Ask the dog … Standing up isn’t as easy as it looks!
I like to talk about balance, in the Universe … and within our hearts and minds. Balance is a pendulum that can determine health.
Inside our bodies we have physical balance, allowing us to get around. Some do it better than others. How important is understanding your body’s geometric and gravitational muscular interactions, and your mind’s invisible mastery of balance?
I know about physical balance not so much because I’m a sky-walking tightroper, but I’m a good dancer, an expert skier and studied karate for years. I also wrote about physical balance in my non-fiction “A Candle Lit,” in the chapter about memorized muscle movement!
EVERYONE CAN DO THIS
You can improve your balance, lessen aches and pains from sitting and not challenging them with basic stretches, and generally better understand your body. This article will help anyone, it’s my hope, understand balance and what your body’s doing when you’re upright.
LET’S GO DANCING!
I watch a lot of performers; in radio I was a Program Director and was often introduced to new acts, and got to be good at critiquing them. I also enjoy dancing. I’ve been around music, yoga, pretty people and lots of dance floors long enough for it to catch on … and despite my age (55), maybe because of it, I can show those college kids some pretty good moves.
When Martha and I danced (my girlfriend for many years when younger), people would ask us if we were professional; these days I like to get in the middle of a crowded floor solo, and a few times in the middle of the best part of a song, I’ve looked up to find a circle of people formed around me, all just a tiny bit too shy to keep the thing going! I enjoy it, and like to secretly show strange men simple moves, thinking the guy watching me might want to see how so he can dance with his girlfrend. I had a black kid on the dance floor one night tell me I should go to New York and dance! A stranger told me – I was just standing in the park – I had “really good posture,” and his girlfriend immediately agreed.
So there! I don’t have any video, nor have I ever seen my entire body dancing, but I think I got it; and there’s a reason I’m trying to qualify myself.
There are lots of kinds of people; some are more “body-aware” than others; women tend to be more body-aware, people who study things like yoga, and performers. Body-awareness can be seen, and doesn’t by itself mean the person is good at things like posture, but it’s important for some people because of their lifestyle, hobby or trade. The point being those are not the only people who’d benefit from understanding posture, balance, pivoting, sitting down, standing up and everything in-between, a little better!
… MOVING ON …
I would love to teach someone how to dance, although I have no credentials (and no video or evidence, unless you were there), because hidden within what I do on the dance floor is everything you need to know about your body’s geometry!
At least I’m sure these concepts will help your dancing!
INTRODUCING: THE ORBS …
Imagine a little globe, the size of a ping-pong ball.
It’s see-through; a little opaque, with a mystical sheen.
This is your first (of two) orbs. They are inside your body, invisibly. They are 1) your center of gravity (a mostly-imagined thing) and 2) your pivot point.
The orb you are imagining, toss it; you don’t need it.
The orbs you need are already in your body!
There are three things basic to understanding biped balance, and the first two are these orbs.
YOUR CENTER OF GRAVITY
Think of your center of gravity as an orb, right now, inside you; in different places depending on your precise posture or if you’re sitting. Notice because we are long in an upright position, because of the shape of our bodies, there’s not a lot of room for your center of gravity to move to the left, right, forward or back. Think of the orb as moving significantly only up and down, within your body, along a line from your nose to between your feet. This line doesn’t change much even if you lean to the side hard, and leaning, even far, while standing (not holding onto anything), you can’t make the orb move much in any direction … except up or down.
I said that a couple times – it can move up or down. This is not true of your pivot point, only your gravity center.
Not only can it move up and down, but you can move it up and down just in your mind, and everything starts to change.
In your imagination, pick a spot on the floor; you are standing on it. Jump up in the air, and land on the spot.
If you were wondering how that gravity-orb moves up and down inside you, it happens easily. The imagination-orb, at the top of your jump, popped right out of the top of your head, then back, down, then back up to settle in its normal spot!
Imagine this: everyone already “thinks” they know where their center of gravity is, and thinks there’s not too much to it. But imagine I told you if you simply moved where you think it is, in your mind, your entire body would feel lighter, your posture would improve, you would understand your muscles and have less aches and pains!
Crazy, huh? Well, I darned learnt this on the dance floor!
Now I’ve blogged it out loud!
MOVE THAT ORB!
Now comes the good part. We actually “position” our gravity orb with our minds – it’s “mindful,” or mind-mechanical – the mind is required for the body to balance.
While you are standing, in reality … think about this – where is your center of gravity at standing rest?
Then, in your mind, move it UP just a little, because I believe for most people, that’s where it belongs.
The greatest balancers, athletes, physical-accomplishers we admire for their balance and efficient muscle use, I believe, just as some people are more body-aware, naturally understand they can “lift” their balance.
If you watch a great dancer, his feet will be light. How he does it is by understanding his vertical gravity center.
It’s a secret pill, in a way!
If you’re like me, you’ll find everything’s better when you raise your center of gravity just a litte bit in your body … in your mind. Your body will tend to “straighten out,” and you’ll become more aware of bad posture right away, as if it’s almost more difficult to stand poorly.
It may seem, almost unconsciously, and especially if older or compromised, safer to crouch … lower the gravity-orb. But your body will endlessly complain until it eventually gives in and you become a tad … shorter.
There’s another orb inside you, too, also important regarding balance, gravity and the forces that constantly push your body one way or another.
