Respect Baby’s Rights and Freedom, too
Do you know how perfectly we are deigned? Our body has a framework and functional ability that almost defies the imagination in it’s complexity, Yet the same principles are at work with the human form as are found in the construction of the brick and mortar constructs. Balance, support and utility. S’ true. Nor do we have to be educated for the purpose of learning how to “use” our body once we get one – – it’s built into us. . .it’s up to each of us to figure it out, on our own. That is how it works. . .has always worked over our entire existence on the planet. Until recent decades.. . see the bulleted sentences below.
As a rather extreme version of ‘earth mother’ my interests frequently go out to the children of our world. Precious all, they are our greatest treasures and deserve all the loving care, protection and consideration humanly possible. Anything which harms our little ones turns me nuts. GMO’s, Mercury in certain dental fillings, and of course — compulsory vaccinations against the good judgement of their parents (and a great many ‘honest’ physicians). This is allowed because of GREED and CORRUPTION in Government which turns a blind eye because so many are sharing in the profit picture.
Don’t worry, not going to rehash these same issues today. Have a new one! Well, not so new. . . have written about the latest movement in Medicine today regarding babies, especially here in Ohio — we have a rotten mortality rate relative to so many deaths before reaching one year old. So Baby on the Back in an empty crib is really being pushed. No one has given the least thought to the welfare of the baby’s needs or this wouldn’t be such a high priority. Attention to our huge poverty needs would be far more rational and welcome. But what do I know? Anyway, I’ve posted on this before a time or two. I even showed a photo of my own son at 5 days old, sleeping soundly on his face, bum in air- – happy and very healthy. Summer baby in California, so wasn’t wearing much; hands and feet free to explore. Sleeping on the face is not a bad thing — it is the correct thing!
I had suggested people buy (or borrow from the library), the book of Kathleen Porter called NATURAL POSTURE for Pain-Free Living. It is a remarkable, beautifully done, informative one-of-a-kind book which anyone would truly enjoy and be enriched by. I happen to be one of the lucky ones who rather naturally just grew up in natural alignment. Was never comfortable slumping or slouching. Had unwelcome comments about my posture all my life from teachers, parents of friends, etc. .all of which made me uncomfortable — drew attention to something I didn’t even know I was doing. Even in my 80’s, have had comments about posture – – go figure. So maybe Mother put me to bed on my face too. In my 9th year of blogging, so I spend too much time at the computer, consequently, the round posture/slumping over. . . why I bought her book a year or so ago. Crazy about it and have learned so much. It is a staple in Sports-Medicine doctors practice, very valuable help to one and all. Please learn about this and help spread the word. Her book goes into great detail with countless photos illustrating her valid points. Much discussion about babies and the confines they are being constricted to. Car seats, and all manner of holders which keep an infant restricted from moving around and learning how to use his/her body and the devastating damage this does to the nervous systems and in fact – all it’s developing systems. Graphs showing the rise of various illnesses with the increasing restrictions. From the first moments of life, the baby is supposed to start its movements to acquaint with and learn how to use it’s brand new body. But I fear that with America’s doctors pushing Back-sleeping in bare crib, it’s gonna take a whole lot of discussion to accommodate our baby’s needs. Kathleen can’t do it alone, nor can I. . . just a simple blogger. . . but with your help who knows? Jan
PRINCIPLES OF POSTURE
When I teach these principles to people, I spend a lot of time laying the groundwork with a lot of information about how the skeleton actually is designed to hold us up. Because I feel that the more someone really understands the relationship of, say, the rib cage to the pelvis, the skull to the rib cage, and how they all relate to each other through the spine, and that the more someone understands their own internal skeleton, the more empowered they are to put these principles into practice and become their own best teacher.
Because the truth of the matter is this is not a quick fix; this is a process. It’s an unfolding process that requires a commitment. It requires a commitment to learn the information and to put it into practice. For that, the word “practice” is key, because you just have to keep practicing it over and over until it becomes more natural and more automatic. Now, you don’t want it to be totally automatic because, you know. I’m still working at it. I’m still a work in progress, because it is an anchor to being present as long as I pay attention to myself.
