Poise is a dynamic view of the way we use our bodies, unlike the term ‘posture‘ which suggests a more fixed position.
The Concise Oxford Dictionary gives the definition of poise as ‘Balance, equilibrium, carriage of one’s head…’ We talk about being ‘poised for action’.
The online FreeDictionary gives other definitions, including being ‘in full control of your faculties’ and also being ‘self-possessed’. These definitions indicate that a balanced mental state is linked to our being in balance physically.
Poise suggests an active fluidity in our body use which is explored in Alexander lessons. The process of our movements and the condition of our bodies is something we work with, rather than aiming for fixed positions.
‘Poise’ versus ‘Posture’
When we think about ‘posture’ we often ‘sit up and stand up straight‘. This can be unhelpful as we tend to stiffen and often over-arch our backs. The result is we feel uncomfortable after a very short time, then give up and collapse into a slump!
However, being poised so we balance on our sitting bones or feet, tends to bring about a gentler re-alignment that can be maintained more easily.
A Pupil’s Experience
“I also found sitting on a stool for quite a long time without a back support in the way Hilary taught us – balancing on my sitting bones, finding the exact right curve in my spine that did not ache after a while – was unbelievably comfortable”