grounding

Everybody Wu Chi Tonight!

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Here in Pennsylvania, the almost unbearable heat finally broke this past weekend with a startling rainy cold front.

Talk about seasonal transitions!

I'm sure it will warm up again before we're fully committed to autumn, but for the moment, we've dug out the long sleeves, and tested the furnace in the old house we'll be spending our first winter in. (Works great! Phew!)

Speaking of seasonal transitions, in Traditional Chinese Medicine - the philosophy that underpins my (Gina's) bodywork practice - late summer, and particularly, the nine days before and after a seasonal change, is associated with the element of Earth.

Earth (or, doyo) represents the center, the home, the body. Where we go to feel stable when times they are a-changin' - or, more importantly, to where we can best direct our energies until the dust settles.

Self-care is most important (and probably the hardest) during times of change - even basic stuff: eating well, getting enough sleep, and moving the body.

Far be it from us to offer any simple solutions for what would be right for your life, other than, sometimes just choosing one healthy habit can be a good start, and even make a huge difference.

Here's one practice that you can start where you are:

In qigong (pronounced 'chee-kung' - a Chinese style of gentle exercise), we begin our routines with a posture called wu chi.

Wu chi loosely translates as 'no-action energy'. It's a relaxed, yet 'ready' posture, in which 'nothing is happening, but everything is happening'.

Outwardly, one appears still. Internally, there's a potential for activity - a readiness to move that is not in a state of tension per se, or contraction. (If you understand anything about 'muscle tonus' and innervation you'll know what I mean).

Bill and I once defined three parts of posture: grounding, centering and alignment.

Grounding, literally means, "firmly connected to a base".

When we stand in wu chi, we imagine roots, which begin, really, within the pelvis, continuing in the legs and delving deep and wide through the earth below our feet.

As we visualize* this root system, as well as an imaginary string gently lifting the top of the head up toward the heavens, we can cultivate a sense of stability, strength and presence within the body.

It's a highly effective and mindful posture to move from, as well as embody as we're dealing with whatever mayhem may be happening around us.

(*In qigong practice, visualization and imagination play a very important role in how they affect our fascia. More on that to come.)

Experience this beautiful, simple practice below!

We believe that the more technologically-plugged in we become, the more input comes through only two of our senses: sight and sound. As we reinforce our experience of the world through such limited doors, we risk becoming more reactionary, disconnected and well, ungrounded.

We invite you to try this wu chi posture - today, if possible. (It's one of September's Movement Challenges, by the way!)

It can take just three to five minutes... the hardest part is giving it your full attention, so, try to approach it without distractions at first. When you've practiced it for a bit, you can 'drop into it' in almost any situation.

Questions? Comments? Just hit 'reply', or come on over to our Facebook page.

The P4H Formula in action

In last week's post, we introduced you to Bill's P4H Postural Postulate:

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.... with an example of how that plays out when carrying a load, such as a box of books.

Let's use another example: this simple act of standing.*

Everyone knows that standing properly is important. Teenagers have been admonished to "Quit slouching and stand up STRAIGHT!" since the beginning of time. (Who knows? Maybe primates first became homo erectus as a result of mommy apes barking that very command! But I digress...)

Q: When we are standing, what is the 'stress load'?

A: Gravity.

Gravity wants to pull us to the ground. So, in order to stand upright, we are 'managing a stress load'.... literally.

And, how do we best manage that stress load?

~ We make sure our feet are positioned shoulder width apart, and parallel to each other. This is the beginning of good posture because it grounds us. Standing with our legs crossed, or, with one foot jutting way off to the side is not an efficient posture, because our grounding is compromised. Furthermore, if we are standing on a roof top, or the deck of a boat, we will want to adjust our stance to match the terrain.

Which is easier to stand on: a flat surface, or a snow-covered slope?

Grounding can take many forms, but it always accomplishes the same purpose: to firmly connect us to a base.

~ Proper posture when standing will also involve being centered.

Centering simply means, 'equal distribution of a stress load'. (In other words, you want as much weight on one side as you do the other.) When we stand off-center, whether from side to side, or front to back (as in the case of 'head-forward' posture), we are giving gravity more surface to act on, and therefore, we have to work harder to stay upright. When that happens, we are actually making more work for ourselves, or rather... increasing the stress load!

~ The last part of the equation involves alignment. When we are standing, what are we aligning ourselves with?

The answer is: We are aligning all the structures that make up our physical being in relation to the perpendicular force of gravity. The way the bones are stacked, the way our joints articulate, the balanced tone of our muscles - even the pathway(s) of our breath and circulation.... ALL of that needs to come into alignment with the force of gravity while standing.

To the degree that everything is properly aligned, we can say that we have 'good posture'.

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Why is posture so important to us?

Because, as bodyworkers, we see the effects of poor posture daily.

Simply put, poor posture causes injuries.

Sometimes, it's an immediate effect, like 'throwing out your back' when lifting something the wrong way. Or, sometimes, it takes a while to show up, as in the case of arthritis, scoliosis, hyperkyphosis, and a host of other -osis'.

We know you know this, and we want to help you understand what 'posture' really consists of, and how it increases your stress load.

Injuries are almost always a result of poor grounding, off-centering, and /or misalignment.

So, internalize the P4H Formula, and think about some ways you can apply it to any situation you're in. When you start to adjust yourself in healthy relation to a stress load, you will truly be Posturing for Health!

(*We're using 'standing still' as an example of how the formula plays out, but, even as we shift our weight, change position, move, etc, those components shift with us. And....we should be changing our positions! "Good" posture is really being in healthy relationship with a multitude of circumstances! ~ G)