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Poise and Posture

A guide to achieving perfect posture and refining your personal presence.

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Poise and Posture

  1. 1. © Copyright Modern Finishing School Modern Finishing School An eCourse on Elegant Living for Modern Women Week 1 Issues Covered 1 The History of Finishing Schools What is a Finishing School? 2 Personal Presence and Impact A finishing school (or charm school) is typically defined as “a private school for girls focused on training in cultural and social 3 Perfect Posture activities." Switzerland is known for its private finishing schools, such as Institut Alpin Videmanette (now closed), where Diana, Princess of Wales studied. In the old days, girls 4 from privileged families, after graduating from high school, Compelling Speech would be sent to Finishing School in order to learn the social graces that would help them to live more elegant lives and find a suitable husband. Fashion of a bygone era: Debutante wearing Charles Worth Charles Frederick Worth (1825 - 1895) is widely considered to be the father of Haute Couture and was responsible for dressing a generation of girls for their Cotillion, or Debutante Ball. Worth was English-born but spent most of his life in Paris, where he dressed famous women including the Austrian Princess Pauline von Metternich (pictured) and the infamous beauty Virginia Oldini, Countess of Castiglione.
  2. 2. Week 1 © Modern Finishing School Can you re-imagine your best self? That time has passed. The project your desires disciplines of the last century. modern woman no longer • Making others feel at ease Without training, many of us sees getting married as her • Creating a well-edited suffer from the typical only goal in life, nor does she wardrobe on any budget symptoms of weak, rounded have the time to learn shoulders, a forward-jutting embroidery and needlepoint. head, and a belly that sticks Now that the finishing And yet, an increasing out. This makes us look schools of the last century are number of modern women weak, tired and uninspiring. shutting their doors, women are discovering that some of from all walks of life, whether the skills taught at these old- In contrast, standing out by students, professionals or full- fashioned finishing schools standing up straight can make time moms, are turning to the are still relevant today. an incredible difference to the Modern Finishing School eCourse in order to benefit way we are perceived by Finishing Schools help from the study of others. students learn fundamental comportment, etiquette and life skills such as: style. • Knowing how to maintain No matter what our goals, we elegant posture and experience greater success control facial expressions when we are poised and • Mastering the arts of food confident. and wine • Using body language to Posture is one of the forgotten Elegance begins with good posture… 2
  3. 3. Week 1 © Modern Finishing School Posture and Balance Achieving perfect posture is easy. We begin by simply ‘unlearning’ our bad habits… Then we develop some good habits to replace them. We’ve all been told a million Benefits of perfect posture What is good posture? times not to slouch, but if you include: have difficulty remembering, Good posture means standing • Portray a more confident try wearing a new bracelet – with a straight spine, your and optimistic image every time you see it shoulders rolled back and your throughout the day, it will • Instantly make yourself shoulder blades pulled down serve as a discrete reminder to look 5 lbs slimmer and inwards, with your weight sit/stand up straight. It goes • Improve circulation and distributed evenly between digestion both feet and your chin level • Reduce the risk of with the ground. Your lower muscular aches and pains spine is naturally curved, so • Allow you to breath more take care not to over-correct easily, which will improve your posture. Standing up voice quality and straight like a military officer, projection, making you poking the chest out and appear more confident tilting the head too far back is actually just as unhealthy as Fitness balls can be a slouching. The most fun way to practice At old-fashioned Finishing good posture while important thing is to relax! Schools, girls would walk watching television Your body should not be rigid with books balanced on top or tense. Remember, posture is without saying that the main of their heads to improve simply the word we use to downside of slouching is their posture, holding their describe the position in which turning into the Hunchback of heads high. Feel free to try the body is naturally designed Notre Dame. But getting rid of this at home, but the to function. the slouch will also make you suggestions below may be look more confident and more practical! 3
