My wife and I were on a beach on the Hawaiian island of Kauai when a monk seal heaved her self out of the water onto a beach full of human bathers. A group of uniformed environmentalists were soon on the spot, fencing off an area around the seal to protect it from disturbance. The seals have no fear of man and typically sun themselves among the bathers for most of the day. They are an imposing presence, the oceans’ largest seal.
From the edge of the fence I observed the seal’s breathing. I could see her shorten and then lengthen, the shortening traced in the sand, a distance of several inches, quite pronounced. That shortening, I reasoned, must be on her out breath, on expiration, as she was exhausting her supply of air. Except that it wasn’t. She was shortening on her in breath, on inspiration, which was a big surprise to me, a Eureka moment. Based on my observation, you could say that inspiration was a shortening gesture. A pupil of Walter Carrington, now a noted teacher, related to me that Carrington was the only person he knew who could lengthen on the gesture of inspiration, on his intake of air. It is a rarity we could make less rare. We can learn to lengthen and widen on the gesture of inspiration.
We might begin by noticing how and where we tend to shorten. If I am not particularly mindful when I inspire I notice that the back of my head and my sacrum move closer to one another and compress, fix, my spine, a shortening habit. I can rethink that. I can let my neck relax, and as I inspire appreciate the space between my head and sacrum, and breathe into my back. My sacrum opens and the sutures of my skull are not so tightly knit. I think this might make a big difference in my day and in yours. What if we let our doubly sprung spine have its entire length all day? What might not we profit. Who’s in this for the day? To receive a daily posture hint in your inbox, please subscribe at alanbowers.com Photo: Trudy Simmons