Sunday, March 14, 2010

Standing Tall

Baby M. has just started pulling herself up into a standing position. And look how beautifully she does it! Her legs and feet are facing straight forward squarely from her hips; her feet have a natural kidney shape to them; her hips are relaxed with a slight forward tilt. She pulls her back up straight and her head is tilted at just the right angle to stretch out her neck. She easily turns her head to look at me with her eyes perpendicular to the plane of her head.

We all once knew how to stand like that but too much slouching over a book or keyboard (or knitting), or slouching in a chair has many of us tucking our hips under and pushing them forward which puts an excessive S-curve into the back. For me, the hip tucking began with ballet classes. This can also cause us to jut the head forward and then back to level the head which puts an excessive curve in the neck. All of this affects our breathing and circulation to all parts of the body, not to mention giving so many people back pain. Most car seats, plane seats, and easy chairs and sofas reinforce this slouching. And we all spend way too much time sitting!

I was alerted to a new (new to me) method of standing, sitting, lying down, and moving by a post in Mark's Daily Apple, here and here. The idea is that along with a lot of other things paleo, we should also be standing and moving like our ancestors did with more of a J-shape to our spine achieved by an antenverted, relaxed pelvis and a back that stretches up and stands tall. The woman who developed this method is Esther Gokhale. To cure her own back pain, she travelled the world observing native peoples in Africa, India, and Brazil where back pain is virtually unknown in spite of a lot of manual labor. Check out all the wonderful photos on her website and especially in her book, 8-Steps to a Pain-Free Back (take a Look Inside), which I have just ordered from Amazon. Who hasn't admired the posture of those African women who balance huge loads on the tops of their heads?

For me, the benefits of easier diaphragmatic breathing when standing this way ties in beautifully with my study of Buteyko Breathing (1, 2, 3, 4). When I pull my torso up from relaxed hips, I can breathe much more freely and I feel the air is getting down to the bottom of my lungs. Gokhale's description of how we should breath does not quite match Buteyko, but I intend to discuss this with my Buteyko practitioner when I see her again. I'm sure the two can be meshed together and we still need to breathe less. But I really feel that Gokhale's approach is the way to go and I can't wait to get her book and give it a try.

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