Imagine a party. The host is a friend, but not a close friend, so it’s pretty sure that you won’t know many people there. You walk up the steps, open the front door and…how do you hold your collarbones?
Imagine a conversation. One you want to have, need to have, with your partner. Honestly? You don’t know what response you are going to get. So you sit down together, you take a breath and…how do you hold your collarbones?
Imagine a project. You are excited and inspired about it but do you know how to do it? No. Not even a little. And yet the pull of the possibility is strong. So you get your tools together (whatever they may be) and…how do you hold your collarbones?
Does that sound like a funny question in these scenarios? Shouldn’t I be asking something like “who do you ask for help?” or “where do you find your courage?” or “what deity do you pray to to talk you out of it?” Funny as it sounds, the way I hold my collarbones in these situations will have a huge impact on my stress response and therefore my behavior.
The collarbones, or clavicles, are the only long bones in the human body that lie horizontally. I imagine these curved bones as wings that I can fold in, like a bird sleeping, or stretch out, creating more space, wingtip to wingtip. Our collarbones help us define the width of our bodies, help us take a powerful open posture, and feel connections between ourselves and others.
Posture impacts our brains and our behavior. Even more so for habitual posture and alignment. The research of Amy Cuddy (I wrote about her work earlier this year in Body Language) and the work of Richard Strozzi (among others) demonstrate the a connection between how we feel and the posture we take, and the connection between the posture we take and how we feel.
Not surprisingly, the whole posture/nervous system connection is more complicated than just how I hold my collarbones. Diaphragmatic breathing, and pelvic tilt, and tension in the psoas muscle have major impacts. (See Physical Therapist, Matthew Taylor’s 3 Diaphragms Model for a simple, easy-to-understand explanation.) But start with how you hold your collarbones. Feeling the width of your body is a fundamental way to feel where you end and the world begins without being swallowed up or overbearing.
From an experiential anatomy point of view you can experience how you hold your collarbones right now: imagine the posture you’d hold if you were sneaking late into a crowded meeting. You’d fold your collarbones in, right? And what if Anne Lamott posted a comment on your blog to the effect of “you are the most insightful gifted writer since…her”? You’d sit up and spread out your collarbones like heron wings, wouldn’t you? (Well, I would, anyway.) In the second it takes to hold a different alignment, there is an immediate response in the nervous system that aligns posture and presence.
Play with your collarbones. Imagine them five feet long. Take up space. Show up. Center in your width and breathe into more power and ease, wingtip to wingtip.
P.S. I’ve recently discovered the excellent work of Amanda Blake who offers all kinds of great education. You can download her 7-Day Centering Challenge for free from her site. In it, she coaches you through the process of centering in the body including centering in length (our focus last week with the top and bottom of the spine), width (our focus this week with the clavicles), and depth (guess what? That will be our focus next week!)