About this Blog

Welcome to the Up With GravitySM Blog.  Here you’ll find the “raw material” for the Homepage series of basic lessons, as well as additional resources for harnessing the power of gravity.  If this is your first visit, be sure to start with Lesson 1.

Don’t forget to click on the Subscribe button on the right to keep up with the latest developments.

Up With GravitySM Lesson 6 – Lifting your Center of Gravity vs. “Standing or Sitting Up Straight”

In the previous two lessons of this section, you learned how to lift your center of gravity while standing, moving and sitting.

In the final lesson of this “lifting series,” we’ll compare what happens when you “stand up straight” or “sit up straight” with what happens when you lift your center of gravity.  We’ll also learn an interesting trick you can use to illustrate the power of center of gravity lifting.

As with the two previous lessons, if you have any concerns about the safety of doing these exercises – and certainly if you’ve had recent surgery – be sure to consult your doctor before attempting them.

“Standing up straight” – notice the lifted chest, head thrown back and arched lower back.

Let’s start with something you may have heard when you were a child from your parents or teachers: “Stand up straight!”

The photo on the left illustrates a fairly typical response.  Notice that the chest is lifted, the lower back is arched, and that there’s quite a bit of overall strain.

Experiment with “standing up straight” and see if you can sense these effects on yourself.  You might need to exaggerate it a little to detect them at first.

What happens to your breathing, the overall level of tension in your body, and your balance?

Try walking while “standing up straight” and see how that feels compared to your ordinary walking.

Lifting the center of gravity.  Compare with the photo above.

Now let go of “standing up straight.”  Then mentally connect with your center of gravity, using one of the images we’ve explored in earlier lessons, and lift it within yourself.  As before, be very clear that your intention is to lift only your center of gravity.  Do this for just a few seconds at a time until you have plenty of experience.

How does this compare with “standing up straight?”  Is your breathing any different?  Is there a difference in the amount of overall tension in your body?  What’s the difference when you walk?

As with the experiments in previous lessons, you might want to alternate between the two a few times to get a better sense of the differences.

Most students notice that lifting their center of gravity does not generate excess tension elsewhere in the body in the way that “standing up straight” does. Breathing is usually easier, and they often sense an expansion in the chest.  They feel taller when they move in this lifted state, and they move more easily.

“Sitting up straight” – notice the same tensions as in the top picture.

Now, compare “sitting up straight” with lifting your seated center of gravity.  Move back and forth on the chair with a lifted seated center of gravity. Compare this to same movement done while you “sit up straight”.

What did you notice?

Despite the harm they cause, variants of “stand up straight” or “sit up straight” are a mainstay of of popular posture advice.  But what most people do when they “stand or sit up straight” is only to re-arrange their tensions. As the late Professor John Dewey (a student of F. Matthias Alexander, developer of the Alexander Technique) noted: “…something happens when a man acts upon his idea of standing straight. For a little while, he stands differently, but only a different kind of badly.”

Sitting while lifting the seated center of gravity. He’s now upright, without excess tension.

Hopefully, your experiences in this series of lessons on lifting your center of gravity and your seated center of gravity have shown you that this is an effective way of improving the way you stand, sit and move.

Here’s a final experiment showing the power of lifting your center of gravity.  You can do this experiment standing or sitting.  We’ll use standing as the example here.

While standing, connect with your center of gravity.  Now lift it, and only it, as much as you comfortably can.  Then, while continuing to lift your center of gravity, try to go into a slump, pulling your chest down and into itself.

What did you notice?

Now, again while lifting your center of gravity, try to “stand up straight” in the manner illustrated earlier in this lesson.

What did you notice?

You probably found that it was impossible to do either, at least to any significant extent, as long as you were also lifting your center of gravity.  That’s because both of those movements actually tend to lower your center of gravity and it’s not possible to lift and lower your center of gravity at the same time.

Students are generally amazed when they attempt this.  It’s is a nice exercise to try with your family and friends.

This brings us to the end of the basic center of gravity lifting procedures.  In the next series of lessons, you’ll learn to use center of gravity lifting in quite a different way – one that’s much easier, more precise, and more powerful.

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As always, please use the comment box below to share your experiences with these exercises.

©  2012 Robert Rickover

Up With GravitySM Lesson 5 – Lifting and moving your center of gravity while seated

In the previous lesson, we explored lifting your center of gravity as you stand and walk, using the front-to-back arrow.  I also suggested you experiment with broadening the range of activities in which you use this technique.  If you haven’t done so yet, I encourage you to do that.  Climbing and descending a staircase and reaching for an object on a high shelf are good exercises.

