Thursday, December 2, 2010

Miniature New Yorkers Spotted At Prince Street! Tiny people also exhibit good and poor posture!

Miniature New Yorkers Spotted At Prince Street!  These tiny people also exhibit good and poor posture.  Evidence of the inseparability of physical and mental states!
 
While waiting for the R train at Prince Street station in SOHO, I noticed that in addition to the commuters filling up the platform, there were these tiny little people milling about on the walls, like miniature versions of the folks on the platform.  I wondered if they were miniature versions of New Yorkers who had wandered in from another dimension.  I tried to speak to a few of them while I was waiting, but they must have still been at least partially in their own dimension because they didn't appear to hear me.  I blew my police whistle with no effect.  I gave up communicating after several attempts and instead took a few photos.  As I was photographing them, I noticed some model examples of good and poor posture (or what F.M. Alexander called good and poor "use") and I discovered that I was collecting some pretty clear evidence that physical and mental states cannot be separated.  My train arrived and as I boarded, I wondered if a miniature train would pull into the station that the little people would all board.


Exhibit A: First, I noticed an older woman exhibiting typical signs of age - a compressed spine, resulting in a hunch.  The downward pressure from her upper body clearly affected her legs, as her gate was stiff and she shuffled her feet.  Her gaze was focused downward and all of her attention appeared to be focused on making sure that her feet stepped where she wanted them to step, as if she didn't trust that they would obey her commands without her looking at them.  What this woman is doing might be viewed by many as a condition of old age, whereas she likely created this condition herself through years of misusing her body.  

 
Exhibit B:  I glanced to my right and saw an encouraging, though less common site - what appeared to be an older woman who carried herself more upright than most teenagers.  Her head was poised atop her spine and she maintained her full height without compressing herself.  She exuded confidence.  She looked relaxed and aware of her surroundings.  Becoming as compressed and physically disconnected as the first woman is not an inevitable symptom of age.  If we use ourselves well, we can continue to maintain good use.  Now, here's a question . . . Who would you be more likely to ask for directions?  The woman standing more upright, right?  Why?  Probably because she seems more like she knows what's going on.  I would expect the first woman might be confused, afraid of falling, and so narrowly focused that she might have trouble answering a question (also, typically symptomss of old age, no?) - clear evidence that the physical and the mental are inseparably intertwined and that how we use ourselves affects how we function.

Exhibit C:  Next I spotted a young woman walking briskly.  She employed a great deal of strain to move about.  She appeared to be leading with her chin and thereby tipping her head back and down (rotating the head back), resulting in tightness in her neck, upper back and shoulders.  Her lower back looked tight and it seemed as though she was squeezing and compressing all of herself in order to move forward.  She appeared to be taking the weight of the bags that she was carrying into her shoulders, further exacerbating the problem.  Interestingly, there was nothing unusual or extreme looking about the way that she was holding herself or walking, yet she was using herself quite poorly.  

Exhibit D: Next I spotted a second young woman walking briskly, also carrying an object - quite a heavy-looking object!  She appeared to be exerting no excess effort to hold the chair that she carried in her right hand.  She didn't tighten her shoulders and the weight of the chair seemed to be evenly distributed throughout her body.  She walked upright,at her full height, and did not stick her chin forward and rotate the head back.  She maintained an straight, yet relaxed torso and she easily stepped about as her legs weren't stiff.  She appeared to be moving and reckoning with the weight of the object in her hand with just the right amount of effort.  Lovely to see, but a rare sighting!  Who would you be more likely to ask for directions?  I would ask the woman carrying the chair.  Even though she may be walking quickly, she appears more present and like she might be able to easily answer my question without becoming frustrated or slowing down.  The first woman looks as though she would be disturbed by someone stopping her and annoyed to have to think about my question while carrying bags and trying to move along quickly.   


Exhibit D:  Next, I happened upon two folks engaging in a popular activity of late.  Using a cell phone!  They were likely texting or checking email.  Prince street is one of those stations that I always get reception in.  Very convenient!  I immediately noticed differences in the posture and use of these two people.  The person on the left appeared closed in on herself, focused on her phone at the expense of everything else.  She dropped her head down, dragging her neck and back with it and adopted a similar stance and attitude to older woman in Exhibit A.  The person to the right looked down at his phone, but allowed his head to rotate up and over to move down instead of just dropping down.  The result is that he moveed his head and neck down in space without compressing down in himself.  He seemed relaxed and composed.  The person to the left seemed stressed and agitated.  As in the other comparisons, I would likely ask the relaxed, upright, composed person for directions.  I would expect that he'd be able to pause reading an email or writing a text message, calmly answer my question, and then return to his phone.  I'd expect that the person to the left would be frustrated about having been interrupted and might have trouble going back to what she was doing.  The act of focusing need not involve strain and a complete narrowing of one's perspective.  It is possible to remain composed, alert, and concentrated on a task.


There were many more tiny people to observe on both platforms at Prince Street.  Take a look yourself if you happen to be in the station and let me know if that tiny train ever shows up!


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