In all health professions nowadays, one thing that is commonly considered detrimental to our health is the phenomenon of stress. Various methodologies and theories have emerged that aim to help minimize the amount of stress one has to cope with. I wish to discuss the unavoidable stress of gravity on a body's structure when in an upright position, some health implications, and how, through proper alignment of bone structure, we can efficiently minimize stress and increase good health.
As gravitational forces act upon our bodies when we are upright, various groups of musculature work so that we can stay erect. To resist gravity, these muscles must exert a certain amount of energy. These anti-gravity muscles help to stabilize the bone structure in such a way that movement is possible in an upright position. The success that a person has in meeting the constant stress of gravity may have a subtle set profound influence on his or her quality of health, performance and emotional states.
At this point, it is necessary to understand some basic concepts such as "line of gravity" and "center of gravity" as they relate to our bodies' structures. The line of gravity, viewed laterally (Fig.5.1), anteriorly and posteriorly, falls from above downward through the earlobe, slightly behind the mastoral process (or the attachment of muscles behind the ear of the temporal bone, the bone located at the side of the head which contains the organ of hearing), through the odontoral process (a toothlike projection from the body of the axis or second vertebra of the neck upon which the first cervical vertebra rotates), through the middle of the shoulder joint, touches the midpoint of the frontal borders of T-2 and T-12, then falls just slightly outside to the sacrum, slightly behind the axis, or support, of the hip joint, slightly behind to the patella (or kneecap), crosses in front to the middle malleolus (the hammer-shaped bone on each side of the ankle) and through the outer bone of the ankle to fall between the heel and metatarsal heads. When viewed from the back, the- line of gravity passes through the occipital bone (or the lower back part of the skull ), C-7 and L-5, the coccyx (or lower end of the spine) and pubic cartilage (or supporting tissue of the pubic bones) and bisects the knees and ankles.
As gravity acts on all parts of the body, one's entire weight can be considered as concentrated at a point where the gravitational pull on one side of the body is equal to the pull on the other side. This point is the body's center of gravity. Generally speaking, the center of gravity is located in a region directly in front of, and about one and a half inches above and below the level of the navel. Its location varies according to body type, age, sex, attitude, breathing patterns, stress level, or abnormal neuromusculoskeletal disorders.
The most economical use of energy in the standing position occurs when the vertical line of gravity falls through a column of supporting bone in alignment. If weight bearing bony segments are aligned so that the gravity line passes directly through the center of each joint, the least stress is placed upon the adjacent ligaments, tendons and muscles. When this alignment is achieved, the antigravity muscles which expend much energy to resist the downward pull of gravity need not work as hard. The bones now take on a more active role in supporting our bodies in an upright posture, allowing the muscles to relax and rest, thus conserving energy and diminishing stress and tensions developed from unbalanced bone and muscle patterns.
Health potentials can be realized only when balance of structure exists so that both nerve energy and Chi flow freely.
There are many negative health effects produced when these antigravity muscles are working either too much or too little. Muscles function to move bones and, if muscles are either very tense or too flaccid, unilaterally or bilaterally they will create a derangement in our bone structure. When a person feels knots or spasms in their muscles, this means that the muscle has gone into a state where it has a sustained contraction. A contraction means that the muscle fibers have shortened. As this occurs, bones can be pulled out of their proper alignment. When spinal vertebrae are involved in this structural imbalance nerve roots can be irritated, thus interfering with the function of the nervous system. When the nervous system is interfered with, a multitude of health problems can arise since the nervous system is the means by which all body functions are regulated and monitored.
Health potentials are enhanced when proper communication between the brain and all body parts is maximized. Since this is the function of the nervous system, the structural integrity of our musculoskeletal system is of prime importance. Structure is said to determine function.
The chiropractic profession deals with problems of health and disease from a structural point of view, with special consideration given to structural intergrity, spinal mechanics and neurological relation.
Thus far, it has been shown how gravity interrelates with our musculoskeletal systems, and how this stress on our structure could affect our health in general. Of course, other factors such as emotions, toxins and trauma affect one's structure as well. Muscles store and harbor tension and stress from various sources, but the point is that structural imbalance is the end result and, in turn, our functionability is diminished, as well as our health.
From this standpoint, logically speaking, one must seriously consider how to go about producing optimum structural integrity in a balanced way. To do this, it is necessary to understand the value in learning about alignment; learn the principles from a competent source; recognize one's own problems in this area; and then apply the knowledge to oneself.
As a chiropractor, I am concerned with correcting each patient's structure to allow the body's optimum function to be restored. But
I can only do so much for a person and, in reality, one's health is one's own responsibility. Therefore the necessity for everyone to learn about structure for themselves, and to recognize what is right or wrong is essential for good health. I believe that some of the major keys to good health are proper bone alignment, muscle balance (symmetry), flexibility of joints and fasciae, proper breathing, relaxation and proper body utilization. Finally, of extreme importance, is to learn to conserve, build and store energy that is usually wasted when structural imbalance exists.
Exercise is an indispensible means to attain the above keys to health. The kind of exercise, therefore, must not be unilateral, as most sports are and not tension producing (i.e., not in excess). Well-toned muscles and fasciae are desirable, but not too much or not too little. Balance is, therefore, the key when choosing an exercise system. The exercise system should be one that develops body symmetrically, reduces stress, teaches proper alignment and one that shows how to store, increase and conserve vital energy.
I am a chiropractor who sees health to a great extent dependent on symmetry or balance of body structure and so became interested in the Chinese art of Iron Shirt Chi Kung. Iron Shirt emphasizes the importance of maintaining a bone posture in such a way that the gravitational forces acting to push us down to earth can be transmitted through the bones into the earth rather than wasting energy resisting with the muscles or putting undue stress on the joints. The Iron Shirt postures align the vertebrae in such a manner as to permit the line of gravity to pass through the center of the vertebrae. Now the force is not being resisted, but rather transmitted. The muscles, ligaments and tendons can relax instead of working to resist. Integration of all structural tissues for optimum functions is created by the Iron Shirt postures. Relaxation, proper breathing, symmetrical muscle development, tendon and ligament strengthening; as well as strengthening the bones, result from Iron Shirt practice.
Another very important concept is to learn to experience and recreate one's proper center of gravity. I say ''proper'' because generally one's center of gravity changes from the navel area up into the chest or higher as one confronts life situations and stresses. This interferes with normal breathing patterns which should be originating from the abdomen as well as the chest. One simply has to compare a child's breathing to the breathing of most adults, and it will become evident that adults mainly breathe from their chests with very little abdominal or diaphragmatic action. It is very important that we utilize our diaphragm when breathing since the diaphragm descends upon and massages our internal visceral organs. This action enhances circulation and blood flow as well as increased oxygen to all of our vital organs.
The increased energy, structural integrity and phenomenal health benefits gained from Iron shirt practice, in my opinion, are outstanding. I feel that its practice can develop future health potential in a wholistic way: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. When one aligns oneself with Iron Shirt practice, he also aligns himself with the harmony of the universe.
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