Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Don't Waste Gravity

A Waste of Gravity

When you’re tuned in to how to correctly cooperate with gravity, you’re tuned in to the world. Tuned in, not as an idea, but as a lived experience. Not as a concept, but as a percept.

Gravity is an ineluctable environmental fact. But would you believe it if someone told you the force of gravity is on the leading edge of the ecological frontier? What? What? Understandably, the force of gravity is so steady and ever-present we are inured to it, unconscious to its presence.

Well then, consider something that is as plain to see as a mud fence. What we observe walking around every day around us is a wide variety of patterns of use of the human body which, to one extent or another, show signs of being at odds with the simple architectural dictates of gravity. Coming straight to the point, the doctor diagnoses your condition: “Out of Whack.”

The human body is like any other physical structure on earth. Architects and building trade workers know that things need to be “plumb and square” to hold together, to work properly, to last. The anatomical design of the human body calls for the same. Things need to be stacked up vertically, level, and symmetrical. In that correct, or normal stance, you experience living effortlessly upright, unstressed, easy, and free. Thing power, presence, grace. Capable, spacious,fluid. As the writer Scott Russell Sanders who was quoted in Reader's Digest so elegantly phrased it, “When the bubble is lined up between two marks etched in the glass tube of a level, you have aligned yourself with the forces that hold the universe together.

On an everyday basis, however, we are mostly living with only a rough approximation of what the design of the body calls for in terms of correct or normal adaptation to the force of gravity. And when I say “mostly” I’m saying that it is rare to see the kind of grace and ease and power and presence manifest in our fellow men and women. When we do see it we are naturally moved by those manifest qualities. We recognize it as our birthright. We want it for ourselves. 

The situation of our species-wide lack of adaptation to the requirements of the force of gravity may never get recognized as such, and thus continues to self-perpetuate until and unless there is an intervention to alter its pattern. Most people function in an endless recursive feedback loop of fixated bodily patterns and regularly elicited feelings and emotions. Those patterns get set in over time because they continue to reflexively prompt the same sets of feelings and emotions which formed them in the first place. For most of us living vertically upright and balanced in the makeup of our bodies is still over the horizon as an evolutionary potential. 

My aim in writing this is to make it visible on that horizon. Like when Columbus sailed to the New World, the story goes that the natives did not see the ships; only the wise elders saw. 

Another way to express it is that we are shaped by our experiences, set in our ways. And, few of us question whether this is necessary or that anything can be done about it. We take it as a given. We become identified with those patterns ingrained into the fabric of our bodies. Attached. Literally. You could draw the analogy of a bird on a branch: “perched” there, holding on for support. We maintain the body patterns which got fixed into the fabric of our flesh which are a result of our individual unique history of bad habits, limited training, and accidents and traumas. This goes on all the time without pause and thus becomes our inadvertent default state.

We relate to it unquestioningly as if it is somehow genetically ordained. We leave it at, “Well, that’s just the way I am.” Or, “I was born that way.” We put up with living below our potential, robbed of vitality, energy diverted into maintaining imbalanced structural arrangements in the make-up of our bodies. These put a damper on productivity, physical performance and mental capacity, and creative expressiveness.

What’s worse, over time our bodies become fixed into patterns based on repetitive use. Imbalanced patterns betray our ignorance of gravity. We live at odds with the upright and level equipoise so very clearly called for in the human anatomical design. 

This need not be. At least in that respect, you weren’t born that way. Just that some bad habits may have set in, and some accidents and traumas haven’t been fully processed. And, oh yes, and who taught you how to walk, to stand, to sit? You went to school and learned so many things; but, on the point of how to use your body correctly — which, by the way, is at the center of all you do — you were mainly self-taught. The models on which we’ve patterned ourselves probably wouldn’t be getting any prizes as examples of correct body balance themselves. Mother didn’t always know best, every time.

Now that you know . . . don’t waste the opportunity with gravity! Your date is waiting on the doorstep.

Nevertheless, unless you’re a rocket scientist or drop the teacup, gravity gets little attention on an everyday basis. Understandably, the pull of gravity is so constant and ever present we easily become unconscious to it. What’s more, the very real survival issues presented these days by other ecological concerns already in our face may make the question of gravity — and the consequences of the ways we are misusing gravity — seem less urgent. Maybe even meaningless. So much so, it’s probably not even on the radar. So easy to let slip by. “Don’t waste gravity!” “What. Huh? Next?”

It is arguable, however, that becoming conscious and actively engaged in our lived relationship to gravity will have far reaching effects in all aspects of our lives. Not the least of which would be an awakened awareness and engagement with those other pressing matters at or soon to be at our doorstep. Simply put, when you’re tuned in to how you yourself operate in the gravitational field of the Earth, you get tuned in to the world. As a colleague used to love to say, “What we need around here is a firm grasp of the obvious!”

Yet we waste a great opportunity and lose productivity because we ignore it. Not to mention how this depresses the general quality of our life experience, and limiting performance and creative expressiveness. For want of access to our native inner resources we lack the creativity for adapting effectively to change and seeing the road clear to improving our ecological stance on the Earth. 

What to do?

