There is a long tradition in both Western and Indian cultures that gives a person’s physical aspect, the body, a bad rap, branding it as somehow lazy, unclean, not to be trusted, and in need of whipping into shape. In his book, “Tree of Yoga,” yoga master B. K. S. Iyengar evocatively spells out the attitude:
“The body is lazy, the mind is vibrant, the soul is luminous. Yogic practices develop the body to the level of the vibrant mind so that the body and the mind, having both become vibrant are drawn to towards the light of the soul.”
Under these assumptions, it makes sense that in order to stand properly, you might need to do things like this:
- Spread the toes and press down through the four corners of the feet to lift the arches
- Bring the thighs back to stack the hips up directly above the ankles
- Lift the kneecaps
- Stack the shoulders directly above the hips
- Stack the ears directly above the shoulders
- Reach the arms down the sides of the body
- Roll the shoulders back and bring the shoulder blades inwards, flat against the back ribs
- Lengthen the tailbone down towards the heels and lift the lower abdomen
- Move the thoracic spine in and up
- Lift and open the chest
If you were to go ahead and do all these things (have a go now if you like, I’ll be here. Just don’t hurt yourself.) you would end up in a very fierce, rigid pose, perfectly appropriate if you’re a soldier on the parade ground, but how natural a pose is it? How hard would you have to work to keep that up for any length of time? How easy would it be to keep all of that up as you walked to the grocery store to get food for dinner?
What if this basic assumption of the laziness of the body were wrong? What if the physical aspect of a person was, in fact, a highly evolved and finely tuned organism that uses complex, dynamically responsive mechanisms to track a vast number of data inputs to adapt to a constantly shifting environment, and was able to accommodate multiple, often contradictory directives with subtlety and grace?
What if the aches and pains, the limitations and injuries that a person experiences as a result of their everyday life were not a result of the flawed workings of a crude machine, but were instead the result of all the things the person does in a day that interferes with that complex coordination? What if, in order to stand tall and have good posture, to be grounded on your feet and light on your feet all at the same time, all you had to do was do less or let go of all the pushing and pulling, compressing and collapsing you do to yourself all day and allow that underlying coordination to reassert itself?
It would certainly make life a lot easier, wouldn’t it?
Next time we’ll explore how you can start to unravel all those bad habits that make even something as simple as standing a chore, so sign up for the Craft of Living newsletter to not miss anything. If you sign up now, you’ll get a free gift that will get you started unraveling some of those bad habits in no time at all.