How do you sit? Are you hunched? Do you feel a twinge in your neck or do your legs go numb?
How do you stand when you wash the dishes? Does your lower back feel strained? Do you feel pretty good?
When you go for a run, do your legs ache? Are you tight? Or are you limber?
When you head out to an event, do you find yourself pulling in your belly so you look differently? Do you catch your breath, because belly breathing would just look weird?
For the women, do you wear shoes that angle your toes one, two, or more inches to the ground?
Our bodies take a beating and worse, a berating. We pull in the belly, because we fear being called fat. Fashion tells us to harm our feet. And by paying little attention to how we sit and stand, we contort our trunk so that it becomes impossible to straighten up without feeling like we’re slung onto a kebab skewer.
And then there’s my daughter. All babies really.
When she sits (a new skill) her head aligns with her hips as the natural curve of her skeleton makes her look arrow straight. Her legs, uncrossed, keep the circulation moving from head to toe. She brings things up toward her head in order to look at them, rather than careening toward the floor – no neck craning or eye straining. Inherently, she knows how to sit.
As we age, we unlearn sitting even though we never really “learned” how to do it in the first place.
Remarkably, sit happened. Out of the blue, she steadied herself without our help. Evolutionarily, she knew what to do. Shortly after, crawl happened, too. We didn’t teach her to crawl. I can say she likely never saw someone crawl in her eight months. But her body knew to do it. A few days later, my daughter pulled herself into a standing position, learning by falling and getting right back up. Watching her can exhaust me. Over and over and over, up, down, up, down. Our bodies are coded to do this. Somewhere along the way, we lose it.
With the blank slate of a newborn, we can observe human embodiment of the skin, bones, and tissues they will inhabit in this lifetime. From those early flails and the mush of untoned musculature, rendering the head barely mobile, to the first push up from the ground to roll over to sitting and standing. The body knows what it’s doing. Only when we start to know more in our heads do we seemingly overrule the body with our brain.
A cool cat struts a certain way. Suddenly our moves are awkward and we have to walk differently. Someone influential lounges on the floor, so we copy her, beginning the steady curve downward. In our society, standing straight up actually looks odd, doesn’t it? Here’s why, if our body has the head and hips aligned as a baby’s, the belly will naturally protrude outward (as a baby’s). Check out your local yoga teacher and you’ll see what I mean. They are toned and muscular and still the belly pushes forward, relaxed.
Most of us hunch and suck so as to look skinny, so afraid our we of being perceived as fat. When we suck in, we make it hard to breathe, while also affecting the muscles of our midsection. When we hunch, our necks, faces, and shoulders become perpetually engaged. This turns our attempts at regaining optimal posture into a Herculean task.
Back to the baby. She doesn’t give her belly one thought. She’s standing! Ain’t that great?! Head and hips still lined up. Belly out. A perfectly happy little human.
Maybe it’s good she has no language at this point, because she cannot put thoughts into her head that she looks fat or needs to act like someone else. Indeed, perhaps we form language later so our bodies at least have a good start, a time for true embodiment prior to a lifetime of running away from it.
Hopefully we’ll send our daughter messages that can prevent future pain and expenditure to regain the form and function she displayed so effortlessly, that we all once did really, back in her earliest days.
Let’s live in our bodies rather than running away from them. Like a baby does.