WHAT SHOULD WE DO?
Certainly, wanting to lose weight or benefit from better muscle tone, all these are desirable. It’s not a crime to wish to be in good health, and overweight can be a serious problem; dysregulating one’s insulin metabolism can be dangerous.
Remedying the problems brought on by chronic stress and our sedentary way of life, finding in physical activity a release for the nervous energy accumulated every day, gaining equilibrium in the nervous and endocrine systems, regaining a natural posture which reflects strength and freedom instead of an acquired state of impotence, repairing a self-image diminished by distant or punitive upbringings as well as by the anguish of modern society: none of this is irrelevant or unnecessary.
Stand up straight
The paradox is that modern society urges us to conform to a certain body image, while at the same time depriving us of the means to maintain, if not directly ruining it. So, we must begin with some of these direct aggressions against us: a prolonged sitting position and the tensions which accompany it, especially when working, is an essential element of the chronic stress we suffer from, directly affecting posture and locomotion. It is not possible to find a really healthy physical activity without a straight spinal column and a healthy stride, that is, a properly human stance.
We walk, we run, we throw, we catch ... we are bipeds: we hold ourselves erect and our movement is organized around a stable pelvis and hips. As we walk or run, one leg moves forward, then the other, and each arm reciprocates on the opposite side, around the rotation of the spinal column. Throwing, the other essential activity for which we are anatomically programmed, involves the rotation of the torso, a shoulder and an arm, on the base of the pelvis. The deep transverse abdominal is the most important, since it provides a fundamental sheath, but all the kinetic chain is involved, from the head to the hand. When we grab and pull something, the movement is similar but inverse. The most important is the oblique anterior system, but in every case, it is the long muscle chains crossing the whole body which are activated by diagonal transverse muscles running from the foot to the opposite hand, thus following a ‘contralateral’ axis, that is from one side to the other. Bodily strength comes from the fact that our brain can coordinate these muscular chains, from one end to the other.
Recovering human movement
Exercises which do not respect this biomechanical structure are dysfunctional, particularly symmetric exercises which work in two dimensions only. Through disuse they provoke disconnections of the above system, for they force us to adapt to stimuli for which our bodies are not programmed.
We are programmed to organize our movements standing, moving above all on the horizontal plane, but according to transverse rotations, starting with the pelvis. Without correct posture our movements will always be inadequate. This is why we must first relearn to hold ourselves up straight, to avoid stooping, or bending over, or displacing the pelvis: all these affect the gait and are often painful. Posture exercises and myofascial massages are essential here. Parallel to this, work on breathing and expanding the chest cavity are also indispensable. Our lung capacity is compromised by poor posture. Our organs need air!
Our movements happen in three dimensions
There are innumerable exercises we can adopt to restore our body, which has been a victim of our civilization; they must just respect our biomechanical coherence; just as our movements are performed on the horizontal plane, thanks to rotations from one side to another, so also should be the exercises we do with barbells, elastics, or any weight .... we should avoid doing too many symmetrical movements, and above all the movements which segment our muscle chains on the pretext of developing this or that muscle. The body does not work this way. But when we have regained a normal posture and massages have reduced our muscular tensions, we will certain want to get out of the city (if possible), to walk,
to run ...
With all this in mind, we can contemplate reconciling with our autonomous nervous system, thrown off by chronic stress; with human posture and movements the nervous and endocrine systems can fix themselves. In parallel with a low-sugar diet, the endocrine system can help the body recover an optimal weight. We may no longer have to compensate for stress with ‘comfort food’.
There remains another element to consider in this connection: our ability to heal ourselves by means of our social ties. This is the essential tool, important enough so that one can hardly speak of self-regulation, so closely is it tied to friendly exchange with our peers. We have a vital need of others, of the bond of friendship, and all the manifestations of it. Our ‘homeostasis’, the balance of all our systems depends on it. We shall never stand up alone. More later ...
© Matthieu Smyth
Illustration : Tanit Agency