Periscope Depth

and I ain't never scared; I'm everywhere, you ain't never there

Thanks to Mike Shapiro and his lady Eleanor for teaching me the following technique to unkink your back:

  1. Take a book of about “Harry Potter width” (2 inches). If you don’t own any Harry Potter books, then your copy of Murray Rothbard’s Man, Economy and State should suffice.

  2. Lie down on the floor, face up, with the book under your head.
  3. Bend your knees so that the soles of your feet are flat on the floor and comfortable.
  4. Lie there for fifteen minutes.

This doesn’t sound like much, but it’s had a profound effect every time I’ve done it. When I get up, my lower back burns in that way that only a good stretch can do. It’s easy to do right before going to bed, to help shut my mind off and sleep. And it’s probably helping my posture.

For decades, I’ve treated posture like a series of nervous bleats. “Stand up straight! Shoulders back! Chin up!”, etc. Bad posture’s especially visible on the tall and skinny; it’s easier to spot the bend in a reed than in an oak tree. Only recently did I realize that posture isn’t about tensing your body into rigid perfection. It’s about relaxing. I look hunched forward because I’m walking with my shoulders near my ears. If I relax, my shoulders fall into line and my spine adopts a more natural curve. People stop shying away as my footsteps thunder down the sidewalk.

Relaxation is attractive. The shoulders are down, the arms are loose, the legs are comfortably settled. There’s a reason Sports Illustrated shoots its swimsuit models laughing and skipping on the beach, not raising drywall while balancing on rolling chairs. There’s a reason all the euphemisms for being cool – that most desired mental state in the Western world – eschew tension. Relax, chill out, mellow, hang loose. Take it easy. The world doesn’t have much use for people who are relaxed all the time, but there’s something to be said for being able to relax when you should.

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