When I first learned this, I was pretty upset, because this information was so opposite from what I had been trained to do and teach as a yoga teacher. I wanted to know like, “How long is it going to take me?” It was sort of like asking how long before I can go unconscious again. One of the real silver linings of learning this is the fact that it is a pathway. It’s a touch tone to mindfulness, because it requires a willingness to be mindful in order to put it into practice. Mindfulness and alignment are kind of a hand on a glove that goes together. You really need them both to bring it back.
I start by teaching people that we start with the pelvis. The pelvis is like the crown jewel. It literally sets the stage for everything above it. There’s the pelvis with the sacrum between the two sides of the pelvis and the back. At the top of the sacrum, there’s a little platform, the sacral platform, that the spine sits upon. If you change the position of the pelvis, you change the angle of that platform, you change the angle of the spine, and then there are all these adjustments that have to go on with muscles that have to compensate for the fact that the spine is no longer being a “mostly self-supporting structure.”
It helps if you think of the skeleton as an architectural or engineering design much like a building. I mean, buildings aren’t animated. They’re not alive. They don’t bend and move exactly the way people do, but structurally, the same principles apply, just like the same principles apply to all species. There are certain natural laws of physics that apply to everything, whether it’s living or inanimate.
- And you know, this is a big issue for children starting from the day they are born. We tend to think that infants and babies, in their early weeks of life, are just little blobs, that they’re pretty helpless, and all they do is lie there. Nothing could be further from the truth. They really require opportunities to do a lot of movement right away.
- In the same way that, at birth, a baby would never be born and then placed immediately on the mother’s body on their backs. They’re always turned belly to earth; in this case, the mother’s body being the representative of the earth. It’s against this surface that they can move. They’re driven by this… Movement is like the engine that builds the brain and develops the nervous system. A baby lying on a mother’s body, on a blanket, or something like that has to push down against the earth. Whatever surface they’re on is a representative of the earth. They have to push down on that in order to fire off the sensory and motor neurons that connect up to the brain.
I am quite confident – and I sure hope it happens soon – that when we really start looking at movement in this way, we will start to see that one of the things that’s contributing… And I say one of the things because I’m not suggesting it’s all about alignment. I think there are a lot of things contributing to the epidemic of problems in young children.
- I think we have hardly even began to understand how many problems children are showing in neurological development that are the result of children being confined on their backs in strollers, car seats, and these little bucket carriers. Of course, they have to be in a car seat if they’re going to be in a car, a moving vehicle. But children’s lives often are just this one device after another where they are rarely put into this “belly to earth” kind of contact.
To expand on this a little bit more, there is this quality, this natural phenomenon, ground reaction force. You can experience it right now if you’re sitting or if you’re standing. You can just take your right foot and just start pushing it down into the floor. As you push your foot a little harder and a little harder, you’ll notice that it generates this action and these sensations in your leg. If you push down hard enough, you’ll feel there are sensations coming all the way up into your hip and beyond.
This is ground reaction force. It relates to Newton’s Third Law of Motion, which says that for every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction. If you wanted to, say, jump, you wouldn’t just jump, you’d crouch down, you’d generate this connection, and then you’d push off in order to jump. And if you wanted to jump higher, you’d crouch lower and push off harder. This is how our bodies are designed to work.
Sad dog and happy dog came about, because I was working with children in elementary schools and wanting to introduce them to these ideas. They get really embarrassed if you say words like “pelvis” or “pubic bone.” They start laughing and they can’t stop.
And so they get the sad dog idea, because a sad dog tucks its tail between its legs. If a human tucks its tail… In fact, for anybody wanting to try this right now, if you tuck your tail, you’ll feel how your spine starts to collapse down into your pelvis. And if you rotate your pelvis the other way, so that your pubic bone is down and your sit bones are wide and behind you, it’s sort of like you’re wagging your tail. That is much more. I mean, we could get into refinements, which will be difficult to do right now, but basically that is the pelvis. The happy dog pelvis is the pelvis that establishes the correct foundation for what comes above it.
The next thing that happens for a lot of people is a pattern of once they get their pelvis rotating forward, it often triggers – it’s not a natural pattern, but it’s one that a lot of people have adopted because it’s so culturally ingrained in us – chest up, shoulders back. This is very somewhat militaristic, but it’s also the way I was practicing and teaching yoga. It’s what is taught in a lot of dance programs and in a lot of athletics. It’s sort of this American way of opening up the front of the body, without realizing that when we do that, we close the back. We narrow and shorten the back.
