Friday, July 22, 2011

Self-Help Tips

When it comes to raising the level of balance in the architectural arrangement of the body to an effortlessly upright, easy and balanced stance, Rolf Structural Integration offers peerless definitive personalized assistance.

Until you are ready to take such a constructive life changing step, here are some useful suggestions that will make a significant positive difference. Anyone can easily incorporate these self-help tips into the course of their daily living.

The trick now is to, as they say, just to do it.

My recommendation for anyone who sparks to the idea of becoming consciously active in raising the level of balance of their body . . . First do all the things that you already know you should do to improve your health.

Spend some time regularly sitting straight and relaxed, doing nothing, and observe how things tend to start to resolve themselves from a quiet receptivity in that place of simple balance. To keep from mental distractions while sitting, try following the flow of the breath. Better, and the simplest, sit focused on presence awareness. Also, do consider some active gentle discipline such as hatha yoga or Tai Chi. Low impact cardiovascular exercise like brisk walking, swimming.

Ready for more, then call give me a call. But, first things, first.

Personal Posture/Structure Assessment

Stand in front of large mirror in your underclothes. It helps if you create a plumb (true vertical) line as a reference. Just tape a long string high on the mirror and weight it with something small (a key will do) so it hangs straight up and down. Now position your body so that it lines up with the vertical string at the center of your nose.

Looking at the front of your body . . . Is there more of your body on one side of the line? Which parts? One shoulder higher…or lower? Wider? Larger…or smaller? Hips level, or one side higher/lower? Legs straight? Knees pointing directly ahead? Feet parallel?

And, now from the side…Is your head on top of your neck/shoulder, or jutting forward? Is the top of your body leaning forward from the waist? Maybe leaning forward from the ankle? Waist horizontal, or tipped forward? If you align the center of your ear with the line of gravity (same as that plumb line), does it scribe a line down to the middle of your ankle?

Some Things You Can Do Right Now

Spend more time in your body’s natural pattern. The hallmark is loose, easy, natural. Nothing forced.

The design of the human body calls for symmetry, horizontality, and verticality. This is basic Anatomy and basic Physics. If you see anything in how your body stacks up that is off this simple standard, make the necessary corrections to your posture for yourself. Just, remember, easy does it; nothing forced.

Standing . . .

For starters, distribute the weight of your body equally between both feet. Back your weight off your toes, more centered. Test this by raising/wiggling the toes. (It surprises many of my clients that when they raise their toes in a standing position, the line of their body very many times shifts rearwards.) Point the top of your head skyward. Let your waist move back a little. Repeat, let your waist move back a little. Drop that old habit of pulling your shoulders back. Instead, let your arms/shoulders rest easy on your rib cage. They may feel like they are hanging forward. That is usually because the arms are now forward of their familiar set. You notice the difference. It is not usual, but it generally is more toward normal. Verify in the mirror the verticality in this new way of letting the shoulders drape over the rib cage.

These suggestions are very basic. But, first see to making them conscious habits. In very short order your body will readjust to a new, healthier pattern. There are lots more tips, but this for starters.

A good whole body exercise is to first imagine a line anchored to the center of the earth and extending out to cosmic infinity. Then place your body so you stand around that line so that it runs from between the ankles upward and out through the center top of the head. This is close to what is called the Mountain Pose (Tadasana) in hatha yoga, and it is arguably the pinnacle of human physical achievement. Done right, that is. There is a slight difference between the Mountain Pose and what is suggested here. The yoga pose is, for lack of a better term, rather “pose-ish”; the components of the yoga asana/posture involve holding a form. That is fine in hatha yoga, but we are after something more completely surrendered and effortless.

Just standing there, you ask? Just because it looks easy, it isn’t. The paradox is that, when you do discover that possibility in the makeup of your body, it is in fact easy. Dr. Rolf, the originator of Structural Integration exhorted, “Consign your body to gravity.” In that pure balanced vertical place is where you can let go, and discover the uplifting, supporting aspect of gravity. There you can let go bad postural habits and deeply engrained holding patterns. It is a place of power, presence, grace, and ease.

Go there.

Sitting . . .

Nothing new here. Don’t slouch over what you’re doing. Sit up straight. Keep your head over your shoulders (not in front). Bring your reading up to eye level.

***The Chair Itself***

Please, this is not some rule about how you should always sit or the kind of chair that you must only use. Just a recommendation to spend more time sitting properly. Especially at the work station. Eventually, your own body will give you the signals when you are treating it right. But first, some new habits to form.

In order to sit properly, you need a proper chair. The chair, and specifically the chair height itself, are often overlooked. The suggestion is to go for a firm, flat surface basic chair or bench, and with a seat height that is right for your body dimensions. The kind of sitting described here is for “self-supported” sitting; a chair back is not involved at all.

Most average height individuals will do well with a basic flat firm seat chair or bench. Almost all chairs are designed based on a 17 ½ to 18 inch seat height. If you are shorter or taller, that height is not truly supportive. For smaller stature people the feet may not place completely or squarely on the floor. For taller types, the average chair requires extra effort to sit up straight; the short seat tends to force the body to collapse. Effort is needed to counter this.

