What if standing up straight is not exactly what it seems? What if you are actually leaning backwards when you think you are standing up straight? The truth of it is most people who think they are standing up straight are actually standing like the back end of a parentheses- ) .
Ask most people if they think they are standing up straight and they will say yes; at least that has been my experience. If the answer is “no”, or “I doubt it”, and then I ask them to stand up straight, most everyone will elevate the ribcage and shorten the lower back in an effort to feel more upright—or in other words, lean backwards.
There is an easy way to know if you habitually lean backwards when you think you are standing up straight. Stand with your back against a wall and feel if the base of your ribcage is touching the wall. If you are someone who is actually standing up straight the bottom ribs will not have much trouble touching the wall. If you have to work to get the middle back against the wall, you have habitually short lower back muscles from leaning backwards when you actually think you are standing up straight.
This presents an interesting conundrum. When I teach a yoga class almost everyone assumes a similar position when I ask them to stand in Tadasana, the yoga version of standing up straight. Everyone tucks the pelvis and leans slightly backwards until I walk around and basically hinge the upper body forward moving the legs back and the trunk forward slightly. When I make my way back to the front and ask everybody to go back to where they were, the whole room leans backwards.
Conditioned patterns are exactly that, patterns created and reinforced through repetition. If you are told your whole life to stand up straight and you are commended for doing so when you are actually leaning backwards, why in the world would you think it is incorrect, or feel the need to change for that matter?