Your pivot point is (drum roll, please!) also higher than most people think (I think!). It’s a simple concept.
But it’s important, especially for smooth movement like when walking or … dancing! Or skiing, or doing karate, or yoga!
Imagine standing upright. Then you pivot, moving the top half of your body to one side – from the waist down don’t move; a basic stretch.
Most people would think their pivot point is somewhere around their hips, but it’s quite a bit higher. It’s exactly, and unmoveably, just under your lowest rib. That’s all there is to it. This area is where your body pivots, and it’s well above your hips, even a little above your waist.
Now do this. Combine these two concepts. You will be amazed at how much better you will understand what’s happening when you walk, sit, reach, and do challenging things like dancing.
Because the dance floor is such a great example of combining the two orbs in the imagination, let’s go there again!
The light-footed dancer is doing two things, and habitually and unconsciously (because he practices) – when he wants to be light, he simply raises his center of gravity by jumping – it can be precise and imperceptible – and “pulling” his upper body into the slightly higher space, while at the same time understanding (because he’s not always straight up; he’s dancing) he’s “pulling” his body from the ribs, making no effort to “shake the hips,” and understanding the “lift” happens no matter how upright or off-upright he is, as long as his feet are on the ground!
In karate, we did the same drills for years, all the way to brown belt for me, over and over; the same drills we did on day one. To make things unconscious. We learned to have all our weight on only one foot, but secretly, quietly to your opponent, so you can lift the other foot surprisingly. This same invisible “which foot is my weight on” trick allows a dancer, because it’s done precisely and lightly, to move his feet as if floating.
The whole scenario on the dance floor is based on understanding being upright, and how to move “up,” constantly and “secretly.” Loud, rhythmic music helps!
ONE MORE THING
There was a third thing, that’s not an orb, and for me it’s from the skiing world, that helps with physical balance. It’s the idea of feeling your weight across your feet.
With two feet, and playing around with the secret-one-footed concept, we have everything we need to know about moving our weight when standing from left to right. So what remains is front and back, and understanding this is just a matter of pretending you’re in ski boots!
It’s as simple as “feeling,” and becoming aware, of whether you’re putting your weight on your toes, heels, or somewhere in-between. This will broadly effect your posture and muscles in every part of your body immediately.
There are a lot of muscle interactions in balancing, mostly subtle and invisible. When you’re standing, if you consciously move your weight from your heels, stop, then to the toes, stop, and different places in-between, stopping each time … every one of these muscle interactions changes – your entire body full of muscles does a different thing based simply on what you feel on the bottom of your feet.
(EXPERTS ONLY!) DO IT ON A HILL!
Balancing on a hill can send the point home, I think, about standing flat … on your feet! Imagine, if you can do it on a slope … you could stand on flat ground perfectly!
When I first learned to ski, in the eighties, ski instructors tended to tell you how your body should be positioned, elbows, shoulders, knees, etc.. Instruction slowly evolved, and a popular method I really liked came from a technical guru out of Colorado named Lido Torres. Essentially, I became an expert skier reading a book; it was so well-written and encapsulated balancing on two long sticks on a steep slippery hill so well!
Essentially, what Lido teaches is, pay attention to the bottoms of your feet. Not your elbows. Or your knees.
If you simply pay attention to the weight distribution along the bottom of your feet, your body will follow! This is a critical concept if you’re feeling frustrated with back pain related to posture, or any balance issues, and have been trying to cure them by doing anything else! It’s as Lido says, all about the bottom of your feet. Your body has to move.
The general idea; back to skiing; is … if you distribute your weight evenly across your feet while skiing, you’ll be pushing down evenly (standing straight up) and making use of the entire ski; the long edge of it. A skier will almost immediately stop sliding sideways, and if he understands the basics, will find his body is almost always in exactly the right position, shoulders, elbows and all, without ever giving those body parts a thought.
The general idea is to distribute your weight evenly front to back. On the ski slope people tend to stand on their heels, causing the sliding of the skis. Pointed down a 45-degree slope, it’s easier in concept than reality to do even foot weight distribution, but if that’s the only thing you try to do, you will suddenly be in control of your skis. Standing straight up on a hill is tricky, but to the skis, you are pushing straight down, regardless of the hill. That line you drew from your nose to your toes is still in effect.
If you were, now, to put all three things together, you would jump up in the air, land on your spot, and be standing, if you wanted to, straight up, with strong balance, and feeling as if when you landed you were pushing your feet straight down.
Every muscle in your body would be working well, because you are constantly stretching upwards, naturally, as naturally as standing itself. These are concepts we can live with!
The simple idea of raising your center of gravity begins the process, and you may soon feel a natural desire to stretch, by holding the wall or a bedpost for balance, and simply straightening your body out. It will feel so much better to simply “allow” your body to “be straight,” by “encouraging elongation,” you may seek out such stretching.
LIKE CARROTS WE GROW
In the garden of life you are a carrot, pushing down into the ground because this is where you were born, but simultaneously reaching upwards to grow and subsist off what’s above.
Stand and lift your arms high above your head. Feel the ground and your weight. Distribute your weight across your feet and relax your entire body into its own weight. Straighten.
I hope my wild ideas find a way to help you feel good. The concepts are not technical, but natural.
Maybe someone will reach their ambitious aerialist goals!
Really, I just hope going for a walk will never be the same!