Massage & Bodywork

January | February 2014

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education BODY AWARENESS Postural Habits By Barb Frye Take a minute and interlace your fingers. Now look at your hands and notice which hand is on top. Do your right thumb and fingers start the lineup, or do your left fingers? This can be considered your habitual way of interlacing your fi ngers. It is the way you always fold your hands, and it is comfortable and familiar to you. Now, change your position so your other hand's fi ngers are on top. Yuck, right? This position feels weird and unfamiliar. This is your nonhabitual way of folding your hands. The way you fold your hands, in the big scheme of things, really doesn't matter. However, your postural habits do have an impact on the quality of your body mechanics as a massage therapist. PROCESS OF LEARNING Postural habits start forming from the beginning of life and continue until we die. The neuroplasticity of the brain allows us to not only learn new patterns, but also change the ones we already have. This is exciting news, because it means we have control of our habits and can choose to keep the ones that serve us well and change the ones that don't. In the classic text Habits: Their Making and Unmaking (Liveright Publishing, 1949), psychologist Knight Dunlap writes, "The process of learning is the formation of a habit," which he defi nes further as "a way of living that has been learned." As we develop body awareness, we begin to recognize that some of our habits are healthy, whereas others are not. Bad habits are harmful to our health, to others, or to the pursuit of our goals, whereas good habits promote our health and well-being, help us achieve our goals, and/or contribute to the well-being of others and the planet. As you become more mindful of your postural habits, you become aware of how your habits regulate the way you move and express yourself. 48 massage & bodywork january/february 2014 PATTERNS OF MOVEMENT Postural habits are patterns of movement that we repeat, often without being aware of it. For example, the way we move when we walk, the posture we hold when standing, and how we gesture when talking are all elements of our postural habits. Indeed, most of our postures and movements are habitual. As creatures of habit, we transfer postural habits from one task to the next and from one environment to another. As a manual therapist, you are likely to transfer many of your everyday postural habits into your working environment. For example, when standing and waiting in a line, which leg do you tend to put more weight on—your right leg or your left? Now, think about standing at your massage table. Do you stand on the same leg? The answer is probably yes. The truth is, standing

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