, typing, any of those acts and those can be mitigated, can’t they by how you approach those situations?

Lindsay Newitter
Yeah, absolutely.

James Crow
It’s a fascinating job being an Alexander Technique teacher, you never get bored being an Alexander Technique teacher!

Lindsay Newitter
No, yeah, you can always find something or some new way to to teach the same thing. I think that, to me, that’s part of what’s interesting is that, that I think, everybody, everybody’s body sense, is so different, in a way, you know, there’s just such a range of how people are sensing in their bodies, and to figure out how to kind of turn that up for people, is a really interesting process.

James Crow
Yeah, bring that body awareness going. For a lot of our listeners, right now, they won’t be aware of their feet, for example. And now we mentioned feet, all of a sudden, their attention will jump to their feet, and th ey’ll be much more aware of their feet and a lot less aware of something else.

Lindsay Newitter
Maybe they are not aware of their head anymore.

James Crow
Yeah, they’ve lost their head. So we like to get people aware of the whole body all at once. At least that’s what I do in my practice.

Lindsay Newitter
Yeah.

James Crow
That was really great. I love that. Well, on those lines then, our third question, as always, is if you could give one piece of advice to our listeners right now, that they could take away and play with, what would that be?

Lindsay Newitter
What if I gave a one piece of advice with two components? Would that be allowed?

James Crow
Yeah, of course it is. Squeeze it in.

Lindsay Newitter
So it’s kind of going off of what you were saying a little bit. Be aware of your feet. And I would say, just being aware of that your feet are on the ground, not doing anything with them. But just being aware that they’re contacting the ground, maybe contacting with the ground more, like more than you might already when you’re sitting I think a lot of people tuck their feet back on the wheelbase of the chair, they sit on their feet. But if you’re always pulling feet up off your off the floor, then you kind of lose your support and stuff will start to overreact higher up in the body. And the other thing I’d say is be aware of your head, be aware of where you’re moving your head, what position you tend to hold it in. Because it is quite heavy, like the weight of a bowling ball. And so if you can kind of jump back and forth between being aware of where your feet are, and aware of where your head is, that can start to get you into this process of starting to notice and change some habit. And a little trick that I teach people, it’s very simple. And they actually do it, I find that it can help them a lot, even in the span of a week, is just to tap the top of your head from time to time. So that you know where it is, like you internally sense where it is, if you just tap it or even scratch it, then you take your finger away. And can you kind of sense where you scratched there James?

James Crow
I’ve been scratching away and I have a good feeling of that now.

Lindsay Newitter
So then you can just go okay, I feel that I can sense that and you just bring your attention to where you feel that little sensation you just gave your head. And that can bring your whole attention up a little bit without you trying to pull or stretch. And we tend to be aware, like especially at the computer, of about eye level. And if you just bring your attention up here from time to time, it tends to help prevent you from pushing your neck, pushing your face forward, toward the screen.

James Crow
Everybody gets dragged into that screen if they’re not careful one way or another. On that point, it is amazing how many people if you talk about where their head is and where their eyes are in relation to their brain, people kind of think that the eyes are in the middle of the, in the middle of the brain in the middle of the cranium. But they’re actually pretty much poking out of the bottom like, like a snail has eyes on stalks our eyes, wend our way through our brain and come out at the bottom of the cranium. And it’s almost that height where our neck comes up to as well. So there’s a really good balance point there that we can be aware of.

Yeah, I mean, we could talk about that as well. But yeah, that your head, just awareness of the head in general, that it goes all the way up here (points to between ears). It goes all the way back here. And that your spine, basically ends at nose level.

Yeah, really, really, really high up.

So you’ve got that pivot point. That’s way up there. I mean, I remember when I first had an Alexander lesson, I was shocked, because I thought, the back of my head, ended like at chin level.

Yeah.

Lindsay Newitter
And I was always moving my head from here. That can put a lot of strain on your neck doing this, looking at the phone doing this, you know, like…

James Crow
I’m not, I’m not even going to mimic that Lindsay, getting dragged into the screen.

Lindsay Newitter
Screen! Phone! But if you just initiate movement from a little bit higher up, then you really get the neck to, the whole neck, to engage more, rather than just getting one part, you know, constantly working as a hinge. You don’t want these areas lower down on your neck, like here, and down here, to just be these repeated hinges all day.

James Crow
That’s right. You don’t want to be hinging at the, people call it the dowager’s hump, don’t they?

Lindsay Newitter
Exactly.

James Crow
Somewhere at the top of the shoulders where your neck is. Yeah, a lot of people from there. Yeah. Not a good place to hinge folks. There’s a joint right up the way, all the way at the top of your spine.

Lindsay Newitter
Something funny about that, that C-seven vertebra where people call the dowagers hump is that it does stick out a little bit on most people, in a way that’s that doesn’t necessarily mean their posture is bad. I don’t know how many people come in, and they go like “I have this bump here.” I’m like “I do too. It’s okay.” The problem is that if you’re always moving there, and then you’re kind of hanging out here, that it just might seem a little more pronounced.

James Crow
Yeah, I think people are very conscious. Yeah. Especially now we’re becoming more and more image conscious. As everybody’s images are more and more online. It does make sense to look after your head, neck and shoulders and not worry about them in the way that people do. But just take a bit of time to care for them.

Lindsay Newitter
Yeah, yeah. And I know, I’ve been teaching online classes and like, suddenly, I’m using my hairdryer more. Something like teaching online, and how you look, like I see people in person. But there’s something about the screen.

James Crow
For our listeners, just so you know, we can see each other on the screen as we record this podcast. But what Lindsay may not have noticed is that I fell asleep half an hour ago in the garden. So I’ve got a red side of my face where the sun’s been beating on it. And a wrinkle down the other side of the face where I’ve been snoring on my deck chair, on my lawn. So I haven’t presented myself very well at all.

I can’t even tell.

Oh, I’ve got away with it, have I?

Lindsay Newitter
Yeah, it must be your light setup. You’ve got the lights set up in a way that you’re compensating on one side for the red.

James Crow
Yeah, maybe that’s what it is. Lindsay, Lindsay Newitter of New York Posture Police. Where do people find you if they want to get in touch with you or get your help?

Lindsay Newitter
So it’d be my website. And so the website is NY, like New York, NYposturepolice.com. NYpostuerpolice.com. And currently, during this time of social isolation, I am offering online classes. Usually I offer in person and online classes. But right now it’s just online. Not sure when this will actually be.

James Crow
We’re in we’re in the middle of socially isolating due to COVID-19 at the moment as we’re, as we’re recording this. You could come to this podcast at any point in the future. But using an online session with an Alexander teacher is also a good way of finding out how you can work with and improve your posture. It was Lindsay Newitter at (stumbles!)

Lindsay Newitter
N Y posture police.

James Crow
NYposturepolice.com. So do check that out. Lindsay, you’ve been really informative today. There’s loads of stuff that I hadn’t thought about for a while that you’ve brought up and some new stuff for me to chew over. And I’m sure our listeners now hopefully are much more aware of their heads and their feet than they were when they started listening to them. And as a result, the world’s a better place.

Lindsay Newitter
I hope it is!

James Crow
Thank you so much for coming on the posture stars podcast.

Lindsay Newitter
Sure, anytime.

James Crow
Thank you

 

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