5th August 2011

People who work in physical professions are aware of the importance of muscle balance in performance. Ideally, each muscle works at an appropriate intensity in a state of equilibrium with other muscles. The spine is perfectly aligned, ligaments and tendons are neither too short nor too long. Similarly, the goal of self actualization or Nirvana is an equally balanced psyche that is perfectly, emotionally in tune and free of negativity.

However, in this quest for the ideal body or self, are we in fact ignoring or trying to change the things about ourselves that make us unique? For example, the choreographer Bob Fosse had a significant internal rotation in his legs, as a result, he found Ballet difficult. However, rather than spend all of his energy trying to correct this ‘flaw’ he made it a feature of his choreography. As a result, internally rotated legs is a unique aspect of his work.

Whether it’s a hyper-extended back, pigeon toes, a long neck, flat feet or too much or too little flexibility. It seems to me, that at some point, it is important that we work with what we have. There is no one ‘perfect’ posture for all people. We are surprisingly different. In addition, things like posture and stance are effected by culture and quotidian behaviour. if you spend a lot of time squatting by a fire (rather than sitting at a desk), this will impact your body shape and muscle balance. If you look at the way African Pigmy people stand, their backs are relatively hyper-extended, and I suspect all those Pilates folks will be shaking their heads in dismay….and yet, Pigmies seem to have few (or at least report few) instances of back pain.

Likewise, one person’s Nirvana is another person’s hell. I believe we ultimately know what is best for us. And while it is tempting to place all of our power in the hands of experts such as doctors, therapists and trainers; we should also develop a deep awareness of our own bodies and needs and trust that it is possible to intuit the best way to address injuries, whether they be physical or psychological.

This is not to say that an expert perspective is not helpful, because it often can be. But rather that building a sense of trust in our own ability to grow and bring ourselves into balance is an equally essential component of somatic health.

Finally, there is no perfect body or personality, and we often achieve greatness when we embrace our flaws and find ways to turn them into strengths.


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