If your feet don’t reach the floor, the simple fix is to give them an elevated platform. You determine what works. A stack of books, in a pinch. If you sit a lot at work, for shorter types it is recommended that you construct a more permanent foot rest for under the work station.

For tall folks, the seat height should be higher. You should get yourself a chair that is heighted to your body dimensions. Here’s a good rule of thumb. You are sitting in a self-supported posture when the thigh is dropping down at a small angle from the hip joint to the knee. Another way to get the right height is to sit with your feet flat on the floor and your lower legs straight on the vertical. Then measure from the floor at the back of the heel all the way up to well under the upper thigh, just in back of the knee joint. That measurement is generally, +/- a fraction, a good seat height for your body measurement.

A word about the seat surface itself. It should be flat/level, stable, and firm. And for firm, make that a hard surface, or only thinly padded. Sitting on a firm level surface is necessary to locate and sense the sit bones (ischial tuberosities) of the pelvis. These two bones are rounded front to back. You can sense this rocking chair like design for yourself by rocking your pelvis forward and backward gently. The firm surface will come into play when you put together these sitting instructions with the breathing pattern instructions that follow below.

Happy sitting!

Walking . . .

Walk with your feet/toes going straight ahead. Allow your arms to swing free and easy. Let your body twist naturally. That means the hips too. Walking is a flowing/gliding motion with the legs swinging under the torso, feet landing softly. In other words, the whole body enjoys the motion. Just because this instruction is brief, don’t overlook the elements.

There may be some psychological “investment” in your pattern of walking. Proper movement in walking has a salutary and energizing effect on the whole system. Break loose. (You better, or we’ll notify the Ministry of Silly Walks, forthwith.)

Breathing . . .

Yes, breathing. Just like with standing, sitting, and walking, who taught you to do that? Who taught you to breathe? Alright, there is an automatic event in breathing. Here, we are talking about working constructively with the breath.

When I ask clients in the context of an actual Rolf Structural Integration session to “take a big breath”, it is almost guaranteed that I’ll see a general tensioning of the body, with the shoulders and upper body pulled up and back sharply, and maybe even the chin nicely buried in the chest. Ask a little kid, and this is what you will mostly likely see. Now that you suspect that this is not what we are after, don’t bother to check yourself. You already are clued in. But to what, now? What is the correct/natural way to breathe?

Imagine the breath as a fountain rising straight up from deep down inside your body. Let the body passively respond to the growing volume of the breath as it rises. In this visualization the action of the breath is a straight line. The rib cage in this pattern moves up and out front and back and sideways, in all three directions.

***A Helpful Tip for Low Back Pain Sufferers***

Spend some consistently regular time sitting in a self-supported posture, following the breath. If you haven't already, read and follow the instructions for sitting, particularly in respect to the kind of seat height and firm level seat surface that is integral to this instruction. You may notice that as the breath rises, there is a general filling of the entire trunk, both the rib cage and abdomen. This filling is pushing your lumbar spine (lower back) rearward/backward. Lengthening the spine. Yes? This may not be so easy to sense if you don’t have a lot of movement in the lumbar/sacral junction, where your lower back meets the sacrum of your pelvis, low at your waist. That is not unusual.

If you are having some difficulty sensing this rearward lower back movement on the in breath, you can help it along a bit and exaggerate the movement by rolling back the hips slightly rearward/backward with every inhale. (You now probably understand why the hard flat chair surface is necessary.) It sequences like this: On the in breath—rib cage expands and lifts, torso fills, lower back moves rearward, hips roll slightly back. On the out breath—rib cage deflates/compresses, pressure on torso/abdomen releases, lower back returns to a deeper arch, hips roll slightly forward. You will see that there is a general lengthening of the spine on inspiration, shortening on exhalation.

(This is a rudimentary exercise. As you become more proficient and sense the automatic movement as it naturally happens with your breathing, you will start to discriminate that the hips really don’t move all that much, but follow the sacrum slightly. The sacrum itself is moving downward on inspiration, up on exhalation due to the lengthening and shortening of the spine on respective in breaths and out breaths.)

This idea of regularly spending time sitting and breathing may seem like a low yield, slow results effort. In most chronic situations there is probably some component to low back pain that includes limited movement. Besides whatever else you may be doing for a low back condition, bringing gentle movement into the area with the breath will be a facilitator.

Personalized Assistance?

After you have taken it as far as you can on your own, you will discover that there is a natural and automatic aspect to healing. You never stop growing, really. Next, you may want to further this natural evolutionary process with some expert help. Rolf Structural Integration is definitive and peerless for bringing the makeup of the body to an effortlessly upright, unstressed, balanced stance. Think integrity, power, ease, grace, presence. The power and genius of this approach is how in a very short time such profound constructive change can be achieved.

At Your Service

David D. Wronski has several years experience in this kind of transformational life coaching. He is expert at effectively working with individuals of all ages and varying backgrounds to foster positive life change for everyday effectiveness, peak physical performance, refined artistic expression, and freedom from pains and stress.