Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Latest Posts


1. The Art of Posture ... Sept 6, 2014
2.  Reaching for the Stars ... Aug 28, 2014
3.  Running barefooted .... Oct 22, 2014 
4.  Natural rights of children ... Link
5.  The Alexander Principle ... Feb 4, 2015 
6.  Dynamic Sitting ... Feb 22, 2015



'FASHION' BEAT: A young girl, who arrived with her relatives to see off someone, exits the Thiruvananthapuram Domestic Airport clad in 'Summer Wear': MANU R MAVELIL

 The New Indian Express, dated 1 APRIL 2014:


1. The Art of Posture (Posted in IIT Global forum)

Sept 6, 2014

Contrary to what the fear-mongering propagandists in modern medicine would have you believe, it truly does not matter how you sit while doing art as long as you get as close to your work (page, canvas, glowing screen, hunk of limestone, open flame, etc.) as you possibly can.
If chiropractors had their way, making art would be as stiff and passionless as a middle-school dance chaperoned by your mother. But as all the greatest artists in history knew, the act of creation should be a full sensory experience!
Bizarre and thought provoking? True :-)
I. Selvaraj, IITM, 72

2. Reaching for the Stars
Aug 28, 2014

Dear Friends,
The outcome of any activity we engage in will be determined by the grace, the focus and the strength of mind and body, that we bring to its execution. There are ample reasons to suspect, as we look around us, that this ability eludes most of us humans, even though bringing about this happy union of mind and body has been a perennial and an ancient quest.  
A quote from Mathias Alexander's book, 'Man's Supreme Inheritance' reads as follows:

“and the outcome will be a race of men and women who will outstrip their ancestors in every known sphere, and enter new spheres as yet undreamt of by the great majority of the civilized peoples of our time. The world will then make in one century greater progress in evolution towards a real civilization than it has made in the past three….”
This sentiment is renewed by Dr. Barlow in his book 'The Alexander Principle', in which he states:
" The Alexander Principle is an hypothesis: it is not claimed as an established, absolute truth, but as a new way of looking at things, a new way of organising oneself. It may be that it will be proved to be false - human evolution is a story of successful and unsuccessful trying - but it may be that it will be proved to be one of the most important evolutionary hypothesis which humans have ever thought up for themselves."
John Dewey (1859 – 1952) the eminent American educationist praised Alexander “ It (The Alexander Technique) bears the same relation to education that education itself bears to all other activities.”
It is to be noted that neither Alexander nor Dr. Barlow claim that they have understood everything regarding this happy union of mind and body. Alexander states quite frankly "We are only at the beginning of understanding".
The present status:
Alexander published his book in 1910 and Dr. Barlow published his in 1973. I went through the uploads in U Tube to check whether this grand vision has survived the ravages of time. Has anyone renewed these remarkable sentiments? Or has everyone given up hope and come to the conclusion that this union of mind and body is an impractical search for utopia?
The only video that I found which supports the above sentiment is the Nobel prize lecture given my Nicholas Tinbergen in 1973. The lecture however does not reflect the Author’s own experience, it is a re-rendition of Dr. Barlow’s book ‘The Alexander Principle’, even the images are from that book. The lecture does not support any superlative claims.
Alexander Technique (AT) and Yoga
There is a lot of resonance between the ancient wisdom of Yoga and AT.
I would put AT ahead of Yoga in terms of presenting the Mind - Body problem in a modern context. Yet AT is nowhere in comparison with Yoga in terms of reach and popularity. AT could have benefited by adopting some of the Yoga practices, which AT purists are loath to do.
It is puzzling for instance to find that there will be no Yoga session where participants will have their shoes on, yet in AT sessions participants routinely wear shoes. Is AT attempting to understand the mind-body problem in the western context? Can there be an Eastern and a Western approach to the same problem? If that be the case why is Yoga so popular in the West?

My views on the mind-body problem:
My interest in this problem was kindled when I came across Dr. Barlow’s book in 1975. My initial interest was limited only to the body, as I was puzzled that we could allow such large distortion of the skeletal system as shown in the x rays in the book. It took me another 25 years (almost) to realize that there was a mental aspect to the problem.
In general it continues to puzzle me that we are making a mystery out of something that can very well be understood by the application of engineering principles. While the principles on which Yoga is based is ancient, I would have expected AT to bring in a more modern and scientific approach to the problem.
For instance it puzzles me *that an assumption is being made that footwear and tying of belts, elastic, etc., around the waist will not harm the natural alignment and functioning of muscles *that wearing of tight clothes in not an issue *no attempt is being made to separate the mind and body problems and examine each separately, and then put them together, as is normally done to solve a scientific problem *hence, there is no real interest in knowing what a well aligned body is likely to look like (this point is highlighted in my blog * the mental problem could be made analogous to treating the brain as forming part of a control system * there is no appreciation of the fact that when a mechanical system is very badly distorted it will be very difficult to rectify the fault * indeed badly distorted mechanical systems are usually condemned *hence the focus must be in preventing the problem from occurring * we need to focus on the way in which children are brought up and schooled *indeed our postural development is not under our control, since a lot of the damage would have been done when we are young * It puzzles me that the issue of ‘balance’ is not being emphasized as it ought to be *etc. etc. … You will notice that there is a world of difference when we give a more scientific spin to the whole problem, something which strangely our scientific community is reluctant to do.
This brings me to the main reason why I have broached this subject.
…. The human brain (To be continued)

