Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Dear Friends,

I am making this post with a certain degree of excitement. Anyone trying to get to the root of the postural conundrum must try to answer two important questions:

  • How old is this problem.
  • Why have we failed in sorting out this problem after thousands of years of collective human effort.

How old is this problem? We know that the problem is at least 7000 years old, since we are told that yoga, developed in India, has at least that degree of antiquity. What was the situation like in an earlier period, say, 20,000 or 50,000 years ago? It seems unlikely that the problem could have arrived all of a sudden! Add to this our growing disquiet that the problems we see in Fig 6 of www.humanposture.com are not minor perturbations; rather, the images indicate gross errors, structures completely out of kilter. We now indeed have a mystery that Sherlock Holmes would have been proud to solve! Let me play the role of Junior Sherlock Holmes and suggest how we humans have succeeded in tying ourselves in a knot.


FIG 1 : The Spine. This design does not permit any large localized rotation of the vertebral elements, to rotate the head in the lateral plane.

FIG 2 : Stick Diagram. The stick diagram consists effectively of five elements. Element one is the skull combined with the spine and the pelvis, element two is the thigh bone, followed by the lower leg bone (the tibia) and then the feet, which is divided into two elements

The physical evidence for the problem is quite straight forward and we need go no further than Fig 1. We need to understand from the structure of the vertebrae, that this design does not permit any large localized rotation of the vertebral elements to rotate the head in the lateral plane. The only safe and strong way to rotate the head (to alter the line of sight) is by rotation at the hip joint. The basic mechanism of the body in the lateral plane can be illustrated by the stick diagram in Fig 2. The stick diagram consists effectively of five elements, no more and no less. Element one is the skull combined with the spine and the pelvis, element two is the thigh bone, followed by the lower leg bone (the tibia) and then the feet, which is divided into two elements. All gross rotations must be limited to the use of these five elements. It is important that the bearings interconnecting these elements should be kept well lubricated and functioning, and the interrelationships between the elements respected. (Please note that the feet have to be divided into two elements, see Fig 3 - especially when we are walking. This should help explain why western style shoes, increasingly worn even by children in India is a serious problem).

Fig 3 : The Feet

Is there additional proof that the stick diagram indicates correct use of the body? Apart from the limitations observed in the skeletal system, we notice that when subjects use their bodies strongly and gracefully, their bodies aligns in the stick configuration discussed above. See Figures 4 and 5.

Fig 4: Jesse Owens. An American who participated in the 1936 Olympics in Germany, won four gold medals.

Fig 5: Two children at play



To understand how we are effectively tying ourselves in a knot, we need to define a concept of ‘Visual Space’. Visual Space may be defined as the three dimensional region in relation to the body that the eyes have to roam in order to perform day to day activities. Visual Space for humans is strongly related to distant vision and short sight vision. When we are looking at distant objects the eyes will be more or less level and the overall strain on the skeletal system is reduced. The problems come in droves with short sight vision, which defines our technological age.

We may think that the age of technology is defined by the aircrafts and rockets we make, of which we are inordinately proud, but this is far from being true. Our technological age started long ago; the development and use of technology is directly associated with human evolution. It is believed that the use of sticks (staffs) by early humanoids to defend themselves, lead to reduction in the size of their canine teeth, as early as three million years ago.

While it will be interesting to go back in time and find out when exactly the situation began to slip out of control, we will limit our investigation to the last 10,000 years. With the introduction of agriculture, hunter gatherers settled down to till the land, and as a consequence had abundant food, which enabled them to get adequate spare time to engage in other activities; such as, pottery, metal working, carpentry, setting up of schools to teach their children; while the women folk spent increasingly more time in activities related to agriculture, managing the home, the kitchen etc.

Effectively, there was a sharp change in their Visual Space. A species that evolved in the African savannas, gazing at the horizon in search for game, using their amazingly handsome long limbed bodies to walk and run long distances and throwing spears with power and grace, suddenly found themselves constricted in their Visual Space. The distant became near and a level line of sight became a rather depressed line of sight.

Fig 6 : A student studying

(wrong use of the body)

Fig 7 : Goldsmith at work

(bent back)


Fig 8 : Carpenters at work


For modern humans the Visual Space is largely confined to near sight, and it can be categorized into two classes to define the severity of the postural problems likely to be associated with each. CLASS ONE VISUAL SPACE refers to a cubic space of about 0.5 m length, breadth and height just below the chin, with the subject sitting down. Examples: (Fig 6) A student studying, (Fig 7) A Goldsmith at work, (Fig 8) Carpenters at work.

CLASS TWO VISUAL SPACE refers to a region of about 0.5 meters in length and breadth below the chin, reaching down to the ground, with the subject standing. Examples: (Fig 9) Farmer digging, (Fig 10) Woman harvesting groundnuts, (Fig 11) Carpenters at work.

Fig 9 : A farmer Digging


(Posture not too bad, the back is however bent. If you go to the site below you will see how a wrong digging implement forces the worker to bend his back even more)


Fig 10 : Harvesting groundnuts. (Unusually bad posture. Normally Indian women farm workers have fairly good posture, but of late one can notice rapid deterioration)


Fig 11 : Carpenters at work. (the person sawing is holding his body properly. The helper’s line of vision is not OK)



A person can be taught to use his body properly in Class two Visual Space. Using the body properly in Class one Visual Space is however an enormous challenge, because the subject is sitting down and it is impossible to bring the line of sight to bear on the work - in the stick configuration we discussed above. This will help us to understand why no posture correction method has really solved the postural conundrum in 7000 long years. The simple fact is; there is no postural solution to this problem. The way to solve this problem is not by teaching better posture but by redesigning the work environment.

