I’d like to suggest that you pair up with someone to do this work.
I’d also like to suggest that you make use of a video camera and / or a digital still camera. Have someone take a picture of you from the side, from the front and from the back. As you’ll notice from the photo below, I put duct tape on the floor, and use that as a “foot guide.”
If you want to make this “easier to read,” wear something form fitting — a bathing suit, a leotard, or wear nothing. Also have close ups taken of your neck / chest area, the small of your back and of the front, side and back of your head and neck. Use the video camera to film yourself walking, both toward, away and across the camera.
None of this will be helpful unless you stand and walk normally, as opposed to striking a pose. Just relax and be yourself. If you slouch, slouch.
You might want to do what we did, and stitch the three photos together, then apply a grid. Or, just use a ruler and marker to draw lines.
You’re looking for tilts, off-centeredness, and other deviations from “neutral.” Over the next few pages, we’ll let you know what these things indicate.
The STRUCTURE of the BODY
We’re now going to begin looking at the body from various angles. As we go along, compare what you’re learning to the photographs you took of yourself.
We’ll be continually be referring to neutral positions for the body and its parts. A neutral position, from a muscular perspective, needs little effort to maintain, which is why I will encourage you, as we go along, to experiment with each and every position described. Feel what muscles you have to tense and shorten, which muscles have to let go and stretch to assume the non-neutral positions.
Here’s the point: each unresolved emotional or physical trauma causes muscles to contract, and the opposing muscles to stretch.
Human bodies are dynamic processes. If you flex your biceps (go ahead!) and look in a mirror, you’ll see that the biceps contracts and the triceps (the opposing muscle, under the arm below the biceps) stretches and relaxes. If you extend and tighten the triceps, the biceps relaxes and stretches.
Now, imagine flexing your biceps and leaving it flexed, for, say, a month or two. First of all, after a few minutes, your arm would send pain signals. Your arm might begin to spasm.
If you chose to ignore your pain, block it, and tune it out, eventually your biceps would shrink and your triceps would stretch. They do so to try to reach stasis (a condition of balance among various forces; motionlessness) and to eliminate the pain.
Were you then to straighten your arm, (and this would not be easy!!!) your biceps would have to stretch, and your triceps take up slack. Result? Pain.
Now, recognize that for every posture that is not neutral, this is exactly the process that has taken place. Muscles have stretched; others have contracted.
As you try these positions, and hold them, you’ll feel pain. You might then wonder at the ability of a person for whom this position is “normal” to block the pain they are feeling. Yet block it they do, at the price of not feeling much at all in the contracted area.
Chi, or energy, has trouble flowing through a tightened muscle (or, from an acupuncture perspective, through a blocked acupuncture meridian point.) This results in less and less of the life force moving through the body.
Conversely, when the block releases, the person feels a flood of blocked emotions, as well as a flood of moving energy.
To summarize: any position that is not neutral is maintained through the contraction and stretching of opposing muscles.The resulting pain is blocked and with the blockage comes an attendant loss of feeling in the BodyMindSpirit. Each blocked section “limits” the movement of chi, or life force.
Chi flows freely.
We’ll begin by describing neutral posture. Everything we talk about from here on in, area by area, posture by posture, will be contrasted to neutral.
Here’s what a body in neutral position “looks like.”
- The feet are flat on the ground.
- The knees are slightly flexed, and are over the ankles.
- The pelvis is centered (not tipped forward nor back) and is positioned directly over the knees.
- The shoulders are over and square the pelvis. It’s level from the front, and is centered front to back.
- The head is over the shoulders, and tipped slightly up.
To feel neutral posture, back up against a wall.
- Put your heels against the wall. Flex your knees a bit.
- Your butt is against the wall, just touching.
- The small of your back should be about an inch away from the wall; you should be able to stuff your hand in and feel a bit of resistance.
- Your shoulder blades touch the wall.
- The back of your head touches the wall.
- Your eyes, focused on an opposite wall, should be looking a bit above horizontal.
- Put the palms of your hands against the wall.
- Allow your forearms and elbows to touch the wall. Feel how your shoulders fall back, and your chest opens. This is now military posture; the chest is slightly too open. (For people who have shoulder issues — who have chests rounded over the front, this is the correction.)
- To finish, let your hands come away from the wall, and cross at crotch level. (Sort of like the Buddhist standing meditation posture.) You’ll feel your shoulders round forward, just slightly.