What we really want to work toward doing is having the front and the back equally wide, equally long. Part of the process of learning how to do this is establishing the foundation, which is what you would do if you were building a building. In our case, we establish the foundation by “parking” the pelvis and then we build the structure from the ground up.
Now, I’m talking about sitting right now, but the pelvis also comes into play in the same way in standing. In my book, I have illustrations of how to move the pelvis like a church bell, so that it brings the legs into a vertical line, because that’s where our legs need to be. Most people’s legs are diagonal. You want to move your pelvis to the point. It’s the same place. Sitting and standing, the pelvis is the same position. That doesn’t change.
From there, you want to start to learn how to isolate the movement of your rib cage, so that you discover that, “Oh, my ribcage can actually move independent of my pelvis, and I can learn how to rotate my ribcage forward rather than lifting it.” When I lift up my chest, I’m actually tipping my ribcage back. If I drop my chest, which is almost un-American… If I drop my chest and my back comes up…
Back to what I was saying before, it’s either the collapse or it’s the overcorrection that’s kind of moving through the middle and beyond. You could say that collapsing in the front is slouching, but lifting up the chest and arching the back is slouching in the other direction, because it has the same effect on the spine. It’s just which side of the spine are the intervertebral disks compressed? And it really helps when people remember that the spine is in the back.
What we wanted to start doing is to develop this mindful awareness in our back, so that it’s much more subtle. Here’s a little exercise, which is kind of fun, that brings home this point and that also engages the core, which we haven’t talked much about, but which is really key. You could pretend that you’re holding a shawl right behind you, and you’re about to wrap the shawl around your shoulders. But just before the shawl comes into contact with your back, you move your back into the shawl.
In other words, your breastbone or your sternum slides backwards towards your back. And as you do that, you will feel an action through your abdomen. These are your core muscles, primarily your transversus abdominis (TVA) muscle coming into action. If you do that and then you kind of wiggle the back of your armpits up towards the ceiling, you will also feel your spine lengthening. You’re elongating your spine, like creating this sort of self-traction. This is one of the most essential basic movements that helps retrain the body back to where it started. Toddlers who have just learned how to stand and walk probably have as much core strength as they’re ever going to need.
I think this fixation that we have in our culture today about core strength, crunches, sit-ups, the six-pack abs, and all of this is a very genuine and sincere attempt to counteract this structural collapse that we don’t know how to address. We try to make all these strong muscles to kind of hold us up and hold us together, and now we’ve created this whole new image of what is attractive, sexy, and all of that, which is totally unnatural to the body, the way the human body is actually designed to be.
There is nothing wrong with strength and muscles. It just needs to be integrated throughout the entire body, so that you don’t have certain muscles that are overdeveloped, because anytime you have that, you’re going to have other muscles that are underdeveloped.
Let’s put this in perspective. I didn’t learn about skeletal alignment until when I was almost 50 myself. I had gone from a real slumpy, slouchy person for the first three and a half or so decades of my life to this overcorrected stance where I was teaching yoga and stretching all the time, doing some strength training, and working out. Then eventually, in my late 40s, first hearing about skeletal alignment and getting interested, it didn’t happen overnight. I actually had to work very hard at it because I had so many patterns to undo and unwind in my body.
I totally transformed myself from somebody who was stiff and tight. I had to stretch all the time because my hamstrings were always returning to their tight configuration because I was a butt tucker. I was just setting this up. As I learned how to realign my bones, my muscles… I didn’t have to stretch. I didn’t have to do anything other than live a normally active life, and all the movements that I do are movements that reinforce natural movements.
As far as some exercises people can do, they’re not exercises in the sense of sitting down and doing specific kind of contrived exercises. They’re all exercises that focus on natural ways of moving. So, I would say bending is probably the absolute rock star of any kind of exercise that anybody can do, but you have to do it correctly. If you know how to bend like a baby… And there are instructions for this and images of this in my book.
Babies always bend with their butt out behind them. For instance, if you were to imagine that there were strings attached to each of your sit bones and there was a puppeteer standing behind you, all bending. I mean, even if I were to bend forward right now to get a pencil in front of me, bending is initiated by those sit bones being drawn back behind me. That’s what actually causes my pelvis to tip and my spine to just go along with the pelvis. Bending is not in the spine, either rounding the spine or arching the spine. The spine stays stable as the pelvis rotates over the heads of the femur bones in the thighs.
