by Ian Bysh

The more I understand about people the more I understand why they do what they do. And why they look how they look. Abraham Lincoln said no man should be held accountable for his face until he passes the age of forty. I’m sure he didn’t mean ugly people ergo are bad, or beautiful people are always good; but the habitual smiles and grimaces I make over time have had their effect on my wrinkles.

My mother has a picture of me as a toddler standing next to a horse. I remember the picture being taken. The horse was huge. I was terrified. And if you look at the small of my back you see the evidence of that terror. My hips are back, but I’m putting on a brave face, and my chest is puffed up. I spent a lot of my life in a similar pose: spine trying to pull me forwards to face the threat, lower back taking the strain of my emotional centre pulling my physical centre of gravity backwards. I suppose I am naturally timid and unconfident, but life has meant I have had to habitually work against my inner felt conviction. And 45 years later the chiropractor told me I had squashed all the cartilage at the back of my lower spine into hard unforgiving dried up wedge shaped wonky parodies of the beautiful springy doughnuts I was born with. He showed me the X-rays to prove it. That explained all the sciatica then! And why I was great at ustrasana.

Unconfident people’s shoulders poke forward. Diffident people bow their head and end up looking up through their eyebrows. Strict people are stiff. Unorganised people have no difficulty doing twists. Not always, but more often than you’d think. I posit. My daughter has a teenage habit of always walking looking at the floor, and I remember doing the same. My memory of my teenage years is mostly one of a dull slog.

If you curl up into a ball how do you feel? If you do all 3 warrior poses in a row how do you feel? I don’t mean exhausted. I mean how does your emotional state change after performing a pose. The pose I adopt affects my mood as much as my mood affects my pose. So the behaviour is self-reinforcing. No wonder my sciatica got so bad. It’s good news and bad news for all of us if you think about it.

My teacher Ruth White says that people nowadays habitually poke their heads forward in front of their chest as if they’re trying to get to the next thing as quickly as possible. When I stand against a wall I am usually horrified how far my head has to come back to bring the two into contact. My head is always first into a room and my heart enters a moment or two later, and sometimes it doesn’t get a chance to affect what my head has decided in its absence. When I remember, I notice how I am standing, relax, adjust and breathe while I sort out the mess my head has just created for us. Silly head.


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