Photo courtesy of Natashavora
Is leaning or being 'out of posture' a sign of too much tension or too little tension? Are you doing too much on one side of the body or too little on the other to cause this postural imbalance?
Could be either, but when we start trying to fix posture we often go for adding tension. “Pull those shoulders back! Tuck in that chin! Suck in that gut!” etc... But what if we try this way to fix a posture that is already out of whack because of too much tension? We end up locking both sides of the body down, like a vice. Let's figure out, instead, how to relax the tense muscles that are creating the postural problem.
Now, we can go through the whole body trying to fix part after part, but as we concentrate on one structure the previous one tends to go back to its habitual posture. As an example, take a rope and throw it on the ground. If you want to straighten it out, you can crawl along, bending each little length of the rope but you'll see that every time you unkink the rope in one place it bends or kinks in another place. You can't straighten a rope a little at a time just like you can't jump a chasm in two bounds. But what if you just walk away, holding one end. The rope will straighten out and mostly unkink on its own. How can we use this sort of phenomenon to get into shizentai (natural, relaxed, upright posture)?
- Stand with your feet and legs working as I described in my previous post on good posture.
- Now, visualize a rope hanging downward from your center of balance with a huge, heavy weight on it. Any time you tilt out of vertical, the weight pulls your center downward and rights your torso like the keel of a boat.
- Once you've got that feeling of a really heavy center, visualize a giant helium balloon pulling upward from the crown of your head, making your head so light that it puts an upward traction on your neck. It's almost as if the giant weight below you is suspended from the giant balloon above you with your body in the middle being drawn both directions vertically.
- If you are able to imagine these external forces vividly enough, you can trick your body into relaxing the muscles that would resist those imaginary external forces. As the muscles give up fighting against vertical, you relax and release into shizentai.
- When you can maintain these visualizations standing still, begin learning to maintain these visualizations while moving, as in your kata.
How does this work? That is the subject of another book or five, and in no way can be easily condensed to a blog post, but you might want to check out the following excellent book on ideokinesis for a good introductory explanation of this trick and numerous other techniques for improving posture and motion.