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I don't think we're completely bi-pedal yet. Let's face it - our knees are terrible. Without vigilant attention to stride form and some education on what not to do, we easily crush our joint tissues too often and develop chronic troubles.
You're not alone in thinking that. You could find plenty of authorities to agree with you.
I'm inclined to think we are myself. Here's a parallel: I think it interesting that people say that bad backs are a result of our physiology being imperfect. Yet, as I understand it, back pain was pretty rare in Japan until modern times. There, of course, people lacked chairs and knelt on the floor:
Let's face it - our knees are terrible. Without vigilant attention to stride form and some education on what not to do, we easily crush our joint tissues too often and develop chronic troubles.
I'm inclined to see the problem as residing in our environment -- and the way we react to it. I find the view traditional in Alexander Technique persuasive, which is this. Initially we do things unconsciously -- "by feel" -- and that just works. This is your hunter-gatherer, who, judging by early accounts, tended to have superb "use" of himself. For us that has now broken down, owing to the fact that we've changed our external world so much, so that it no longer resembles the one we evolved in. However, we're still working "by feel". But, since our feelings can no longer be relied on -- simply don't give us accurate information, as they should -- because our unnatural environment and our makeshift responses to it have thrown them off -- that approach just doesn't work.
The only answer appears to be to approach what we do at a more conscious level. It gets difficult to say what that means, but anyone who's interested in movement should look at something like this:
I think one could draw an analogy with Paleo/Primal ways of eating. One could make the point that Paleo/Primal Man didn't need a lot of conscious consideration of what he ate. He didn't need to know about the chemical compositions of foodstuffs -- macronutrients and all that. He never needed to consult a "Carbohydrate Curve" (although tools like that are useful to us). He didn't need to worry about getting his omega 6: omega 3 balance right. And so on and so forth. He was making judgments about what and what not to eat for sure, but it was at a less conscious level. In trying to replicate how he ate, we, however, have to approach it all at a more conscious level. (Among other things we have to explain why mistaken attempts at a "good diet" are mistaken.) So we now have all this apparatus of biochemistry and evolutionary biology to help us to understand how to get back to where we were -- and we need that.
So I think in movement, as in diet, we have to some extent to return to where we were, and then, perhaps "all manner of thing shall be well", but we can only return in a new and more conscious manner.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
I actually think it's a shame that the Ancestral Health Symposium doesn't invite some speakers who understand human movement on quite a deep level -- practitioners of Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais, and so on.
Of course, the other angle is this. Back to food. Is people's skeletal structure proportioned quite as it should be and quite as symmetrical as it should be (c.f. Dr. Cate Shanahan on phi and Marquardt Masks and the rest of it) or is poor nutrition affecting many of us at quite a fundamental structural level? Further, as the same perceptive lady points out, how many people are eating the foods they need to support their joints -- bone broth and so on?
I am not symmetrical. My left side is both bigger and stronger.
Could be muscular development rather than anything skeletal, though, I guess.
I can see that one of the knuckles on my left hand is smaller than the same one on the right. i wonder how many of us have things like that. Wonder what causes it, too. I'll bet that kind of thing was less common in hunter-gatherer populations.
There's the interesting thing about limbs being relatively long WRT the body. This emerged in a generation or two with some of Pottenger's cats when he fed them the less-than-ideal diet. There have been suggestions that similar morphological things happen with people, too. How does it affect someone's patterns of movement if epigenetic effects throw off would be the usual relations between different parts of the body as determined by genetics where the diet is ideal?
I think that would be anyone's guess.
How about those immensely tall African cattle-herders. Are they relatively speaking too tall for their width? If so, is it the insulinogenic affect of the milk? Perhaps not, but there's some interesting questions one could ask.
Also, the head and the position and balance of the head with respect to the neck are crucial to all human movement. There's a saying in Alexander: "the head leads, the body follows". In fact, Nikolaas Tinbergen, who won the Nobel Prize, showed that the head-neck relationship is crucial to the movement of all vertebrates:
Now, being as that relationship is so important, what happens when the face, jaw, and head don't grow quite as they should, as seems to happen when there are insufficient minerals and fat-soluble vitamins in the diet? (c.f. Weston Price's notes on this, and the fascinating modern re-working of the story in terms of phi by Dr. Shanahan.)
How many people does any of us know, in a modern society with fully-erupted wisdom teeth, no extractions, and no orthodontic work?
So, if your jaw is substantially smaller than it should be, what does that do to the balance of the head? ... and hence to movement in general?
I've no idea what the answer would be, and how important or unimportant the effect might be. Seems like an interesting question to ask, though.
There we are -- I've spilt a lot of verbiage now and all I meant to do was to post the link to the Smithsonian blog post rather than wander off into all this stuff.
I'm a fan of the Alexander and Feldenkrais techniques. I've learned a certain ease of movement from take classes and instruction in both. I also had a yoga teacher many years ago encourage me to squat or sit on the floor instead of sit in a chair to help open the hips. After a month of not sitting in chairs (as much a I could), I did get better hip flexibility.
Oh, and for some reason, I have never had any orthodontic work, have no wisdom teeth and no last molars. My dentist is always a little taken aback. And no cavities either.