The Indian body type is peculiar. Soft, round middles are the norm once we cross a certain age. With time, our posture slumps (pun intentional). Under the weight of responsibilities, and with hours spent hunched over phone screens and computers, we gradually lose sight of our body language. The shoulders and neck droop instead of snapping back in position.
Worry not. Here’s a refresher course on the simple yet elusive art of standing properly from James Murphy, the director of the Iyengar Yoga Institute of New York.
“We have to fight gravity to stand upright,” Murphy told The New York Times. “You might see people, as they grow older, they start to bend over, with the spine collapsing, and they’re staring at the ground while they’re walking—they can’t stand upright anymore.”
His advice is to plant your feet about hip distance apart. The weight on each foot should feel the same.
Not exactly life-changing advice, you might say. But there’s more.
Can you move your little toe? Great. Else, practice. And then aim for equilibrium by spreading the little toe as far away from the big toe as possible.
“You can feel how weight might shift a little bit from the inside of your foot, to the outside, the front to the back,” said Murphy.
Next, bring your feet together so your big toes and heels touch. This action forces your muscles to engage in balancing you.
Okay, you are ready for the next step. Yes, even the mere act of standing can have several steps, little details about tensing various sets of muscles and such.
Murphy recommends that the heels be pressed against the floor, and then tightening your muscles all the way up.
“Get some grip coming up to your knees and thighs and buttocks to have a firmness take place in your legs,” he said.
Now that the legs are in good posture, align the upper half of the body by lifting spine, rib cage and chest. Take a deep breath as you straighten your backbone.
“Use the whole circumference of your chest and around your heart and your lungs—use that whole rib cage to lift up,” Murphy said, “so that you’re creating space in your trunk, including the spine and also around the organs.”
The science of standing correctly is more than just a physical action. It reflects a state of mind and can be a statement of intent.
“We learn to stand to handle what’s going to come in life, to stand on our own two feet and face whatever comes in front of us with our head up,” Murphy said. “And when we’re depressed, when we’re down, we get pulled down.”But once you stand properly, “the possibilities are endless because you can go forward, you can go backward. You can go side to side, you can go upside down.” In other words, you can take the knocks from whichever side they come.