Annals of Catastrophic Posture: Immaneul Kant edition

Immanuel Kant crooked posture
Immanuel Kant’s “crooked stick” posture.

I know shamefully little of 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant.

Ask me to free-associate on his name, and I will come up with the Monty Python drinking song, not the Critique of Pure Reason.

But ever since I saw the photo above, in Sander L. Gilman’s Stand Up Straight! A History of Posture, Kant has been on my mind.

Gilman explores Kant’s famous (at least to students of philosophy) statement that “from such crooked wood as a human is made can nothing quite straight ever be fashioned.” Then he speculates on how much Kant’s own posture might have shaped his idea.

For Kant’s contemporaries saw him as having misshapen body. In the silhouette above, you can see his sunken chest, protruding belly, rounded upper back and poked-forward head.

As Kant imagined the “crooked wood” of the philosopher’s body, Gilman asks, was “his mind’s eye caught on his own tiny, round-shouldered image”?

man with kypnosis

I see this man occasionally, when he’s out for a run in the neighbourhood.

He’s every bit as out of alignment as Kant. But I don’t believe that his friends and family see him as grotesque, misshapen, or even particularly unusual.

Fully blinkered as we are, in our Disneyland of modern posture, we think this is either genetic, or just what happens to us as we get older.

In fact, age isn’t a requirement for turning into “crooked wood.” Our posture demonstrates our weight distribution much more than our genetics.

Take a look at Kant and stock-photo guy side-by-side. Stock-photo guy is younger, more energetic and considerably more cheerful, but the lines of force in his body are essentially the same.

spinefulness man out of balance

Give him another 20 years of locked knees and pelvis pushed forward, and he’ll look philosophical too.

The good news is that a healthy spine is elastic, even when we’re well past youth. To straighten your spine, all you need to do is bring your weight distribution in line with gravity.

I can’t think of a better way to start the process than in Jean’s Foundations Weekend Intensive weekend, July 13 and 14.

More than half the spaces are already spoken for, so if you’re sitting on the fence, now’s a good time to commit.

Email me at to hold your spot.