Posture

Breathing easily is the beginning of the experience of postural stability, which is crucial in developing the feeling of efficacy and ease. I begin working on postural stability by having people feel how straightening up from a slump is accomplished. Most people think that straightening up is done by throwing the shoulders back or by straightening the back, and practically no one notices that the whole process is built around pelvic rotation. When the pelvis rotates backward (the direction in which the guts in the pelvic bowl would spill out over the back edge of the pelvis), the stack of vertebrae has no foundation on which to rest and it slumps down. Rotating the pelvis forward—in the appropriate way—provides a foundation for the spinal column and the torso as a whole and creates upright posture.

Most people rotate the pelvis forward by using the superficial muscles in the back to pull upward on the rear edge of the pelvis. I have students experience this by pulling their shoulder blades and back pockets together, and they feel how their backs arch and their postures become tense and top heavy.

To find the more effective way of coming to an upright sitting posture, I ask students to slump and notice that when they do, the pubic symphysis (the bone in front of the pelvis, just above the genitals) points upwards. The more appropriate way to rotate the pelvis forward involves moving the pubic symphysis forward and down so that it points toward the floor. This uses the iliacus and psoas muscles (which are muscles deep in the front of the body) to do the movement. This new sitting posture creates an effortless stability and a physical sensation of exhilaration and power, which is the opposite of the constriction produced by weakness and inability.

The next step in the development of postural stability is rather surprising to most people, and that is the development of a loving heart. I help people understand this by asking them to imagine a situation in which they have to deal with a boss who is antagonistic, critical, and disrespectful, and I have them note the physical changes they experience. Generally people feel tension in the chest and shortening of the breath as well as other tensions throughout the body. Then I have people imagine someone or something that makes their heart smile. This not only reverses the changes created by imagining the uncomfortable situation but also produces sensations of relaxation, warmth, softness and openness in the chest.2 These sensations of being "warm-hearted" are the bodily manifestations of love. Not only does the chest soften, but the whole body becomes freer and more unified, and this improves body use and the coordinated delivery of power in

2 I learned this exercise from Stephen Levine, who works with meditations on the heart. See his book Who Dies? Conscious Living and Conscious Dying, Anchor Books, Garden City, 1982.

any action. Of course, making love part of power also ensures that power will be used wisely and constructively.

Power and love, contrary to the model that our culture uses, really are inseparable. Love without power is limp and ineffective, and power without love is rigid and harsh. (Here I am using the terms with their more usual meanings, as though they were in fact separable.) In either case, love or power is diminished to the point where it becomes just a shadow and not true power or love at all. Power is the foundation for the ability to love, and love is the foundation for the wise use of power. This is not mere philosophy but is simply a shorthand method of stating that the body and the self must be soft and receptive as well as integrated and strong in order to function well.

MOVEMENT MECHANICS

Postural stability is the foundation of the ability to move with power and grace. Walking offers a convenient place to begin the study of movement since the movements of walking are fundamental parts of many other activities.

To develop people's awareness of an efficient walking gait, I have them stand and push on a wall, with their feet far enough from the wall that their bodies incline forward quite a bit. Usually people believe that they push on the wall with their arms and shoulders, and they don't notice the contribution of the legs and hips. One way of clarifying this is to have them bend their knees quite a bit and then straighten their legs rapidly as though they were trying to push the floor backwards away from the wall. As they do this, they experience that the force transmitted to the wall by their hands increases. This helps them begin to understand that the traction of the feet on the floor and the shove back and down with the legs is what creates the forward shove on the wall. This realization transforms their awareness so that they experience the lower half of their bodies as active and powerful.

Having students walk with this new awareness transforms their walking. Having them step forward using an exaggerated pressing down and back with the ball of the back foot gives them a new experience of walking. The back/down energy reflects off the floor into a forward/up movement of the body. They have a ground to stand on, a foundation for themselves. Their posture opens upward. Their walk becomes more erect, clearer and more energetic. People often conceive of e

walking as falling down onto their forward foot, rather than springing up off their back foot, but when they walk that way, they sag and fall downward. Their energy droops. The new way of moving is mechanically more efficient and powerful. It is also much more confident and alert.

The goal and the result of the exercises in breathing, posture, and movement mechanics is to help people experience the nature of true power in the body. True power is soft, fluid, focused, and loving.

Walking while paying attention to breathing, posture, use of the legs, and heartfulness is a way of practicing a state of completeness and wholeness.

Ancient Philosophy Of Aikido

Ancient Philosophy Of Aikido

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