Lesson
8

Posture

3 of 4

Posture

In each of the sitting positions I’ve described, the positioning of legs is critical to supporting the body so that the spine can be erect without straining and still follow its natural curvature. The entire spine is supported by the pelvis.

Centering - swaying

A good way to ensure that your body is balanced and centered is to imagine that your spine is like a pendulum on a metronome, that’s hinged at the base with a weight at the top – the weight at the top being your head.

Starting slowly in large arcs, let yourself lean way over to your left while still maintaining the alignment of your head and spine.

You may have a little difficulty in knowing whether you’re leaning forward or backward. And so you can do the same thing: Start bending well forward and then backward. (Some people like to bend so far forward they’re almost touching the floor with their forehead; that’s ok, that stretches out the back and aligns the pelvis.) And again, let your momentum carry you through the decreasing  arcs until you coast to a stop — no effort involved here — just natural coasting and allowing momentum to die out.

And if you sway both side-to-side and front-to-back you can pretty much guarantee you’ve made yourself a human plumb-bob.

Centering the spine

After all this, you want to straighten your posture. A straight back does not mean a military brace, nor should there be a sense of straining to stay upright. And your spine naturally has a certain degree of curvature to it. 

An upright posture is a back supported by the pelvis in the best natural position possible. In the correct posture your vertebrae aren’t compressed and squashed down upon one another. To achieve this, straighten your back so that you can imagine your head pushing up the ceiling. This subtle pushing action starts at the pelvis and moves up the back.

Rather than tensing your shoulders or moving your head, just let your spine begin to extend itself, from the base of the spine upwards toward the head, carrying the head with it as it straightens.

If you follow these instructions you should not be using a lot of muscular effort to sit upright and to stay there. Sitting straight and tall and erect is mostly a matter of getting arranged properly, rather than a tug-of-war against gravity. Pay attention to your back. If if doesn’t hurt when you sit for a half-hour, fine. But if you get any pain or stiffness there, then you need to correct your posture.

You will have to experiment with all this a while until you find to what degree each of these steps fits your body and your needs. Remember, all these techniques are primarily intended to help you find and keep a comfortable, balanced, natural posture.


Note: In general, back pain is a signal that you aren’t sitting straight. Always pay attention to back pain or discomfort when sitting. Unlike leg discomfort, back pain is significant and should be heeded. If it persists, see your doctor.

Positioning your head, mouth and chin

Once you have settled into your posture, the next step is to tuck your chin in slightly so that the top of your head directly over your spine is the highest point of your body.

Then close your lips, place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth behind your front teeth and evacuate some of the air from your mouth and and swallow the saliva that may be there. The less you salivate while sitting, the less swallowing you will have to do. Swallowing can be quite a distraction. When you become quite still even the slightest stimulus stands out in sharp relief. (If you can not breathe through your nose, breathe quietly through your mouth. Adapt the instructions to your realities.)

Lower your gaze until you’re looking at toward the floor at about a 45 degree angle, and allow your eyes to to drift out of focus. Avoid moving your eyes.

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This gaze, with your eyelids partly closed. also helps avoid blinking, yet another potential distraction. If you need to blink. please blink. Remember, what we’re attempting to do is set up the favorable conditions for you to have the opportunity to become really still and quiet. If you are sitting facing a blank wall, which eliminates much potential visual distraction, imagine you are looking through the wall at where the floor would be.

Arrange your hands in the position called the cosmic mudra. (A mudra is a hand gesture or position).

Rest the left hand on top of the right hand, palms up, with the middle knuckles overlapping as though we were holding something on the palm of our left hand. Place the thumb tips together, ever so lightly touching, almost as if you had were holding butterfly wing between your thumbs.

Where you hold your hands depends on your sitting position. The goal is to sit with no strain in the upper arms or the shoulders and no muscular effort required to keep the hands in their position. This is important. If you sit with your hands unsupported, you’ll find that you require a certain amount of effort to keep them there and sooner or later (as lactic acid accumulates) you’ll feel the strain.

You may find it helpful to use a small cushion to support your hands.

Some people find it useful to have a small cushion on your lap and rest your hands on it. Depending on the length of your arms, you might find it comfortable to let your hands and wrists rest in your lap.

So allow your arms to rest, comfortably supported at the wrists with your hands joined in the cosmic mudra.