This naturally points to a deficiency in my website www.humanposture.com . In the second page of the website, the strategy for correcting posture has four elements:

  1. Physical environment
  2. Mental aspect
  3. Balancing posture
  4. The concept of use

It is implicit in the write-up that Physical Environment refers to objects in contact with the body. Now that we have discovered a serious problem with the physical environment that is not in contact with the body, we need to introduce a fifth element.

  1. Physical environment (not in contact with the body)
  2. Physical environment (in contact with the body)
  3. Mental aspect
  4. Balancing posture
  5. The concept of use

It has been a game for me wondering which item is more important in the original list, but in the new list I have no doubt that item one is the most important. When the eyes cannot be brought to focus naturally on the work at hand the vertebrae will be forced to slip out of position to accomplish the task. If this wrong use is repeated and reinforced, it will not take much time to irrevocably misalign the complete musculoskeletal system. It is disturbing to note that six billion humans are literally chocking on their own bones, making it impossible to breathe properly and consequently, probably living with reduced oxygenation of the blood.

The concept of the stick diagram also needs to be included in the website. Why oversimplify a system with hundreds of bones and muscles with just five elements? It is desirable to have an approximate idea of how the body should be aligned, this will allow the large number of bones and muscles in the body to recover their natural use, achieve balance, and return the body to its natural grace and beauty.


We can now confirm that postural problems are strongly influenced by the way in which we fashion our environment. By using our intelligence and commonsense we can alleviate postural problems.

The concept of Visual Space also helps us to understand why we have diverging opinions on what constitutes proper design of shoes, clothing (immobilizing the stomach muscles with the help of elastic and belts), seating arrangements, study stations etc. Evidently we humans consider the use of Class one Visual Space as being entirely normal as this defines our world, associated with our being intelligent. Not withstanding all the Darwinian notions our scientist worship, we consider ourselves different, not constrained by the laws of mechanics which constrain other animals. This helps us to rationalize the problems of head ache, back ache, spondylosis, hernia, etc. that we, as a superior species suffer from. When there is no alternative to collapsing our posture, the faulty design of our clothing and environment becomes logical, correct and even a matter of pride.

There is need for change in paradigm if we are to solve the postural conundrum. It is important for various posture correction disciplines to examine in the light of the issue of Visual Space raised in this write-up, to think through their posture correction methodology. Are they attempting the impossible? From my personal experience over the last couple of months I can confirm that the issue is very serious. The deliberate use of Class one Visual Space will rotate the vertebral elements in one direction and a great deal of effort is required to counter rotate these elements back to their natural position. This is not to say that we should never use Class one Visual Space, only that, like a penguin going for a walk on land, it is not our natural space and we should not dwell in this space too long. Once we discover good posture, and figure out how to use the body as one integrated unit we will also make the surprising discovery (I was surprised) that the head is capable of tilting without tilting at the hip joint, making use of the innate flexibility of the spine (it is however not a very strong posture). Even though use of Class 2 Visual Space is less problematic it should be obvious that prolonged use of this space will also eventually lead to the muscular system slipping out of position.

It is impossible for modern science as it is presently ‘practiced’ to even acknowledge, let alone sort out a problem of this nature. So ‘we the people’ have no option other than to sort the problem out for ourselves. An immediate challenge before us is to figure out how we can alter the study environments in our schools and colleges so that children do not spoil their naturally good posture. Fortunately, the problem here is not due to any difficulty in design, the challenge lies in altering a way of doing things we have got used to. We will continue this topic in the next post.


To be continued: Having fun designing an environment where we can keep the eyes level.

Friday, Jan 7, 2011

(In the post above, the stick diagram - Fig 2 - oversimplifies the spine; the post below, sent to a discussion group discusses the spine in some detail).

Dear All,

Since this thread is on the skeletal system, let me add a few observations:

1. If you go to Google, and key in 'Posture', the first entry leads you to Wikipedia which splits the subject into five subtopics; the first subtopic reads: Neutral spine or good posture. It is worth reading through the definition of 'Posture' and the accompanying concept of 'Neutral Spine'. One must congratulate Wikepedia for finally getting it at least partly right and for putting emphasis correctly.

2. However the entry does not tell you how neutral spine can be correctly maintained. The accompanying image of a neutral spine is evidently a theoretical concept since it offers no explanation for the images in Fig 6 of my website www.humanposture.com . The article also does not explain how the spine can be kept properly aligned when the body is in motion.

4. Logically speaking, let me suggest, that an ideal 'direction' for keeping the spine properly aligned will be one where the 'direction' itself is a balanced one. Clockwise movement in one part of the body must be balanced (for obvious reasons) by an anticlockwise movement in another part of the body. The 'direction' I would suggest is TO LEAN FORWARD, BACKWARD MOVEMENT OF THE HEAD SHOULD BE BALANCED BY FORWARD MOVEMENT AT THE THIGH-PELVIC JOINT.

5. The advantages with this direction are: a) Equal emphasis is given to the top and the lower half of the body b) the direction is a balanced one.

6. The above direction will most probably contradict Dr. Barlow's blanket thesis that pulling the head back will lead to faulty posture.

7. The above writeup complements my posting in ... http://www.posturalbias2.blogspot.com/


P.S. Let me take this opportunity to wish you A Very Happy New Year. Let me also invite you to an informal symposium on the exciting subject of 'Human Posture' in 2014 http://posturesymposium.blogspot.com/


Go Back > http://posturalbias.blogspot.com/
Go Forward > http://abdomp.blogspot.com/