Written by Danny Dreyer
© Copyright 2007 ChiLiving, Inc.
Since the release of the ChiRunning and ChiWalking books, I’ve made a few changes in how I’ve taught some aspects of the posture section. So, rather than waiting for the changes to come out in the 2nd Edition of the ChiRunning book (to be released Spring ’09), I’m going to jump ahead and let you in on the most up-to-date way of aligning your posture. I’ve been aligning myself this new way for about 6 months now and seen it to be a much easier and quicker way to get aligned while walking or running.
In the ChiRunning and ChiWalking books we have you begin the posture stance by standing with your feet parallel and hip-width apart with your knees not locked. After that, we go to straightening your upper spine and this is where one of the changes comes in.
We used to have you place one hand over your belly and the thumb and middle finger of the other hand spread apart and placed just under your collarbone. Then we had you pull down with your lower hand while lifting with your upper hand to straighten your upper body. Then we had you resting your chin on your upwardly stretched index finger in order to bring your head and neck into alignment with the rest of your posture. This is where I began to see problems in the method, because some people have long necks and short fingers or visa versa and it just wasn’t working the same for every body I came across. One person’s chin would be too low and another’s would be too high. Another reason for making this change is that it’s awkward to use this method of aligning yourself once you’re moving. So, I needed to come up with a way that everyone would be able to get their head in the right alignment without the use of their hands. Here it is…it’s easy.
Place your hand on the backside of your neck and brush your fingers in an upward direction. While you’re doing this, lift up on the back of your head, like you’re trying to reach for the sky with the crown of your head. This motion will stretch all the muscles on the back of your neck and allow your chin to naturally stay low. It will also help you straighten your upper spine without the use of your hands.
Now, in all my walking and running classes I have everyone do this easy little exercise. First stand in a slumped position (poor posture), then in one smooth motion reach for the sky with the crown of your head…straightening your spine and lengthening the back of your neck. This upward focus of your attention will quickly straighten your posture and actually (believe it or not) lighten your footstep by counteracting the downward motion of your foot coming onto the ground.
Having your neck in the correct position has an effect on the rest of your spine all the way down to your tailbone. You’ll find it easier to level your pelvis and to relax your shoulders, keeping them low. It’s a crucial part of the “C” shape which is a new concept I’ve been working with… and which was not mentioned in the ChiRunning book.
Look at the illustration and you’ll see the “C” shape super-imposed on the subject. If you look at the direction the arrows are pointing, you’ll see that the arrows begin at T12/L1 and move in opposite directions. The arrows on the upper section of the “C” shape go up (lengthening the back of the neck) and then down the front side of the head, ending at the chin (which is held down). The lower section of the “C” shape runs down towards the tailbone and then comes back up on the front side of the pelvis, ending at the pubic bone (when leveling the pelvis, you lift up on the pubic bone).
Practice getting yourself into the “C” shape whenever you feel your posture slipping…whether you’re sitting at your desk, standing, walking or running. It’ll have the amazing effect of bringing your mind and your body together, because you’ll be engaging your core in the midst of your activity and bringing yourself to the “center” of your experience.
Your posture is the absolute keystone of all your movement and structural support. When you have strong physical center, it has a direct influence on your mental and emotional well being. Practice your posture as if your quality of life depends on it, because it does.