Well, my preference is you call me and book an appointment to start a series of Rolf Structural Integration. Or, at least give some thought to how the way the makeup of your body and its imbalances affect your health, vitality, performance, and expression. Once you make the connection and come to the conclusion that you’d be better off in balance and in line with gravity, you’ll know what to do. Like a moth to the flame.

If you’re not reaching for the telephone right now, here are sometips to get you going in the right direction.

And, when you are ready to get it done call a professional trained in Rolf Structural Integration. 

That is, if you REALLY want to LIVE!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Healthy Breathing Explained

Spinal - Cranial - Pelvic/Sacral Response

When you take a breath the spine responds . . .

With the in-breath the spine lengthens. The spinal curves become more shallow. Upon inhalation, as the secondary spinal curves become more shallow, there are also two significant secondary effects:

1. As the lower lumbar curve/lower back lengthens the sacrum moves downward, the tail bone tucks under slightly, and the pelvis rolls backward.

2. As the upper cervical spine/neck lengthens, the head tilts downward slightly with the jaw moving inward.

Why is this important for you to know?

This is basic bio-mechanics, after all. But, how'ya doing with that? Check to see how you breathe. Take a breath. Go ahead.

Notice whether you pull your shoulders back, arching your back, pulling your head backward/raising your chin? A lot of people breathe that way.

That's wrong! Here's why. First, you are not really getting your full lung capacity. Also, the body is not moving in response to the the action of the lungs filling up, but initiating the movement with muscles that don't need to do that work. It is inefficient, energy draining. And, over time, that pattern of pulled back shoulders, arched back, cocked head gets set into the pattern of you flesh. Then it's just something to drag around, limiting your vitality, range of motion, and sense of ease and power. You might not be able to put a finger on it, but it looks, well . . . off.

Here's what extrinsic breathing looks like. Doctor says, don't do that!

If that is the way you breathe, you may want to know about an option for healthy breathing. Let's call it core breathing.

Healthy breathing is sometimes called core breathing. The simple hallmark of healthy breathing is this: It is effortless. The body responds to the movement of the breath. In contrast to this there's surface, or extrinsic breathing. There the body parts move first in an effort as if to aid breathing. As if. Note well: effort. As in, energy. Not necessary.

So what?

One key point is that if you do not have core, intrinsic breathing activated in your system you are wasting energy. All that pulling shoulder, arching the back, bringing the head up and back . . . that gets patterned into the body over time. And then, the very pattern you used thinking it was facilitating your breathing, it's actually making it harder to breathe! I bet you did not see that coming?

Consequently, you are not receiving the natural benefit of keeping the necessary healthy flexibility in the lower back and hips. Also, the lengthening of the neck on the in-breath maintains a healthy flexibility and ease of the head and shoulders. The shoulder and hip girdles stay young and flexible with correct breathing.

What to do?

Sit straight on a chair with a firm surface for a few moments regularly. (If you are tall check out the tip for chair height below.) Find your sit bones; they're directly under your buttocks as you sit on the chair. As you breath in, notice how the body moves. Particularly, the rib cage, the shoulders, the lower back, the hips and the head and neck.

The practice of noticing itself may be new to you. Be patient. If you don't sense any movement in the lower back/hips, mock it up by tucking your tail bone under/rocking the pelvis backward slightly on the in-breath. Then, rocking the pelvis forward slightly/letting the lower back arch on the out-breath. That will put some healthy oil into the lower back and the junction with the lumbar spine and the pelvis. Once you have that down, on the inhale, also lengthen the back of the neck/let your jaw drop downward and in slightly. On that latter point about the jaw, that's let it drop and move in. Don't pull it down. The initiation comes from lengthening the back of the neck. No effort, remember.

For us tall and short folk: 

Chairs in general are scaled for an average height person. If you are tall, chances are the average chair is too low for you. Short, you know how your feet dangle off the floor. In any event, proper stable sitting requires your feet to be solidly on the floor.

When a chair is too low, it takes muscular effort to sit upright, and the temptation is to slouch. And, you can probably imagine what slouching does for your breath. Too high, you are not grounded.

Look. We're not saying not sit in whatever chair you happen to have. Just when you make the effort to spend some time regularly, consciously sitting and breathing in the way discussed above, it behooves you to sit on a chair with the proper height. Believe me, if you do take up the practice of regularly sitting, breathing, and seeing what happens, you'll thank me and sing my praises when it becomes a habit and starts to bear fruit for your health, healing, vitality, awareness, and presence. No joke.

So how to figure the right chair height? 

While seated on a firm surface place your feet in front of you, with the lower legs straight up and down. Now measure the distance from the floor just behind your heel to the place way up in back of the knee solidly touching the upper leg. Round up the measurement to whole inches. And . . . add one (1) inch more. That measurement will give you a chair height appropriate for your individual build. If you need convincing about the value of this, click to read an excellent article on the subject. You will be a believer.

From here you're on your own. Most chairs are manufactured to measure in at 17.5 to 18.0 inches. If you want a proper chair for the kind of mindful sitting being suggested here, you may have to have one made, or cut one down to size. A simple option would be a simple wood stool with the legs cut to give you the correct height. Other than that, an online search will give you lots of options.

NB: We're not talking about adjustable office type chairs, but something with a very firm surface. That firm surface is necessary to feel those sit bones and to get the most out of your mindful sitting exercise.

Happy Sitting!