Posturality - the Gibbens-ese version



I appreciate the care taken by RD[1] in responding to my criticisms. Without wanting to drag the debate on interminably, I shall offer a reply.  But that is not the purpose of this particular contribution. Here, I want to accept RD's invitation to publish my pared-down version of his 22 points - the translation, as RD puts it, from Dennis-ese to Gibbens-ese.

I should clarify that the original purpose of the exercise was to articulate as clearly as possible the ideas that RD was putting forwards, ideas which I found ambiguous, here and there, in the original. The hope was that if I had misunderstood something, the misunderstanding would become clearer, so that Ron could then correct my misapprehension. In turn, that might have suggested the possibility that the original wording needed revision (or it might just have meant that I was being particularly dense).

I had better admit, too, that I have a penchant for pedantry which goes some way beyond the normal scope of editing.  In one part of my life I spent a lot of time sparring with solicitors around legal documents and writiing strategies, casting forth mission statements and vision statements and the like. The challenge of applying those pedantic skills to RD's 22 points was too great to resist, even if some of the soul or poetry of his original has got lost along the way.

In offering my 18-point version of RD's points I need to emphasise that this is my attempt to articulate his ideas in my language in the most condensed form that I could achieve without (in my view) losing any of the substance. It is intended purely as a translation (for want of a better term): it is not an attempt to provide an 'improved' version that I agree with. For example, as my critique made clear, I don't accept point 1.

18 point version

  1. Posture comprises all musculo-skeletal activity.
  2. As a response to gravity, posture exerts a constant effect on bodily functioning; the effect can be for the better or for the worse depending on the quality of the posture.
  3. In the living person; all support involves movement and vice versa
  4. Body and mind form a unified process in the living person.
  5. Psycho-physical activity is another term for posture and includes the aspects of body, mind, support and movement.
  6. Posture is partly innate and partly habitual, but it’s hard to distinguish one from the other.
  7. The habitual element in posture is affected by a wide range of individual experience.
  8. As the habitual element in posture is learned, it can be modified through new learning.
  9. The quality of posture can be assessed; but assessments are always relative to the current posture, given that posture is changeable.
  10. The assessment of posture requires comprehensive expertise in posture that includes a recognition of individual variability.
  11. The assessment of posture is only possible by someone able to register reliably their actual posture against a valid criterion of postural quality: this ability is called 'accurate proprioceptive perception'.
  12. Habitual bad postures can prevent accurate proprioceptive perception: for example someone with a tilted head may think it is level. 
  13. Because of the influence of posture on functioning, the main aim of postural education is to engender accurate proprioceptive perception.
  14. The proposed educational process involves the experience of correct posture which then reconditions the perception of posture towards accuracy.
  15. Posture is optimal when it minimises stress and strain, which means being mechanically well-organised over the base of support; it requires 'lengthening'.
  16. Learning to 'lengthen' requires experience and involves preventing both unnecessary muscular effort and undue distortion of the natural curves of the spine.
  17. By implication, sub-normal posture involves insufficient lengthening, caused either by excessive muscular contraction or failure to lengthen against the effects of gravity.
  18. Understanding the theory and practice of 'lengthening' is the essential attribute that allows a therapist to assess someone’s postural quality and give them the manual and verbal cues that enable them to experience good posture and thereby learn accurate proprioceptive perception.


[1] I was much taken with Ron's use of 'DG' to refer to me and my ideas and have adopted it. I was conscious that the usual academic convention, which for the most part this site tries to emulate, would be to use surnames: 'Gibbens claims this' and 'Dennis states that'; but I found that too distant and potentially abrasive for our relatively small and intimate community. On the other hand, using  'Ron' and 'David' seems too cosy and indicative of a false familiarity.  The use of initials seems to strike exactly the right balance of respect and distance.