In the world of self improvement, fitness, health and wellness there is a missing link. That’s a rather blanket statement Paul…why so confident? I see it in every single person I work with despite how proactively they are investing in their health… nutrition, exercise, meditation and so on. If you’re visiting a practitioner (chiro, physio, massage, acupuncture et al) you’re tapping into it…momentarily.
Have a think about it for a moment. What are you doing with your body when you’ve given yourself permission to stop…to literally let go?
How Do You Let Go?
Collapsing on your comfy couch to enjoy some tv time would probably be the most common way we relax…and everyone knows that shadowy feeling of guilt that this isn’t great for my body. Curling up your comfy bed to read…even with pillows under your back and neck, padding your spine and doing your best to preserve your posture? No prizes here either.
Oh, so you meditate to let go? Awesome, you’re not off the hook yet.
Think for a moment, what position do you place your body in all of the above?
Let’s look at the obvious limitations on the couch or arm chair first…just to warm you up.
Relaxing in the Couch isn’t Release
Lean back into a comfy position. Now draw a line from your head to your tail bone. Notice how far in front of your pelvis your head is. Try to align your head with your pelvis…that is, at the same angle. You’ll find yourself leaning right backwards just to get some kind of healthy relationship between your head and your pelvis…which of course isn’t that comfortable or socially beneficial.
Trying to “sit up straight” in soft seating is also pretty much pointless as no matter how much you try to achieve this positioning, it’s uncomfortable and destined to fail as there is no solid support for your spine. (in other words it rounds out)
Relaxing in Bed isn’t Release Either
In bed with pillows and gadgets you’ve accumulated over the years from direct sales catalogues (book/iPad stands, triangle pillows, bolsters under the knees and so on) you are still on a soft surface which allows your spinal curves to bottom out…putting gravity loaded pressure into your discs and deep postural muscles. (hence the ache after half an hour or so)
Meditating in an armchair? Refer to above.
Meditating in lotus position on the floor? Admirable, but ask yourself honestly, is it possible to remain completely upright for the duration without fatigue in your back or shoulders? 99% of people achieve sitting upright with physical effort, so if you’re meditating upright without tiring, welcome to the 1%.
Yes, I’m painting the problem into everything you’re doing in your downtime but it’s with due cause and I will of course provide some solutions now.
What is the missing link in all of this?
Release. Not just extrinsic release…the feeling of relaxation when you clomp down on the couch, but deep spinal release for your discs and postural musculature…as well as the feeling of relaxation.
Why doesn’t relaxing in all of our traditional ways as described above not cut it in western lifestyles?
If you take a closer look at the shape of your spine in these positions and then contrast it to how you spend the larger part of your day, you will be seeing a theme, a damaging theme.
In reality, the only time your spine is at it’s maximum length is when you’re standing still or walking. All the in-between movements are curving it over, compressing into similar positions as the above.
Standing, walking and of course… when doing your Relaxaback meditation, my favourite and only recommended Release position, all benefit your upright body/posture. Everything else is contributing to looking like grandma on her walker.
The consolation of learning how to sit upright without tension is that all your sitting time is actually resting your body too…but that is probably a short course of Alexander lessons for most.