  4. 4. Week 1 © Modern Finishing School optimistic, which will affect sciatic nerve. Old Habit # 2: Cradling your the way you are perceived. phone in your shoulder. Even if you are at your desk, Part of developing good there are simple exercises you This creates a tilt in your spine posture is letting go of bad and can ultimately lead to habits. back pain. If you don’t want to look like a telephone operator with a hands-free Old Habit # 1: Sitting still headset, just remember to for most of the day. switch shoulders! After Our bodies were designed to hanging up the phone, try a The ‘bridge pose’, used move around and sitting at a few head circles, and then in yoga and Pilates, desk all day simply isn’t lower your ear toward your opens the chest and natural! Apart from being shoulder without arching your helps strengthen and terribly boring, this will lead back. Hold for 30 seconds, then lengthen the spine to tightness in the hips and can eventually pinch the can do to relieve the pressure on your body. Try sitting with your right ankle on your left thigh and lean forward to feel a stretch in your hips. Hold for 30 seconds, switch legs and repeat. Then stand up and reach for your toes, relaxing your neck. Hold for 10 The ‘cat stretch’ is a seconds and feel the stretch yoga stretch that helps in the back of your thighs to open up your chest and lower back. and back Audrey Hepburn’s posture is the epitome of elegance Try visualizing yourself as a slouch if you imagine favorite movie star or celebrity yourself as Audrey Hepburn ballerina but as an adult, her – ideally one from the Golden in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. main form of exercise was Age of Hollywood, when Although she was not tall by walking briskly. She loved perfect posture was more modeling standards, her walking, whether on the streets common, such as Audrey posture was world-renowned of Manhattan or in the Hepburn or Grace Kelly. and made her look elegant and mountains of the Swiss Alps, You will find it impossible to perfectly proportioned. As a where she had a summer home. young girl, she trained as a 4
  5. 5. Week 1 © Modern Finishing School million and one known New Habit # 2: Visualize benefits, and improving yourself with perfect posture posture is one of these. In Visualization techniques can be particular, yoga and Pilates are a powerful way to enact extremely beneficial for changes in your life. For repeat on the other side. posture, as both will help you perfect posture, imagine there to strengthen your core is a ribbon tied to the top of muscles and protect your spine. your head that is pulling you Old Habit # 3: Crossed legs There are dozens of variants of gently up towards the ceiling. Although many of us were yoga and Pilates, with different taught that sitting with crossed levels of difficulty; some legs is ladylike, it twists your involve meditation and others Your body should be evenly spine and disrupts your natural will feel like an ordinary distributed over both feet, and posture, and has been linked to stretching class, so try to find a you can imagine that there are the appearance of varicose style that suits you. Of course, weights in both hands, pulling veins. reading about exercise is no the shoulders down away from substitute for a professional your ears, shoulder blades Try sitting with your feet flat instructor, so we recommend neatly tucked in. on the floor. If you catch that you try your local gym or yourself sitting with crossed purchase a DVD to use at home. If you are not sure New Habit # 3: Get a legs, make a few slow ankle where to start, try Kristin massage circles, clockwise then counterclockwise for 30 McGee’s yoga and Pilates Many postural problems seconds on each foot. Then DVDs for beginners. originate from tension in the stand up and do five squats to ( neck, which restricts the get the blood flowing (with feet head’s movement. If you hip distance, sit back as though allow your head to move However, there are many forms to sit in a chair, then come freely you will feel your entire of exercise that can improve back up). spine lengthen. A neck and posture, from light weight shoulder massage will help to New Habit # 1: Strengthening training to running to dance eliminate this tension, your spine through exercise classes. Most importantly, find making it a great way to Physical exercise has about a something that you enjoy! renew your commitment to perfect posture. 5