Of course, the image you lift doesn’t have to be the arrow.  You can use any of the three images described in Lesson 1 that appeal to you.

Don’t forget that the height of the image is two inches below your navel.  This is important because of the tendency mentioned in Lesson 2 for people to think the center of gravity is located higher than it actually is.

Now let’s explore this lifting process when seated.

As before, if you have any concerns about the safety of doing this – perhaps because of recent surgery, chest pain, etc. – please consult your doctor first.

Lifting the front to back line that passes through your seated center of gravity.  The red arrows indicate the direction, within you, in which it’s being lifted.

Start by sitting in a chair and mentally connect with your seated center of gravity – approximately at the height of the bottom of your sternum, as described in Lesson 3.

Now just as you simply lifted your overall center of gravity in the previous lesson, lift your seated center of gravity by contracting some muscles in that area of your body.  The important factor is not the details of which muscles you actually tense, but the idea that you are actually lifting the arrow within your body.

Be very clear about your intent here: you’re lifting your seated center of gravity, not some other part of you.  Of course, other parts of your body will change in response, but your role is to remain focused on lifting your seated center of gravity.

As with the lifting of your overall center of gravity, which we explored in the previous lesson, start with a small amount of lifting and then gradually increase it.  The amount of time you do this lifting should be measured in seconds until you have become thoroughly familiar with the process and have used in for some time.  Alternate between lifting and not lifting.

What do you notice when you lift your seated center of gravity and when you stop lifting it?

Experiment with shifting back and forth a few times so you can get a good sense of the changes when you lift your seated center of gravity and when you stop lifting it.

Pay particular attention to the effects on your chest, your shoulders, and your breathing.

Typically, students report that they feel taller, their breathing is fuller and easier, and that lifting the seated center of gravity lessens tightness in the chest.  They often feel expanded and decompressed.  When they stop lifting, they can sense their habitual patterns of sitting, which often include pulling the chest inward and downward into a slump.

Seated center of gravity lifting can be extremely useful for improving our overall health and well-being because so many of us spend so much time sitting, and because we usually compress ourselves more when we sit than at any other time,

As with center of gravity lifting while standing, walking etc., some of the most dramatic effects of seated center of gravity lifting occur when you use it to move.

Try this experiment. While sitting, mentally connect with your seated center of gravity using the back and forth line, extended forward and back from your chest, with imaginary arrow tips at both ends.  Now lift the line and move the lifted line forward and backwards slightly each way.  Then shift back to movements that don’t involve lifting.  This is the same process you used in Lesson 3, the only difference being that now you’re experimenting with a lifted arrow.

Did you notice a difference?

Here’s an example of a situation when seated center of gravity lifting is useful. You may be sitting in a large group, such as at a concert or a movie, and sense that you’re slumping uncomfortably. However, you realize that it would disrupt others if you made any large movement to change that. When this happens, you can lift your seated center of gravity and then make a couple of very small forward and back movements to move out of the slump.  These movements, which can be so small that nobody will notice, will do wonders for releasing the tension due to your slump.

Here’s a final experiment. Sit fairly far back in the chair.  Picture the front-to-back arrow, lift it, and move it a little bit forward and then backward until your back gently touches the chair back, while continuing to lift the arrow.  Now, let the arrow go and notice what happens to your torso.

You’re likely to feel an immediate downward movement which may be easier to notice when your back is in contact with the chair back.  That gives you some idea of the pressure you have habitually placed on your body when sitting.

In the next lesson, we’ll explore the differences between the effects of lifting your center of gravity, and those of “standing up straight” and “sitting up straight.”

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If you have any questions about this lesson, please post them in the comment box below.  Also, I’d like to hear about your experiences using the exercises.

©  2012 Robert Rickover

 

 

Up With GravitySM Lesson 4 – Lifting and moving your center of gravity

In the first three lessons, you explored ways to locate your center of gravity using some simple images. You also learned how to use your center of gravity to move more easily. In this lesson, we’re going to take using your center of gravity to a new level.

This lesson will involve some deliberate tightening of muscles in your abdominal area.  If you have any reason to be concerned about doing this – for example, if you’ve recently had surgery or if you are experiencing abdominal pain of any kind – consult your doctor before doing any of the exercises described in this and the next two lessons.  Bear in mind that there is a tremendous range possible in the intensity of your lifting effort.   Always start with a very small amount of effort and then gradually increase it.

Lifting the front to back line that passes though your center of gravity.  The red arrows indicate the direction of lifting.