This is why it’s really important to understand how the structure actually works. Because then, you can just apply that information to helping you learn how to do this, and it becomes more, you know…automatically performed.
So, bending. What bending does and accomplishes is that it… If you bend this way – and the knees have to bend at the same time – and the knees bend out, they aim toward the pinky toes. As you bend and your knees bend outward, the spine, as I say, goes along to the right, the leg muscles all get toned in a way that they’re supposed to be. So, it’s this integration of all the muscles between the hips and the feet. The arches get strengthened. This is so key. The feet are such a problem in so many people because so many people have pronated ankles and flattened arches. So, bending this way really helps to strengthen the muscles that lift and hold the arches up and engages the toes.
For a lot of us, toes are just these appendages that we don’t do anything with because they’re in shoes all the time or whatever. But our toes… If you look at the toes of young children, their toes are grabbing at the ground. They’re there for a reason. They’re there to help you balance. They’re there to help you propel yourself forward and to help distribute the weight that doesn’t come down through the heels. So, bending is huge because it reinforces how to initiate… Most movements involve some kind of bending whether it’s dance or sports. You’re bending all the time, and getting in and out of the chair
I would say that the great majority of chronic pain in this country and in the developed, sort of technologically, advanced places in the world is posture-related. We just don’t know that yet. Posture is just one of the checks in the list of things that contribute to back pain. It should be at the very top of the list. It’s also the primary cause of the sort of legal drug addiction that is being driven by the medical community trying to support people with back pain and not knowing how to effectively do that.
What they all often say is, “Stand up straight and improve your posture.” But there is this cultural map that’s wrong. Unfortunately, it’s just straight up wrong as far as what we think is good posture in our modern world. It goes back again to the tuck the tailbone, suck in the belly, lift up the chest, and pull your shoulders back. This is almost like a mantra that everybody is taught. This is one of the reasons why posture is such a dirty word in people’s mind because not only does it remind you of your mother nagging at you. But when you follow the instructions for what you think is good posture…It’s stressful. It’s difficult. It’s effortful. Posture, just the word, makes a lot of people nervous.
You’ve got a musculoskeletal system, which is not just muscles but also bones. They’re both an integral and equal part of this system, yet we live in a muscle centric society. We rarely put any emphasis on the alignment of the bones. I mean, it’s just pretty much off the radar. Yet, the skeleton is the underlying framework for all of the body’s systems. That means, all the parts, all the organs, and all the blood vessels, which you can think of as little hoses and tubes, all the valves, you know… Everything. All the nerve networks and glands, and everything. Everything that makes up a body has to fit within this skin.
One of the jobs of the skeleton is to provide the structural framework of support for all of these things. So, if you think of your body as a three-dimensional puzzle with a place for everything and everything in its place, and all of the systems are working sort of like the mechanics of the engine of a car. You know, there are all these little different spark plugs, carburetors, various hoses, and things like that that have to be in a particular arrangement for the car to function well or to even get out of the driveway.
Yet, our organs are often smashed together, distorted, pulled to, and just distorted in various ways because our skeleton is misplaced. If I am strengthening some muscles too much, the tightness, contraction, and the shortening of the fibers of those muscles will pull and hold my bones out of alignment. By the same token, if I have muscles that are too weak and stretched out, they won’t support the bones in that alignment.
It helps to know that because the muscles attached to the bones when the bones are where they belong, and this is one of these things that are pretty non-negotiable for human beings…. You may be taller than me. I may have larger bones than you in terms of… You know, they are larger bones (shorter but wider)… You know, there are a lot of variations, but the actual muscles and bones and the way they work as a system of pulleys and levers is the same for everybody.
If I change the position of my bones, then certain muscles are going to be too tight and certain muscles are going to be too long and stretched out. The beauty of what you were saying about taking your foot off the gas and everything just sort of working as it should and not constantly in this working mode is that when our bones are aligned, muscles become elastic. All the muscles in my body pretty much take on their intended configuration. When it’s time to move my arm, the muscles that move those levers, the bones in my arm come into my action, and then they don’t when they’re not… I take my foot off the gas when I don’t need those muscles anymore.
The main muscles that we have to pay attention to, that are working a lot of the time, are the deep postural muscles – the core muscles that stabilize our upright posture and make sitting, standing, walking, and everything we do okay because we’re tethered together with this wonderful, elastic core that’s not too tight and not too loose.