  6. 6. Week 1 © Modern Finishing School Voice and Projection With practice, anyone can modulate their voice in a way that compels others to listen. If you do not wish to spend essential role in commanding simply to become conscious the money on a professional the attention of your listeners. of our good and bad speech spa massage, try enlisting the habits. help of your friends or family, Many people say that public Are you mumbling, as though or purchase a hand-held speaking is their number one you lack confidence in what massager. Getting a massage fear, outranking death and you’re saying? has other health benefits as divorce. Our anxiety about well, like improved blood speaking in public may Are you rushing through your circulation, which speeds up prevent us from reaching our words too quickly, perhaps the delivery of oxygen and fullest potential since we may due to a subconscious fear nutrients to your cells. The try to avoid situations that that your partner is perfect excuse to indulge! could advance our career or disinterested and wants to go personal goals. Even do something else? experienced performers can What does your voice say experience stage fright; the about you? Is your voice too quiet, key is knowing how to Learning how to master your signaling submissiveness, or manage those emotions in voice can help you to make a too loud, suggesting any context, so that the ‘real lasting impression in every aggression? you’ can shine through. aspect of your life. And yet, most of us have never Only you can assess whether Speaking well is a learned thought about how we can your voice is portraying the skill improve our impact through person you want to be. Try speech. We tend not to think about using a tape recorder to the way we speak in our record yourself speaking so every day lives. Speech Whether it is getting your that you can get a better idea becomes involuntary; we of the way you sound to opinion across in meetings, forget about delivery as we others. Don’t worry if your giving compelling focus on the content of what presentations, or just being voice sounds strange to you we are saying. The first and more influential in a social at first! This is normal, most fundamental step is setting, your voice plays an 6
  7. 7. Week 1 © Modern Finishing School because we are not over words, or losing your accustomed to hearing train of thought. ourselves. The tape will still be helpful in analyzing what • Pronunciation is clear you like and don’t like about Clarity of speech is your speaking voice. important. If you mumble your words people are likely What makes a compelling to think you are not sure of speaking voice? what you’re saying, or that The fundamentals of you lack confidence. powerful speech are quite Professional actresses all straightforward. It just practice elocution exercises to Confidence is conveyed improve the clarity of their through your tone of requires practice! speech. Try some from the voice list below! A compelling voice: of too slow rather than too • Sounds relaxed • Speed is controlled fast, because we typically It helps if you can actually Rushing through your words think that we speak more feel relaxed (more on this makes it clear to your slowly than we really do. later), but in the meantime, audience that either you can’t Natural speech will vary try to determine whether you wait for this conversation/ slightly in speed. For are showing any of the telltale speech to be finished, or you example, try to insert a longer signs of stress when you suspect that they can’t wait. pause just before or just after speak, such as feeling short of In most cases, err on the side you introduce a new idea. breath, flushing, stumbling Vocal Exercises can improve clarity and diction They sound funny, but most professional speakers use tongue twisters like these before an engagement to improve their diction. • High roller, low roller, lower roller. imagining managing an imaginary • I need a box of biscuits, a box of mixed menagerie. biscuits, and a biscuit mixer. • The free thugs set three thugs free. • He thrusts his fists against the posts and still • She stood on the balcony inexplicably insists he sees the ghosts. mimicking him hiccupping and amicably • Imagine an imaginary menagerie manager welcoming him in. 7
  8. 8. Week 1 © Modern Finishing School Exercise is a great way to release nervous energy… This gives people time to absorb what you are saying, and tends to leave a stronger impression. while you are speaking. relaxation to reduce fear of Practice integrating these public speaking. • Tone is varied techniques Our tone of voice will impact In order to make these • What’s the worst case whether or not our audience powerful speaking techniques scenario believes we are sincere. A feel like second nature to us, Chances are, the stakes are monotone voice may leave it’s important that we first try lower than you think. What’s them doubting our motives, to adopt them in our the worst that could happen? or they may perceive us as everyday lives - in the How likely is this in reality? boring even if the content of supermarket, at work or There are very few public what we are saying is very school, when speaking with speaking mishaps that are stimulating. friends. Aim for gradual truly disastrous. change, focusing on one new When we speak naturally, we aspect of speech every day, • Exercise releases nervous change our tone of voice in until you start to feel a energy accordance with what we are difference. Then, when it As mentioned before, there saying. This makes us sound matters most, you will are a million and one reasons more dynamic and is key to remember what it felt like to to exercise, and here is holding peoples’ attention. give