Start by standing and using one of the simple images you learned to use in Lesson 2.  I’m going to use the imaginary front-to-back line (the “arrow”) as an example – the line passing through your body at the height of your center of gravity, which is two inches below your navel.

After you’ve mentally connected with the arrow, lift it.  Don’t stand  on your toes. That would certainly lift it up in space, but that’s not the intent of this exercise.

To lift the arrow, first make a decision that you want it to be higher within you.   Then simply lift it, contracting some muscles in that area of your body.  The specific muscles you contract are not important.  What is important is the idea that you are actually lifting the arrow within your body.

Start with only a little lift and then experiment with applying more lifting effort.  You’ll feel some of your muscles tensing. Each person’s posture is different, so the exact muscles used in lifting will vary

This is definitely a new and unfamiliar exercise.  Don’t be surprised if it requires a little practice.  One thing that can help is keeping your two index fingers gently in contact with the front and back of your torso, two inches below your navel, as you lift the arrow.

Lifting your center of gravity is definitely a physical exercise, so only do this for very short periods of time until you have a good sense of how much lifting you can do, and for how long you can comfortably do it.  It’s best to think in terms of a few seconds at first until you’ve had plenty of experience with this process.

When you place the palm of your hand on your belly in the vicinity of your navel, you’re likely to sense some firming of your abdominal muscles when you lift the center of gravity.

What else do you notice when you lift it?  You may notice changes in your legs, your chest, and your head and neck.  You may feel taller.  Based on many students’ experiences, you may feel your legs are supporting you in a slightly different and unfamiliar way.  You may notice that your chest seems expanded and that your breathing is fuller and easier.

Now, let’s use this process to change the way you move.

Start by standing, then locate the arrow, lift it a bit, and finally move the lifted arrow in the direction you’d like to go – just the way you learned to do with a regular arrow in Lesson 2.

Here is an important reminder – be very clear that your intention is only to lift the arrow.  You will almost certainly sense other parts of your body moving, but focus your intention on lifting the arrow.

Once you feel comfortable moving a lifted and directed arrow, experiment with shifting back and forth from “ordinary” walking to “lifted and directed” walking.

What do you notice when you you walk with a lifted arrow? What do you notice when you go back to ordinary walking?

Often, students report that walking seems much smoother and easier when they use the lifted arrow.  They are often amazed that, even when they lift their arrow with intensity, there is no increase in tension in the upper part of the body.  In fact, the arms usually move more freely, the head is more easily balanced on top of the neck and breathing is fuller and easier.

When they stop using the lifted arrow, students often report that they sense a heaviness in the body.  Sometimes this is most apparent in a sinking down of the chest.  Sometimes they notice that the feet come down more heavily on the floor.

When you pay attention to what happens when you let go of the arrow lifting, you receive valuable information about your habitual way of walking.

You can expand your lifted arrow experiments to include other activities, such as climbing a staircase.  Of course, you can use the side-to-side line or the circle image instead of the arrow.

In Lesson 5 we’ll explore lifting and moving your center of gravity while seated.

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Please use the comment box below to share your experiences with this exercise – and your suggestions for clarifying my written instructions.  As I’ve said before, I’ve been teaching this process for quite a few years, but have not put it in writing until now and your feedback will be greatly appreciated.

©  2012 Robert Rickover

 

Up With GravitySM Lesson 3 – Using your Center of Gravity when Sitting

Locating the relevant center of gravity for sitting by placing one finger at the bottom of the sternum, the other at the same height in the middle of the back.

In the first two lessons, we learned how to locate your center of gravity when standing,  and how to use it as you move about in ways that make your movements lighter and easier. This lesson is about using the center of gravity while sitting – something many of us do for hours at a time.

Learning how to use your center of gravity while sitting is particularly important, because most of us put more harmful pressure on our bodies while seated than we do while standing and walking.

When sitting, the relevant center of gravity is no longer two inches below your navel, because now the weight of your legs doesn’t enter into the picture.  What we want to find is your seated center of gravity. The center of gravity for the whole body when standing has been well studied and is known with a high degree of precision. Locating your seated center of gravity will be a little less precise. Nonetheless, it’s possible to locate it closely enough for effective use.

You can find the seated center of gravity by running a finger down your sternum (the flat bony plate in the center of your chest) until you encounter soft tissue. This is where your sternum ends and is fairly close to the seated center of gravity.  Its actual location is, of course, deep inside your chest.

If you place one index finger on this spot and run your other index finger around your chest until it reaches your spine at the same height, a line connecting those two fingers passes directly through your seated center of gravity.

The “seated center of gravity” arrow can be used when sitting to direct your movements back and forth.

