Poise is striding over imaginary rose petals
LA DIVINA - Techie Ysmael-Bilbao (The Philippine Star) - August 11, 2015 - 10:00am

Growing up and throughout our mother-daughter moments shared together, my mom Chona Kasten was never too outspoken about sitting or standing correctly. She would simply be her graceful self in a most natural manner. I would only have to watch her and imitate her gait while walking, her subtle lifting of the thigh so her strides would be silent (no matter how high the stiletto or how clunky a step-in wedge or slide would seem to be), and observe each fluid move.  

She would pick me up from school, would remain seated at an angle in the back of the car, her back leaning diagonally against the edge of the backrest, with limbs crossed at the knees, calves together, and feet hanging, toes downward, in a most becoming feminine way, both ankles pushed outward in relaxed form. She would catch me reading a notebook or doing homework crouching over my lessons. Only then would she say, “Teres,” and raise her upper torso with a straight spine to remind me to sit up. She would say, “Do that later, the light will ruin your eyes and the car in motion can make you dizzy.” I always wanted to be done with homework so that I could have more time in the evening for other things.  

My mom was a voracious reader and would curl up to finish books on C.Z. Guest, Jackie O, Audrey Hepburn, or the Spanish royalty, occasionally mentioning how rigidly upright they stood or walked. Or she would thumb through fashion magazines and absorb every word and detail of interest from the photography to the models with their fashion apparel and accessories. She would lean on a sturdy but comfortable chaise and bring the book upward towards her rather than stooping herself downward. On a lounge or sofa, come to think of it, she would raise her crossed knees to rest the books on them as she read. Lower limbs and feet were always planted on a stool or footrest.   

She was totally unconscious about her own correct posture but never imparted the actual dissected techniques until she taught social graces, poise, and posture at institutions like banks and hotels, charm schools like Karilagan and John Robert Powers, and became a mainstay devotee trainer for Philippine Airlines Passenger Service until her untimely demise.  

She made sure I took up ballet not only because of the cultural aspect but also to acquire natural grace, for the air of confidence it gave, to improve the posture — raised sternum, shoulders down, and holding  one’s head high as though one was a champagne bottle and the cork had just popped; and to lilt or stride gently over imaginary rose petals without crushing a single petal.

Fashion shows and ramp catwalking for her was a breeze. She never seemed affected by exaggerations like throwing the hip so very forward or craning the neck with chin outward like the very tall Parisian models executing their slinky styles of walking at the time. She was always her distinct self and everyone else including me idolized her and tried to imitate her. She taught me a trick about keeping my back straight and chest pulled up, not pushed out in equestrienne form, unless one was riding a horse. Standing, legs had to be slightly flexed so it would be effortless to glide and stride from touching ankles and weight on the inner edge of the soles. Most dancers have the best body forms because the characteristic dance posture is second nature to them. 

Today the “slack” posture is noticeable as the whole world slouches or stoops over digital devices, computers, laptops and cell phones. Many chiropractors have mentioned that modern issues of pain and stomach pouches stem from wrong posture (slouching, texting, or using the laptop or desktop without paying attention to the curbing spine. Orthopedic doctors have agreed that the incessant spine strain can cause degeneration to the spine or cause arthritis.)

At the dinner table, many huddle over their food with elbows resting on the table in support of a heavier crouched form versus a well-seated relaxed form, sitting straight, so there is a more correct usage of utensils. The poise is more apparent and the pressure on the tummy is lifted. Overeating in crouched form can wreak havoc on one’s body. And remember to stand with flexed knees, or sit straight with crossed legs to one side when texting. Vogue calls the ill effects of a craned neck on a mobile phone a “text neck.”

Chona Kasten was a voracious reader and would curl up to finish books on celebrities like Audrey Hepburn, who she would mention always stood or walked rigidly upright.


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