4.   - John Dewey  
3. Running Barefooted
Oct 22, 2014

Dear All,
It is puzzling that worldwide, sportsmen don shoes to take part in games and athletics, even though in ancient Greece where The Olympics originated, sportsmen competed sans all clothing and footwear. With the increasing use of synthetic surfaces in the sports arena, one is hardly running on thorns to warrant such a precaution.
I had given up hope that it will be possible to convince people to run barefooted (or be as close to it as possible). Of late, I find my hopes reviving with the realisation that just because we are barefooted does not mean that we will be running (or walking) barefooted properly.
I have been interested in the issue of Posture and body balance for more than 35 years now, yet I became aware of an important issue only recently, the issue of heel to toe movement when walking and running as against toe to heel movement. This was brought to my attention  through accidental discovery of Dr. Liberman's website:
Since becoming aware of this issue I have been incorporating the idea of toe to heel movement in my posture correction when walking and running, with remarkable results (I am even able to run inside our house). Just this idea alone may not be enough though, this idea needs to be integrated (in my view) with (my take) on proper balance of the head:

Once people learn that with proper body balance it is possible to run strongly and gracefully, I am hopeful that sportsmen will eventually vote with their feet to be barefooted when taking part in sporting events.
This will not happen overnight since correcting postural balance once it is altered is a very very difficult and long drawn task. Modern science is yet to acknowledge that a problem exists, otherwise we could have moved swiftly to at least protect children, who have marvelous postural balance to begin with. The primary focus in bringing up children till the age of six (at least) should be to protect their postural balance.
The above writeup should not be construed as suggesting that we should be barefooted always. There are conditions under which we need to protect our feet. In many cases slippers and sandals would be better options than wearing shoes. Children can come to school wearing sandals or shoes, yet conditions can be created so that they can be barefooted once inside the school. There are conditions under which the feet should be protected fully. (I found this out the hard way when I took up the task of clearing the garbage which had been dumped near our house over a period of months. I was foolish enough to engage in the task wearing slippers and developed some growths on my feet - garbage with its mix of mercury and lead is toxic, imagine all this stuff finally ending up in our water ways.)

.... This begs the question why we should even be discussing this subject. By now humans should have sorted this problem out, if not in the past thousands of years, at least in the past 200 years with the advent of science and technology and scientific way of thinking. Is there a major problem, something that we cannot easily fathom?
I am afraid there is. Movement and balance in the body is controlled by two factors (1) the natural capabilities of the physical body (2) the capabilities of the control system (the brain). My fear is that although the brain is a much studied entity, and we talk of such qualities as intelligence, IQ and the special features of the left side of the brain vs the right side, we are inadvertently overlooking a very simple characteristic of the brain which controls movement and balance (and even possibly our overall intelligence and mental capabilities) ........ more on this subject later.
I. Selvaraj, IITM, 72
The Beggar Maid by Lord Alfred Tennyson

Her arms across her breast she laid;
She was more fair than words can say;
Barefooted came the beggar maid
Before the king Cophetua.
In robe and crown the king stept down,
To meet and greet her on her way;
‘It is no wonder,’ said the lords,
‘She is more beautiful than day.’

As shines the moon in clouded skies,
She in her poor attire was seen;
One praised her ankles, one her eyes,
One her dark hair and lovesome mien.
So sweet a face, such angel grace,
In all that land had never been.
Cophetua sware a royal oath:
‘This beggar maid shall be my queen!’
4.  Natural rights of children

Oct 22, 2014
Dear Friends,
I had filed a petition with the State Human Rights commission, with the Indian Medical Association and the Ministry of Education, the state of Kerala, as respondents. ..
5. The Alexander Principle 
Feb 4, 2015

The Alexander Principle: USE AFFECTS FUNCTIONING

If fifty million people say (or do?) a foolish thing, it's still a foolish thing.
-- Bertrand Russell
Dear Friends,
Last weekend I inadvertently got involved in a 'posture' experiment that I would not under normal circumstances have taken part in voluntarily. Invited to a seminar I sat for more than six hours in a level 1 sitting arrangement each day of the two day seminar - something that I have not done for the last fifteen years.
What is a level 1 sitting arrangement ....?

To be continued ..
1. Different sitting arrangements (and postures).
2. Promoting cross legged sitting.
3. Protecting the postural health of children (without which there cannot be effective education).


(6) Dynamic Sitting
Feb 22, 2015

The dangers associated with sitting for too long have been widely documented, but ugh. Sitting? We spend most of our day doing that, and it can’t be that bad, right? Wrong. ..
Log Book