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Posture: a look back in time

By Editorial Team (2)
January 30, 2022
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According to legend, the mythical beast, Chimera, was sent to the ancient city of Thebes. This beast had the body of a dog, the wings of a bird, and the head of a woman. It was chasing young men, but before eating them it asked: “What walks on four legs in the morning, on two legs in the afternoon, and on three legs in the evening?” Only proud Oedipus replied, “A man!” The monster had no choice; it jumped into a chasm because of Oedipus’ direct and correct answer.

Looking at this story back through the wisdom of the ages, we clearly understand that the question referred to the posture of human beings. Our ancestors were very concerned about posture. It pointed to one’s social status.  All lords were raised having the proud stance of a king. Both strict discipline and harsh punishments were used to instill it. During the Age of Enlightenment, in the 17th    and 18th Centuries, with the beginning of Industrial Revolution, this problem was solved from the scientific point of view.

At that time, in Europe and the New World, great attention was paid to the posture of children, from both the ruling and the middle classes. Many boys wanted to start military careers, so correct posture was taught to them during military trainings. Entire books dedicated to the posture of children began to appear. The book by John Adams is one example. To Adam’s mind, having a crooked back violated all social rules. It prevented children from becoming respected members of society. Doctors also supported this opinion because correct posture was a symbol of good health. Poor families didn’t pay much attention to manners and posture, but they made sure their children sat up straight at the dinner table. Rough, plain furniture helped promote straight spines in these cases.  

The time between 16th Century and the beginning of the 20th Century was the “Age of the Corset.”  A corset was used primarily by women for dressing up.  A woman’s waist was tightened by a hideous garment that contained hard insets made of metal and whalebone. These corsets tightened the lower back, stomach, and the bottom of the chest. In the Guinness Book of Records, the tiniest waist mentioned measured 13 inches. Previously, the smallest corset size was 14 inches.

Needless to say, this external display of beauty was not good for health. A confined chest made breathing more difficult and this resulted in oxygen-poor blood. This is one reason why women of fashion fainted so often. A corset worn in childhood that tightened a girl’s waist disrupted her development and literally made her a member of the “weaker sex.”  These deformities even affected a woman’s ability to bear children. The Queen of Great Britain, Anne, (1665-1714) was pregnant 18 times, but managed to give birth to only five children.  

Not only women, but also men strived for fashionably thin waists. During Napoleon’s times, the soldiers tightened their belts to make their bellies smaller. Napoleon himself wore very tight, fashionable and slinky pants. He suffered from indigestion and hemorrhoids because of this. Tight pants squeezed the abdominal wall, disturbing the intestines and interrupting blood flow to the pelvic area. Reckless dandies of those times even wore corsets that tightened their bellies and made their figures look more masculine, widening their shoulders and slimming their waists. Collars influenced the posture as well. A high, stiff collar squeezed the neck tightly, keeping the head straight.  

Special dress was not enough to teach correct posture. Select trainings and exercises were actively enforced, too. Graduates of the Institute of Noble Maids especially stood out. In the Smolny Cloister, The Educational Society of Noble Maids was organized (later, it was renamed as The Smolny Institute). Girls were educated in correct posture here. They had to walk for hours with sticks placed behind their backs. This process achieved excellent results and the girls left the institution as real beauties. In 1773, Russian writer A. Sumarokov gave a description of “an important event”, “the first walk of the noble graduates of the Smolny Institute”:

So pretty nymphs we see before us!

Or may be they are angels from the sky?

In military schools, punishment served to teach straight posture as well. If a boy was found guilty of an offense, he was made to walk with a board tied to his back for an entire day. As an alternative form of punishment, he might be forced to stand on one leg for an extended time with his arms behind his back and his back held straight.

Posture was also seized upon with development of the civil society and in the formation of various public movements. Early in the 20th century in the United States, The Posture League was formed and society was struck by a wave of recommendations on the development of correct body positioning. Some special instruments were developed with which a teacher could measure the quality of a child’s posture by using figures. Dozens of counties and thousands of pupils took part in this program. Children who had deviant posture were required to attend special trainings.

Even now in some athletic schools, appearance and posture are evaluated. The state of the posture is fixed with the help of pictures, and special programs for correctional trainings are developed. The development of democracy in society, changes in fashion, dress, and furniture all influence attitudes toward posture. Correct body position is now associated not only with the aristocratic class, but also with society as a whole.

In the 1940’s, public tension towards posture diminished and in 1960’s, particular attention began being paid to the medical side of the matter. Many views became out-dated. People realized that problems related to posture could be solved by medical treatments.

The question of correct posture is still very urgent. For example, the Army Statute of the Russian Federation Military Forces describes a combatant stance in the following way:

“… stand straight, without any tension, heels together, toes leveled according to the front line and in width of a foot; legs are straightened in knees, but not strained; a chest is raised, the whole body is moved ahead a bit; a stomach is retracted; shoulders unwrapped; arms are lowered, palms turned inside, situated at the side and in the middle of hips, fingers are bent and touching the hip; a head is kept high and straight, a chin is not moving out; look in front of yourself; be ready for immediate actions.”

Having read this description, you can understand what a soldier’s external posture should look like. But, unfortunately, there are no directions for how to ensure the internal attitude of a military man is correct.

Elite educational establishments similar to the Institute of Noble Maids still exist, for instance, the Swiss establishment, Villa Pierrefeu. This institution has been educating girls, teaching them good manners and rules of proper etiquette, including correct posture, for more than 50 years. These studies train women to display their natural feminine beauty and charm, assist them in taking their rightful place in society and business, and help them adapt to a changing multicultural world. Posture correction is also important here. 

Our age of knowledge globalization provides the answer to what correct posture should be, but there are no reliable means to achieve this goal. Both in military forces and among sportsmen and dancers, correct posture is taught today as it has been for hundreds of years: by personal example, by personal trainers and as a means of correction. 

Everyone needs a clear and simple system to reach perfection. It must be a system that helps you improve your posture and so positively influences your health. So the purpose of this book is dedicated to doing just that! It will explain WHAT posture is correct and HOW you can change it.

Summary

  • The notion of correct posture has been important throughout the whole history of the human race.
  • Many modern courses for posture correction provide personal trainers.
  • The “EASY POSTURE” system will give you an opportunity to change your posture and improve your health.

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