One of the most profound relationships you have during your lifetime is with Gravity. How much effort you use in your daily battle with Gravity has huge implications for so many other facets of life. A lot of people are working harder than necessary just to stand up, sit, walk, move, etc., and they don’t even know it. In addition to wasting valuable energy, this can result in a less productive attitude, poor posture and bad habits that slowly become ingrained and lead to permanent structural issues. The classic example is the infamous “Dowager’s Hump.”
One of the techniques I’ve used to improve my relationship with Gravity is getting myself to the edge of losing balance while maintaining relaxation. When your body senses it is about to fall, there is a natural protective reflex that will trigger to brace and protect you from a potential impact. Your shoulders will raise up, head and neck scrunch down, tension rises in the body and you tend to “ball up” towards fetal position. This reaction is very important and is responsible for the survival of the human race at a fundamental level.
Your body will respond this way to a loss of balance and also to a threatening shock, such as a sudden loud noise. Anytime a fear response is triggered, at some level your body is moving toward a protective brace.
In modern society, there are tons of low level “threats” happening all the time, some physical, but many are merely psychological. I say “merely” to make a point. We tend to underplay psychological challenges and give more credence and respect to more tangible forms of threat. But psychological threats are often more potent than physical threats in our modern world. The tension that creeps in from these constant “threats” can be so ubiquitous that a “new normal” is constantly being defined – one that is tense and not fluid and relaxed.
Using physical balance challenges is one way to “hit the reset button” and “refresh” your machine. Approaching a threatening situation, such as the very real threat of falling from a balance challenge, and learning to override the protective reflex so that you maintain an attitude of “solution seeking,” rather than bracing, can help you wipe the slate clean and rid your body of unnecessary tension.
The key is in finding the right balance – experiencing a threat that is real, but not overwhelming, that enables you to employ the relaxation strategy in the face of your natural protective reflex.
This is why I love eyes-closed training on the BOSU dome so much. Knowing that you can open your eyes and step off the dome anytime you need to gives you the confidence and assurance of safety. But because the dome surface is changing with infinite variability, you do lose your balance for real – especially when you’ve taken your vision out of the equation (and head turns/tilts will certainly help you lose your balance for real, but in a controlled setting).
The late Cheng Man Ching stated regarding the practice of Taijiquan, “Invest in loss.” When you invest in loss with balance training, you allow yourself to lose balance but seek to regain balance by “letting go,” rather than muscling it. This is difficult to do because it is against your body’s natural protective reflexes. Letting go enables you to “get underneath the fall” with your center. The fastest path down is controlled by gravity. You cannot “pull” your Center-of-Gravity (COG) down faster than Gravity will take you down. Unnecessary tension in your body will effectively raise your COG – which will slow down your body’s movement capabilities and make your balance worse.
Seeking to regain balance while maintaining minimal effort/tension in a controlled balance challenge is a great way to enhance your relationship with Gravity.
Another thing that must be stated is Attitude is everything when it comes to posture and movement. Anything you can do to better overcome fear responses and improve confidence will energize you and enhance your relationship with Gravity. I love to climb up to a high place and move to a position that scares me, but is still sensible and safe. (I’ve taken some real risks as well in “no fall” situations, but these situations are dangerous and not appropriate for everyone). You can however, find a situation that begins to make you feel uneasy without incurring undo unnecessary risk. Practicing the “investing in loss” as per above will give you greater awareness and sensitivity, which will make this exercise easier and more productive.
You can also engage in psycho-social challenges to create a stressful situation that enables you to experience overcoming the threat and facing fear. Find the opportunity to stand up in front of a group of people and speak on a subject. This is terrifying for many people and so worth it! The confidence you build from going through these situations will make you stronger in a profound ways and you will find that posture and attitude improves.
I’ll write more on this subject because it is so fundamental and it fascinates me.
Filed under: Daily Thoughts | Tagged: attitude, Balance, BOSU, BOSU Balance Trainer, BOSU Fitness, center of gravity, Cheng Man Ching, Dowager's Hump, fitness, gravity, posture, relaxation, Taijiquan, tension, Training | Leave a Comment »