Unnecessary strain and distortion in the military stance.
"Pull your shoulders back, man....and stand up straight!" Can't you hear a Sargent Major shouting this? And haven't we heard our parents tell us similarly when we were young (or even not so young!)...to stand up or sit up straight?
We all know that upright posture is supposed to be better for us, but sadly just pulling your shoulders back, sucking your guts and bracing yourself is just not the way.
When we pull ourselves up 'straight' like this, we use a whole lot of muscles in ways that are not intended for upright poise. We use the wrong muscles and wrong muscle fibres in our endeavour to straighten out our banana shaped posture, but after a short while we begin to collapse again into our slouch as we become tired. We're back to 'Square One'.
And looking at this gentleman on the left, he may think he's standing up 'straight', but look at him in more detail. His back is arched, so he's bent in the middle, his head is severely pulled back, there is masses of tension between his shoulder blades, in his lower back and legs and it's painful to look at.
However if we were to observe a 3-4 year old child we would see an example of upright poise that appears effortless and causes no strain or discomfort; it can be sustained all day without tiring. Now why is that?
All vertebrate mammals, including horses, dogs, lions, cheetahs, cats and the Meerkat motif at the top of this page have a natural instinct for poise. It's in their genetic make up after millions of years of evolution. Humans have a very similar instinct that gets us on our feet as a child and we learn to balance with upright stance. We also have a very free neck, relaxed shoulders. It's all instinctive and working naturally. This instinct is with us until we die.
But if we look at the chap in the photograph, he certainly is not doing what a child would do; he is using a vast amount of effort and is distorting his poise too.
As adults we have probably developed a lot of postural habits, that may stiffen us and also cause collapse at the same time. If we were able to get rid of our postural habits we could allow our natural instinct for poise to help us. This is what we do with the Alexander Technique. Someone having lessons in the Alexander Technique is never shown 'how to stand or sit', but is helped with the hands-on work from a qualified teacher, to learn how to let go of the habits we have. "If we get rid of the wrong thing, the right thing will look after itself.", said FM Alexander.
The Technique does not involve making effort to hold ourselves up. Far from it. We learn to not stiffen, to let go of tensions. But by thinking in the right way, we stimulate our bodies natural response to gravity, to take us upright to our full height. We only need to think it and our muscles will oblige. The Meerkat sitting at the top of my page is only wishing to see into the distance and his 'postural muscles' oblige him by bringing him up tall without any sense of effort.
Improving your posture should not involve making any particular effort, but to overcome our habits we do need to use our mind. We learn to think the right thoughts that encourage our body to come into better balance, tall and broad. We let our body sort itself out. We are actually doing exactly the same as what is happening in nature with vertebrate mammals; animals such as cats, horses and lions.....as well as our own children. The only difference is that they are doing it instinctively (without harmful habits that interfere with their poise) and we are doing it consciously by tapping into our instinct. We think, but we DO NOT make effort. We'll leave that to the old fashioned military school.