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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Meet Kaiser, the Posture Watchdog

I'm going to talk about one of my students, whom I shall call Joseph (fictitious). I have been working with Joseph for two years at the university level, where he needs to prepare for the mid-course university upper level review -- the end of the sophomore year jury performance that determines whether the student should be eligible to take upper level courses.

When Joseph first came to me, he did not stand completely upright. Joseph is a tall young man, but two years ago his posture gave a different impression. Joseph's shoulders tilted forward a slight bit at the ends, which also caused his head to droop a little bit. One day I brought one of my smooth haired dachshunds to work, and my little Kaiser slept on my office chair behind me. Kaiser would raise his head in interest as each student entered the studio. However, when Joseph came into the studio, Kaiser's demeanor changed. Kaiser sat up, extremely alert. Joseph is a "dog person." He owns a dog and likes them. However, Kaiser's barking at Joseph alerted me to a problem. When I looked again at Joseph with the same perspective that my dog used, I realized what was missing from Joseph. His posture was that of someone who lacked assertive and postive energy. I had known that there was something "not quite right" about Joseph's performance, but I just couldn't put my finger on it at the time. My little Kaiser dog nailed it from the moment that Joseph walked into the studio, and Joseph's posture spoke volumes.

Since that time for the past two years I have been working with him to get Joseph to stand up "taller": by pulling his shoulders back a little bit. I tried helping him to "pull up his suspenders" by hooking his thumbs in his armpits and pulling upwards. I tried trailing my hand along his spine and asking him to lengthen the spinal column. I tried verbal cues, such as "head up, shoulders back." Nothing seemed to happen. Yes, Joseph would do what I asked at the time, but none of my suggested changes would make themselves permanent.

Then Joseph failed to pass his upper level review. Now the pressure is on, because he would only get one more opportunity to pass the performance test in the next semester. Tomorrow I will tell you what happened next.

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