More than two decades ago, I made an observation that is now the cornerstone of what I call the Egoscue Method: the human body - bones, muscles, every system and subsystem - is designed to maintain itself through motion. The body is designed on the basis of parallel vertical and horizontal lines forming 90-degree angles. The verticals run down the right and left sides of the body through the shoulders, hips, knees, ankles and feet. The horizontals go right to left through the pairs of shoulder, hip knee and ankle joints. It's a grid. When the 90-degree angles are violated, the structural integrity of the body is compromised.
Modern living does not provide enough motion and - most important - enough of the proper motion to keep the body fully fit, totally functional and pain free. The body is so efficient that when a muscle is not being used, it is literally shut down, put on hold. All of us have experienced this. Catch a cold or get busy at work, lay off the exercise routine for a couple of days, and what happens? It's tough to get started again. We're stiff and easily winded. On a much larger scale, muscles that were designed for vital function like walking, bending over at the waist, twisting to the right or left and lifting heavy objects have shut down from disuse. Even so, we still have to move around and that's where compensatory motion sets in. Without these major muscle groups, other muscles that weren't designed for the function are called into action. They're not up to the job over the long haul. The result is pain or diminished physical capacity and performance.
It may take years of compensatory motion to arrive at the final destination - our bodies are tough - but breakdown is inevitable. Remember it's not just motion, it's proper motion. I've worked with talented offensive and defensive football linemen who were unable to transfer their weight when the ball was snapped without first bobbing upward at the knee and shifting their feet. Wham! That nanosecond left them vulnerable to being taken out. Despite all the hours of practice and weight training, high school and college ball and endless drills, these athletes are still products of their own culture, and that means they've been running a motion deficit since infancy.
The great thieves of bodily function are cars, desks and television sets. Technology is robbing us of a precious legacy. We are losing our life-support system. In many respects, quarterback Joe Montana, now suffering form a foot injury, is like Sampras. The femur, the large bone of the thigh, is internally rotated, his feet are externally rotated and his hips are tilted forward. He has lost the curvature of his spine, and his shoulders are rounded forward, which has also pulled the head forward. All of these conditions have nothing to do with football and every thing to do with proper motion. Montana has been playing with a dysfunctional body since the day he first put on shoulder pads. It has been getting worse by the day. Everyone knows Montana doesn't throw deep anymore. It's not that he's 38 years old. His body will not allow him to transfer his weight into the throwing motion. Montana compensates by throwing with his arm and not with his entire body. Joe is like us. His posture is identical to that of millions of other Americans, from cab drivers to schoolteachers.
Look in a full-length mirror: Is one shoulder higher than the other is? How about the hips? Are they dead level? Do the knees and feet point straight ahead? Stand sideways. Are the shoulders and head rounded forward? Are the hips rolling forward or back? Our body grids are a mess and we rationalize it as old age, family traits or just the way things are. But we've become a sedentary society. It is easier not to move. There's no penalty for remaining relatively stationary in one place hour after hour. In fact there are handsome rewards in terms of money and prestige. Sadly, when we decide to finally "get in shape," we end up further stressing out the muscles involved in compensatory motion and continuing to bypass those that need to be re-engaged. What we need to do is give our major muscle groups a wake-up call. What we need to recognize is that the body isn't fragile. It isn't broken. But without enough motion - proper motion - we are all slowly dying in place. Do you have any questions? Feel free to email us.
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Pete Hedley is a Postural Alignment Specialist trained in the Egoscue Method and can be contacted at email@example.com