Friday, April 11, 2008

How straight do you want?

The clumping (Fargesia) bamboo is quite active this time of year. Notice the new shoot on the far left. About 1.5 feet already in less than a week.

Bamboo starts out quite straight, shooting upwards toward the light gods. But what is straight when talking about posture and more specifically the spine?

The street fair season is coming upon us and with them come the little booths with the 'Free Posture Check' signs of your local chiropractor. So naturally after checking you out they'll say "you know, your spine is out of alignment...blah, blah, blah."

Our skeletons have two major curves, lordotic and kyphotic. The lordotic curves is both the cervical (neck) and lumbar (low back). The kyphotic curves are both the thoracic (mid and upper back) and the sacrum. These curves counterbalance each other and are essential for our ability to weight-bear on our skeletal system.

So perhaps they mean something else when they are talking about us being out of alignment?

Side to side we will naturally be out of alignment (or symmetry). The reason being....we're not symmetrical beings.

Sure we have a leg on each side, and an arm on each side. A right and left eye and ear. So what's not symmetrical about us?

Our internal organs however aren't placed symmetrically in our bodies. The heart and liver are good examples of non-symmetrical placements. Also there may be slight differences in how long or large one leg is from the other, one arm from another, one breast from another.

Another thing that will keep us from being symmetrical is how we first develop favoritism when it comes to rolling, rolling to sitting, sitting to standing, etc. We have our favorite sides. That side will hence become more developed both in a physical sense and in a self-image sense.

Our survival actually depends upon our ability to have a dominant side, we're more prone to have most skills housed in set habits and patterns that are one-sided. Habits are necessary to exist.

There is a concept called functional symmetry, whereas even though the body isn't perfectly symmetrical, our use of it can be. Given we use the right side differently from the left side we need to come up with different strategies for each to be fully functioning humans.

Mickael Barishnikov...some ballet dude. He's not physically symmetrical, but he did figure out how to be functionally symmetrical. In fact he made lots of dough at it. When working out new moves he mostly tried them out on one side as he (like most of us) highly favored a side. Perhaps because he was so strongly in favor of using one side, that became his strength and ability to make his moves look effortless?

Next time someone tells you you're out of alignment you can tell em "and there aint nothing you can do about it." They are shooting for a model that doesn't exist in nature with animal beings.

Find out how you can become more functionally symmetrical with a Feldenkrais® lesson.

Erik LaSeur
Guild certified Feldenkrais Teacher®

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