This could just change your life…
This blog may seem to have an exaggerated title but sometimes we come to realisation that the way we see the world and our ourselves is so out of kilter with reality, that a seismic shift occurs. Very rarely does it comes to us in a Matrix-like red pill/blue bill bolt from the blue; and even if the realisation may strike like that the effects and changes thereafter are usually a trickle of smaller epiphanies which bring about the greater change. For some it alters nothing because breaking habit is literally one of the hardest things to do as it involves changing who we are. The ego does not like to consider we are not perfect.
What am I on about?
You are walking about in a permanent startle reflect which has shorted your muscles and is jamming your bones into each other and affecting every aspect of your movement. Though constant misuse of the body it feels normal and therefore change feels wrong. We have evolved to be on the move, to face danger only on an occasional basis. Modern life generally involved not only these real threats, but constant perceived attacks on the ego, stimulus from gadgets, orders from the boss; as well as the having to physically constrict ourselves into small spaces usually in front of screens. There is primarily a mental attack on you as soon as you get out of bed, and a physical entanglement of the body as soon as we engage with the constructed environment.
Take a look at the models. The first one has an upright posture as we would had for thousands of years. Prior to the development of the prefrontal lobe there was no future or past to worry about, just the now to live in. Mindfulness was not a option as it was the only state to be in. Things have changed a lot. By the time you are about 5 years old the stress of life has started its gentle prod into startle posture, or as it is know fight, flight or freeze. The head is pulled down into the spine, the rib cage is pushed forward, the back arched and knees resultantly braced. Its not the same pattern for everyone and some people manage to avoid it, but it is a general constant in society.
Wing chunwise this really does make a difference. Take a look at Chu Shong Tin, even as a old man his body was in a totally different state than even his top students. His head was erect on his spine, his shoulders releasing away (unfathomable wide) and behind his eyes was a burning light.
To come back to the reason of the blog, a point that has been reinforced to me by years of teaching, is that the forward intention taught in the art has had the effect on many of further contorting the spine and pushing the rib case into a position it cannot sustain without undue muscular stress. The shoulder girdle for most has been fused into a forward pushing structure, elbows rammed forward which puts undue pressure on the lower spine. Humans did not evolve to lead with their elbows and chests, the ribcage should be pointed down, arm and shoulder structure rested on the back and releasing sideways before venturing forward. Anything else results in a constriction of the stature of a person.
I can give one example of what this may feel like. Get on all fours and slowly crawl forward. Allow your head to lead the movement and allow your shoulders to release across you back. Do you sag your stomach and rib cage? Let your head lengthen away from your tailbone as if pulled by a string. Do you get a sense of length and width? All it makes is the idea of a nod of the head to release into movement instead of pushing your knees and feet.
Now, stand up and move with the same idea of head leading. Can you do it or do you move by pulling your hips forward? If you do that, sense how that is drawing your head down onto your spine and pressuring your knees. Maybe do something non habitual like walk backwards. You will see that your head leads and body follows.
If you could follow these ideas, and allow the body to unravel, you would get a sense that your shoulders could be in an entirely different place which is unfathomable. Not contorting the back forward but placed as nature intended. The clavical is the only bone structure attaching the shoulders to the rib cage, the arms are not just the bones hanging down they are the muscle systems which start in the lower back. Need proof? Have another look at CST, are you ‘built’ the same? He struggled to pass on his ability as the wrong use was so endemic in most students he would have not known where to start. Clearly a released pelvis and erect spine where a good point (tai gong and sing). Relaxation would also help with the startle pattern.
If you are wondering where to start the change, then standing practice and SLT is a good start. Every time you attempt a movement, be aware that you will be drawn forward and instead focus on how your interaction with gravity is more important. Do not flare the ribs or brace the lower back, the support comes from your only point of connection with the world so use that (your feet). The secret likes with the support of the earth and the antigravitational muscles evolved to deal with the relationship. That relationship is more important than other forces or stimulation you will meet (which will trigger your startle reflex), so learn to be comfortable with it. Your feet should be alive, so do not collapse into then. There is more to do (or not do) than that, but it’s a start.
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