Seven Minute Mindfulness

Five Steps to Mindfulness

Get Instant Access

The work with breathing, posture, movement, and intentionality combine to create the mindbody state of fullness. This section on applications of body awareness training will show how that state of fullness can be applied in various areas. We will start with simple postural work and move on to work with developmental and emotional difficulties. These may seem like radically different topics, but from the perspective which sees the human being as a somatic whole, these topics are fundamentally much the same and can be addressed by attending to mindbody wholeness and fullness.

Postural, psychological, spiritual and task performance issues form an indivisible whole. Even a very simple physical problem may have elements of emotional and spiritual difficulties hidden within it. For example, perhaps the reason that a person locks their hips when they run is that they were sexually abused as a child and maintain continuously high level of tension in their pelvis. It is often the case that without resolving an emotional element, a physical task that the student wants to improve cannot be changed. By the same token, if a student wants to resolve some emotional or spiritual difficulty, the body posture which is the physical expression of that difficulty must first be loosened and changed to allow psychospiritual change to begin. The body state of freedom and balance is the concrete extension of the emotional and spiritual state of wholeness and peace.


These two photos of a flute player show her initial playing posture (photo #1) and her posture at the end of her third lesson (photo #2). I have found this same slumped posture in violinists, pianists, potters, dentists, computer users and other people who work in a sitting position.

To feel how slumping affects movement efficiency, try slumping down, raising your arms, and moving them around. Next, roll your pelvis forward to bring yourself up to a more upright sitting position, and try moving your arms around again. It is easy to feel how slumping restricts the breathing and makes moving your arms more effortful. Sitting upright allows greater ease and efficiency in postural support. It is impossible to convey in this printed paper the wonderful improvement in sound that results when a musician uses her or his body with more efficiency.

The flute player had a relatively simple problem. However, very often what looks like a simple postural problem can involve significant layers of hidden meaning. I once worked with a jazz pianist who came for lessons because of disabling pain in his right arm as he played. The lessons involved a fascinating interweaving of work with the pianist's body mechanics and work with the emotional, cultural and philosophical meanings that underlay his body mechanics.

At the beginning of our first lesson, I noticed that the pianist's left shoulder was higher than his right and that his left leg was used more for weight support. When he played, he sat hunched over the keyboard. I decided to focus our lessons on how to sit at the piano in a relaxed, balanced, and upright posture. After I showed him the posturally free way to sit upright, he realized that he created excess tension in many of his movements in an attempt to be strong and tough. This idea that strength is tough and hard is, of course, very common in our culture. When I showed him how to use softness as a foundation for strength, he began to feel less pain as he played.

At the beginning of one lesson, I noticed that when he really got into the music, he hunched himself down over the keys just as he had done when I first saw him. When I asked him about it, he said that he didn't like playing with his head upright and his body open because, as a jazz pianist, he often played in bars. People in the audience were frequently drunk and unpleasant, and his overwhelming desire was to go into himself, the

piano, and the music and create a barrier between himself and his audience. By showing him how soft strength could be a foundation for effective boundary control, I helped the pianist experience that openness and vulnerability were a better defense than hardness and defensiveness.

In a further lesson, he said that the posture of hunching over the piano, getting into the keyboard, was part of the way jazz pianists played. He explained that it had to do with the essential process of jazz improvisation. Because he had no written down, preordained piece of music to play, he couldn't go in with a plan but had to throw himself on the mercy of the moment. The pianist said he leaned close to the instrument to get himself into it, directing his attention away from the sounds of the room and into the sound of the piano. He was trying to find the next notes he was going to play, focusing on the instrument as the crucial source for the next musical thought.

I pointed out that his musical thoughts actually came from deep within himself. However, in locating the source of musical thought in the instrument, he to some extent lost his experience of his inward self. To play with an erect posture, he needed to readjust his very idea of what it was to think. Once he was able to create the new physical posture as a foundation for thinking, he was able to access new power and sensitivity in the creative process. In addition, the new shape reduced the strain on his arm.


This section on computer use illustrates one example of how body awareness training can be applied in business and industry. I have also done numerous presentations to massage therapists on strain-free ways of delivering massages, and I have taught factory assembly line workers how to move in ways that reduce strain and fatigue. In a seemingly very different business application, I have also done presentations for businesses on the topic of conflict resolution, which, as you will read later, begins with finding a balanced posture.

It is evident that the same upright sitting posture shown with the flutist is important in computer use. If you spend hours sitting at a computer, and you are not sitting with the weight of your body falling squarely onto your chair, you are putting considerable strain into your muscles and joints.

The workstation design and setup are based on body awareness. The chair height is equal to the length of the lower legs plus the thickness of the shoe soles. With that height, the thighs and pelvis are free and balanced. The chair is padded but not soft and squishy; it provides solid support for the body. Note also that the seat pan is flat and tilted very slightly forward. It if were bucket-shaped and titled back, as is common, the pelvis would be tipped back rather than level and the spinal column would not be supported well.

Once the chair supports the body appropriately, the rest of the workstation can be determined. The arms should be bent at the elbows; if the arms were extended, that would increase the weight the shoulder muscles would have to hold up. Once the elbows are bent, that determines the height of the desk surface and the distance the chair should be from the desk. In a nutshell, the keyboard should be positioned right under the hands; the hands should never have to reach for the keyboard. Likewise, the monitor should be positioned where the gaze falls naturally; the head should never have to adjust to the monitor position. Since the usual keyboard has cursor control keys and the number pad on the right, the mouse should be on the left (for ordinary point and click activities). Putting the mouse on the right means holding the right arm extended away from the body, and that will produce significant strain.

I have written a book titled Comfort at Your Computer: Body Awareness Training for Pain-Free Computer Use. The book has a lot more information about safe computer use, including such things as how to use standing computer workstations and laptops. The key is body awareness. Once you know how to place your body in a state of balance, ease, power, and freedom, then you will be able to figure out a workstation design which will support your body in maintaining that physical integrity.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Ancient Philosophy Of Aikido

Ancient Philosophy Of Aikido

Find Out the Broad Array of Aikido Styles, Understanding And Importance! Prepare Tough But Prepare Smart. How will you arrive at your objective of polishing superior Aikido skills? This e-book and audio is a total martial arts guide and will not bore you with the traditional standards and thoughts like other e-books do. We ensure you that this e-book is laden with rare information that will kick start your Aikido training regime in the correct manner and transform your life evermore!

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment