How should I stand if I want to stand in good posture? The answer I got from many, many sources–books, clips, websites, people–was some version of this: Tuck your tailbone under a little, imagine your head is being lifted, then hike your shoulders up a little, roll them back, then drop them down all the way in that back position. There are some minor variations out there, and some bigger ones–Esther Gokhale, for example, my mom’s favorite posture guru, is against tucking pelvis forward. “Ducky butt, not tucky butt!”

It was a bit of a revelation when my physical therapist, Shannon, gave me my first set of personalized instructions on my posture. I am to roll my shoulders up and back, but not down! I said “You are the only person who has ever given me that instruction. Why shouldn’t I drop my shoulders down as far as they go?” She explained, using a skeleton hanging in her office, how, while that’s true for many people, they way my shoulder blades and spine where out of whack, and because of which muscles are too long and too short from misuse, I need to bring my shoulders up. And I need to bring my ears in line with my shoulder joints. And I can tell the proper tilt of my pelvis based on what gives me the most height. Try it–reach up and move your pelvis and see what position lets you reach the highest. That’s the position for you.

After thinking about it, it seems obvious. Why would anyone think they could give me effective advice about my body without interacting with my body?