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  • Dave Tobin

Gravity: How we respond matters.

Updated: Feb 24, 2023

It has built us up or worn us down, likely both.

I have spent most of my life not thinking about gravity. I suspect that’s the case with most people, even though, since the moment of birth, gravity constantly works on us. Depending on how we’ve responded over a lifetime, it has built us up or worn us down, likely a mixture of both.

As a rapidly growing child our muscles form in relation to earth’s gravity—we lift ourselves, wobble and achieve a stable, upright stance. When our developing child’s muscles are in balance, we can effortlessly walk, run, skip and jump.

With maturity and the slowing of activity, with the repetition of habitual movements and gestures, and our default sitting and standing postures, muscles alter their shape and function.

That change can become no shape, as the muscles we stop using atrophy. Muscles can stop firing even for active people, especially when there's been an injury and other muscles try to compensate by taking over the primary muscle’s function.

But that’s not the end of the troubles, because one muscle’s shut down or deterioration sets in motion a series of compensations in body mechanics that can wear down joints and pinch nerves.

For so many adults, backs straighten where they should be curved, curve where they should be straight, hip joints move one way but hardly the other way, arms won’t lift overhead, knees won’t straighten, we unconsciously move toward the precarious, wobbly stage of toddler.

Without intervention, without engaging regularly some kind of fitness program, restrictions worsen. Only deliberate counter-stretching, deliberate strengthening of spinal and pelvic floor muscles, deliberate engagement of muscles that have shut down, will bring us back toward a free-moving, childlike, anatomical balance in which all body systems work together with as little restriction as possible. That’s the beauty of the body that yoga works to restore and maintain.

Once we become aware of how integral gravity is to our experience, to our sense of well-being, we can work with it.

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