a compelling speech. another one – it really is the Try raising or lowering the tone of your voice in order to best way to release nervous emphasize an important Overcoming anxiety energy. point, or to convey your Once you begin to feel the passion about the subject results of your improved “Sometimes, when I have an matter. speaking technique, it’s time important presentation in the to focus on higher stake afternoon, I will pencil in an • Smile and be cheerful situations. Anxiety can hour at lunchtime to work out at sometimes leave us tongue- the gym or go for a run. When Your voice will instinctively tied, but there are many I’m really worried, it’s the only sound more natural and relax effective methods of thing that will help me to get the if you smile now and then 8
  9. 9. Week 1 © Modern Finishing School anxiety out of my system.” yourself a favour and expect Keep inhaling until the - Sarah K., Fund Manager the best. middle of your chest is full of air and you feel your rib cage • Visualization • Breathing Exercises expand. Hold the breath in It’s important to keep for a moment, then begin to One of the most important practicing the perfect posture exhale as slowly as possible. tools you can use to enact any change in your life is to techniques from the previous visualize success. Replace section, because these will As the air is slowly let out, negative thoughts by allow you to breathe deeply relax your chest and rib cage. imagining in as much detail and help to prevent anxiety. Begin to pull your belly in to as possible what it will feel Once your body is aligned force out the remaining like when you achieve your and relaxed, think of breath. Relax your facial goal! Picture the setting, the something that makes you muscles as you exhale and faces you will see, the words smile, like a loved one, or feel yourself start to let go of you will hear yourself saying something amusing that any anxiety. Think to and the way you will sound – happened earlier in the week. yourself, “I’m glad I’m here clear, confident, poised and and I’m glad you’re here!” polished. It’s important that you Smile, and begin to speak. actually smile, because the Most importantly, picture simple act of smiling sends a Practice this exercise at home your audience smiling and message to your brain that and just before an important nodding as they listen to you you are feeling happy, speaking engagement in order speak. We can never fully relaxed and confident, and to clear your mind. control the reception we will can help regulate your receive, but if you expect the emotions. Then, place your worse, the audience will hands on your abdomen and subconsciously pick up on relax your belly muscles. your negativity and respond Take a deep breath and feel in a more negative way. Do the belly fill up with air. 9
  10. 10. Week 1 © Modern Finishing School Goal Setting Exercise The old –fashioned finishing school was about turning girls into “perfect” women. But the perfect woman doesn’t exist! All we can do is imagine ourselves the way we would like to be – a more elegant version of ourselves. Use this exercise to get the most out of your experience in Week 1 Remember, you are your own harshest critic! More than anything, I would like _________. Next time we speak, I doing________. to accomplish_________ in my will try to focus on _________. personal life. I believe that the only When I am speaking to others in thing holding me back is There are some situations in which any public setting, I will focus in ________________. I feel awkward or uncertain, for particular on three things I would example_________ and _________. like to improve: ______________, I will endeavor to work on the I will do my best to think about my ______________, and following 3 skills in order to posture and the way I project my ______________. achieve this dream_______, voice in these situations, in order to _________, and_________. feel more confident and poised. I think the most amazing public speaker is _________. I especially My academic/professional I really admire ______________, like the way she_________. reputation would really benefit if I and the way she ______________. achieved the following skills: I will try to adopt this habit by Part of living an elegant life is _________, _________, and ______________. treating myself once in awhile. I _________. I will practice these will be working hard this week on skills by doing _______. I think my personal presence and improving _______. As a reward, I impact would be improved if I will treat myself to __________. My relationship with _______ is ___________. I will try to make really important to me. I think we this change by doing ___________. I will remember that I am my own would really benefit if I could harshest critic! This week I am improve our conversations about I tend to feel anxious proud of myself for achieving _______. when__________. I will overcome __________. I find it really difficult speaking to my anxiety by visualizing myself