My mom is an amazing person. She is highly educated, taught school for 38 years, and has given me sage advice that I rejected when I was young but embrace now that I’m older.
Mom is 94 years old, lives in Florida by herself, drives, stopped playing tennis until just after she turned 90, plays bridge five days a week, and leads a book review group that has people talking about her in-depth presentation for a month. She is a playwright, authored two books, and is well-liked and respected in her community.
She Was Right About Everything
I remember coming home from high school after a full day of school and sports afterward and hearing my mother, from my parents’ bedroom upstairs, shout, “Sharon, get out of the kitchen!” She was lying down after a long day in her classroom with young kids, having already fixed dinner, but she could hear me rummaging around for food. I would shout back, “But I’m hungry!” She would then tell me that dinner would be ready in an hour and that I should eat an apple. Of course, my brain wanted ice cream with Cool Whip or a sandwich as I was convinced I was starving to death, and an hour seemed like an eternity.
She was right. I couldn’t see it back then, but now, if I eat an apple, I am not hungry for hours afterward! Many dinners have been saved for another night as the result of an apple in mid-afternoon consumed as a snack.
…Until She Was Wrong
Always trim, athletic, and savvy, my mom would bug me to stand up straight, pull my shoulders back, and raise my chest so my breasts would have the right lift. And that’s where my dear mother was wrong.
When I went off for training in Rolfing® Movement a few years after I was certified as a Rolfer, I was quickly reprimanded by my teachers. They saw that my posture was all wrong. Bodies should be easy and free. My way of posturing was opposed to my natural structure. It took hours of personal attention from these devoted teachers to have me see, experience, and address this forced way of standing that presented a way of being that was not representative of me.
Imagine holding up your sternum, which then pulls your shoulder blades back and holds tension in your upper to middle back. As you do this, feel your head pull forward and off your spine. This is how some people approach “standing up straight,” which is largely an extreme overcompensation for slumping. It creates its own system of problems, including upper back pain, headaches, arms that flail instead of feeling attached to the rest of the body, and general discomfort – if not outright pain.
Now, I see it in many clients when I greet them at our initial meeting. I can fully identify with the chronic holding and stress created by this forced posturing. Holding ourselves up and maintaining that pattern is fatiguing, somewhat painful, and looks awkward. But we think we’re doing the right thing!
My mom and I have always liked to cook together. We would be shoulder to shoulder, creating great food. Many times, dear mom would step on one of my feet as we cooked. She always told me not to take up so much space and put my feet closer together. Oh, gosh – she was wrong again!
When new clients come in for their initial Rolfing® consultation, we take photos with an instant camera after getting their full medical history. Since the ten sessions of Rolfing® are all about developing structural balance, I have the would-be client get down to their underwear and take the front, back, and two side views of the body, and get dressed again. I say nothing—just take the photos with their “natural” stance so we can look at the photos a bit later after I’ve educated them about balance, structure, and alignment.
Some people stand with their feet and knees touching, and some have a super-wide stance. A balanced body has legs that drop straight out of the pelvis so the feet are hip-width apart. Feet too close together causes a pattern of walking and standing that tightens the hips, causing instability and a feeling of being off balance. Too broad a stance causes the body weight to fall down through the legs, giving no support and again tightening the hips.
So, my dear mom knows what she knows, and so do I! I will continue to stand with my feet hanging down straight from my pelvis, giving me a solid base of support. I will continue to choose ease over posture and feel comfortable and pain-free.
My mom taught me to think for myself and be independent. Much to her chagrin, I took off to Europe a year after college, by myself, with a suitcase, a backpack, and a Eurail Pass good for three months. With no cell phones back then, so no easy way to call home, she and my dad had to endure stream-of-consciousness postcards written in such small print as to jam as much on as I could about my solitude and finding the meaning of life.
To all the moms out there: Continue to guide your children and be the best influence you can be. It’s up to each of us to find our way and create a life and understanding of ourselves that lead us to joyful lives influenced by a mother’s love. Happy Mother’s Day to all—especially to you, dear Dodie.
Sharon Sklar is in her 42nd year of private practice as a Certified Advanced Rolfer and has been voted one of Natural Nutmeg’s 10Best Bodyworkers for the last four years. Sharon works with direct manipulation of the soft tissue of the body and movement re-education over a ten-session series to help her clients feel freer, get more balanced, and reduce chronic pain. Great for athletes, children, and adults recovering from injuries, stress, or traumas of life. State licensed. Call 860.561.4337 for more info or to schedule a consultation. Inquiries are encouraged!