Body Language and Postural Analysis


Abstract: Postural analysis is an important part of the study of body language. Postural balance is maintained by equal, continuous tension (tone) between pairs of opposing muscles (antagonists). When one of a pair of opposing muscles is over-tight (palpatory hypertonic), it weakens (inhibits) the other. Or when one is under-toned (hypotonic), it causes the other to over-tighten. The resulting imbalances of muscular tension observably distort the structure of the body. For example, when upper Trapezius is tightened, the Latissimus dorsi on the same side is inhibited from contracting and vice versa. As a result, the shoulder will be higher on that side.

Graphic and article on postural analysis available for download and sharing with thanks to David Kent:

A plumb bob (a weight hanging on a long string) or a grid of lines perpendicular and parallel to the floor placed on the way behind the standing patient can be quite useful in the analysis of posture. To perform such an analysis, observe the patient from the front, side, and back. Compare the postural lines to the vertical string (or to the grid) and note any asymmetries. Observe any differences in the heights of the cheekbones, shoulders, and hips between the right and left sides of the body.

Do the arms hang evenly, or is one further to the side or to the front of the trunk? Are the spinal curves over-exaggerated or too straight? Observed from the side, does the head rest upon the vertical line of the vertebral column or is it (as so often seen) forward of this vertical line requiring excessive tension in the back of the neck and low back?

Look for unequal size of muscles, or the shadows they cast, upon the two sides of the body. An overly tense (hypertonic) muscle on one side will usually appear larger. A hypertonic or an under-toned (hypotonic) on both sides of the body is harder to recognize. However, by comparing the posture of the body to known norms, one may learn to detect such postural abnormalities.

Observation of the patient in movements (dynamic observation) such as walking, running, sitting, lying down, and standing up can also reveal typical patterns of imbalanced tension in the body. Differences in movement between the two sides of the body, lack of integration of the movement of body parts, or movement variations which avoid activating specific muscles are all indications of possible structural imbalance.

Through observation of structural imbalances in the posture and movements of the patient, the examiner may deduce which muscles are responsible for unbalancing the body. These reasonable guesses are then cross checked with muscle testing and other diagnostic techniques. As structure affects function, patterns of posture and movement that involve excess tension (misuse) may negatively influence health. Through the known associations between specific muscles, organs, and glands, one may deduce likely functional health problems from observed and from tested structural imbalances.

In the complex mechanism of the human body, the underlying causes of a particular problem may be far removed from the bodily location of the problem. For this reason, patients may omit reporting symptoms they believe not to be involved with their known problems. Reading the body language (observation and testing) and asking relevant questions can elicit important diagnostic information.

Knowledge of the meridian system can also help the examiner to understand body language. Excess energy can often be detected in meridians that lie near areas of pain. Knowing where the meridians lie can aid in understanding pains for which the cause is not evident. The known correspondences between meridians, muscles, organs, and glands also allow the examiner to deduce likely muscular and organic disturbances from indications of meridian imbalance.

The lingering effects of old or chronic traumas to the body may include pain and over-tense muscles which create postural imbalances. It appears that the body protects itself by holding tension in the same muscles in case the same trauma should occur again. For example, if the arms fail to stop the impact of a forward fall, the head may hit the ground. After such an accident, the muscles that failed to stop the impact (triceps, pectorals, and anterior deltoids) may continually display increased tone, even years after the original injury. This holding of excess tension after an injury is known as muscle memory. The previously needed muscles are chronically tense and “ready” this time in case a similar accident should occur.

This continual over-tension inhibits the tone of antagonist muscles, which distorts the structural balance of the body. The process of adapting to these muscular imbalances may extend throughout the body’s muscular, glandular, and organ systems, creating structural, chemical, and even mental problems. For this reason, resetting the level of tone in opponent muscles, as is accomplished by Applied Kinesiology muscle testing and balancing procedures, is often a critical factor in establishing health.

Comparing posture and use before and after corrective attempts helps the examiner to evaluate the effectiveness of his treatments. With a camera or mirrors (and commentary), the subject can also observe the improvement in posture resulting from treatments. Many subjects have such poor sensory awareness that they don’t feel, or notice in any way, postural changes in their own bodies without visual comparison and explanations. Demonstrating positive improvement helps keep the subject motivated to continue and complete therapeutic work with the Applied Kinesiology examiner.

Traditional doctors also use body language in diagnosis. For example, it is well known that body coloration may indicate malfunctioning of the liver, problems of circulation, or anemia. The body language of many referred pains, such as shoulder and arm pain with heart problems, is well known in standard medical diagnostics. The examiner should be well versed in these aspects of body language as well.

Many patterns of body language are often ignored because they are so commonly seen that they are considered normal. Imbalances in muscular development between the two sides of the body, body odors, skin conditions, temperature variations (i.e., cold hands or feet), the general appearance of the hair and fingernails, and various slight postural distortions are so often seen that they are often considered to be normal characteristics of the individual’s heredity or environmental conditions. It is necessary to know the possible meaning of such factors in order to evaluate them.

Some experienced physicians can quickly distinguish disease and the patterns of misuse underlying problematic symptoms – often without knowing how they are able to do this. Sometimes, the signs indicating a particular problem are not observed by other therapists. One may perceive subtle signals such as the smell or some energy emanation from a patient without being aware of it consciously. Although perhaps unconscious, such perceptions aid diagnostic intuition.

Many of us had special perceptions as children but had it trained out of us by our parents, teachers, and friends. Such talents are often repressed because they are not commonly experienced, understood, or accepted by society. Perhaps this repression is the reason why many therapists are unaware that they use these faculties.

Consciously recognizing and using such faculties greatly increases the ability to read body language. Knowledge of these subtle sensory awarenesses, an open mind to their possibility, experimentation, and practice can awaken and transform these dormant faculties into useful diagnostic tools.

The physician and the examiner using Applied Kinesiology can learn to observe many other hidden body-language signals. Although many medical textbooks state that the cranium is a fixed structure, one may learn to detect its expanding and contracting, respiratory-like movements. Interference with the respiratory movements of the cranium may be the primary cause of many varied and seemingly unrelated health problems. Small bumps between two bones of the skull (along the temporal sphenoid line) may indicate specific muscle-weaknesses. Until one knows about and looks for such subtleties of body language, they will not be observed.

Learning to read body language and conduct postural analysis requires both knowledge of what to look for and fine techniques of observation. Reasonable guesses as to the probable causes of muscular imbalances involved in postural distortions and observed misuse are then checked with muscle tests and other diagnostic techniques. Knowing the correspondences between muscles, organs, and glands allows the examiner to question concerning likely health problems and symptoms that the subject may have failed to mention. Following this sequence of observation, inquiry, reasoned guessing and muscle testing leads to a more complete diagnosis. This trains the examiner to more easily sort out the underlying causes of functional health problems from observation of posture and other factors of body language.

– Robert Frost, PhD,,

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