In addition to correcting muscular and skeletal imbalances, stand g postures as a whole form a complete and balanced practice tl »t includes twisting, forward bending, side bending, backward bendii J, and balancing. A standing forward bend even serves as a mild invert d posture for those who are flexible enough to bend all the way dov Before studying specific postures, however, we must examine sol e fundamental principles.
f. STANDING POStl IRES 22<J
developing a strong foundation
Should you stand relaxed, or should you purposely hold some tension in the hips and thighs when you arc doing standing postures? This was our opening question, and the answer is not the same for everyone. Through long experience, advanced students know exactly when and where it is safe to relax, so they can do whatever they want. Beginners, however, who are embarking on a course of standing postures should be told straight out to plant their feet firmly and to hold the muscles of the hips and thighs in a state of moderate tension. The many muscles that insert in joint capsules keep them taut and establish a strong base for the posture. This not only reinforces the joints, it brings awareness to them and to the surrounding muscles—and where there is awareness there is safety. Tightening the muscles of the hips and thighs limits the range of motion, it is true, but it prevents torn muscles and injuries to the knee joints, sacroiliac joints, hip joints, and the lower back. In addition to these immediate benefits, developing a strong base over a period of years builds up the connective tissues in both the joints and their capsules. And as the joints become stronger, it becomes safer to relax the body more generally and at the same time intensify the stretches. Experts take this all for granted; they protect themselves without realizing it and are often not aware that beginners unknowingly place themselves in danger.
For novices, standing postures are the best training ground for experiencing the principle of learning to establish priorities from the distal to the proximal parts of the limbs. This means you should construct standing poses from your feet to your hips to your torso, and from your hands to your shoulders to your torso, rather than the other way around. That's desirable because your awareness of the body gets poorer and your ability to control the muscles diminishes as you move from distal to proximal, and if you first bend or twist the trunk and then manipulate the extremities, the latter movements take your attention away from the proximal structures of the body over which you have less awareness. By contrast, if you settle the distal portions of your limbs first, you can keep them stable with minimal effort while you place your attention on the central core of the body.
The feet are the foundation for standing postures. This can be taken literally: small adjustments in how the feet are placed will affect your posture from head to toe. To see how this happens, stand with your feet together and parallel, draw lines straight down the front of your bare thighs with a marker, and imagine parasagittal planes through each of them. What we
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