Imagine that line extending both forward and backward from your torso with an imaginary tip at each end. This is similar to the tool we used in Lesson 2, but is now being used to direct your seated center of gravity forward and backwards.

Try an experiment with this seated center of gravity arrow. While seated, move back and forth a bit in your usual way, taking note of how easily you’re moving and how much work is needed to move.  Now, mentally connect with the arrow and move it forward and backward.  As in Lesson 2, did you notice that your body moved more easily?

You may have noticed that, after using the seated center of gravity arrow a few times, you found that you were sitting more comfortably.

These forward and backward movements can be very tiny, but help you release tension and feel more comfortable.  You could use them discretely if you’re sitting at a concert, movie, or business business meeting. They can also be extremely useful when you’re forced to sit for long periods of time, such as on a plane.

In the next section of lessons, which will be posted later in September, you’ll take the use of the center of gravity to a new, and far more powerful, level.

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This concludes the first group of lessons.  As with the earlier lessons, please let me know about your experiences – good, bad – or puzzling!

©  2012 Robert Rickover

 

 

 

 

Up With GravitySM Lesson 2 – Using your Center of Gravity while Moving

In Lesson 1 you learned how to locate your center of gravity (in the center of your body, about three finger widths below your navel) and how to access it easily using three mental images: the front-to-back line, the side-to-side line, and the circle.  Over time, you may also come up with additional images of your own.

You may have already noticed that simply being aware of where your center of gravity is located has beneficial effects, as evidenced with the “push test” described in Lesson 1.  Now we’re going to explore how you can direct your center of gravity as you move, beginning with walking.

You can move this imaginary arrow, which passes through your center of gravity, wherever you’d like to go.

Start by locating your center of gravity, using the front-to-back line.  Imagine a line that passes through your body at the height of your center of gravity, and this time extend of that line forward from your body.  Think of it as an imaginary arrow that passes through your body.  You could even add an arrow tip at the front end.

Now make a decision that you are going to move that arrow in the direction you wish to go.  If it’s across the room, simply move the arrow to the other side of the room.

When you want to turn around and walk back, rotate the arrow and then direct it back to your original location.

You may have sensed that when you directed the arrow in walking and turning, the ways that you walked and turned felt a little different.  Most students use words like “lighter,” “smoother,” and “easier” to describe the difference.

It’s very helpful to switch back and forth from your ordinary walking to “arrow walking,” and back to ordinary walking, etc.  Experiment with a few seconds each way and see what you notice when you go from “arrow walking” back to your usual walk.  Often students report that they sense a bit of heaviness at that point, which disappears when they resume using the arrow.  Usually that heaviness shows up most clearly where their feet contact the floor.  That’s a great place to let your attention go when you switch back and forth.

Once you’ve experimented a bit with “arrow walking,” switch over to “line walking”.  For this, locate the side to side line that passes through your center of gravity and make a decision to move that whole line in the direction you want to go.  When you turn, or change direction, simply rotate the line.

As with the arrow, experiment with switching back and forth to get a clearer sense of the difference between “line walking” and ordinary walking.

You may notice a little difference between the effects of the “arrow walking” and “line walking”.  It can be useful to switch back and forth occasionally.

Using the circle image (an imaginary circle at a right angle to your spine, two inches below your navel) can also be interesting.  Move the whole circle in the direction you want to go.  Some students like to think of the circle as a type of automobile steering wheel, particularly when changing directions.  If you want to turn to the right, turn the circle clockwise, and if you want to turn to the left, turn the circle counter clockwise.

The purpose of all of these images is that they connect your movements directly to your center of gravity, thereby allowing you to take advantage of the gravitational field in which you exist and enhance the quality of your movements.

After you have spent some time exploring the use of these three mental images, you can experiment with walking up and down stairs.

Walk up and down a staircase in your usual way.  Then, mentally connect with one image of the center of gravity and move that image forward and up to climb the stairs, or forward and down to walk down the stairs.

As before, you’re using the image to direct yourself up or down the stairs.  Did you notice any difference in how you moved?

You may think of other examples in which the center of gravity images could help, such as getting into or out of a car, or reaching for something on a high self. The basic principle is always the same: your intention is to move your center of gravity where you wish to go, using a simple mental image to accomplish this.

In Lesson 3, we’ll explore this process when you’re sitting in a chair.  Later lessons will show you how to use your center of gravity in even more powerful ways.

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If any of the descriptions of how to direct your center of gravity are confusing to you, or you have any questions about center of gravity self direction, please post a comment.  If you’ve had some good experiences with these ideas, I’d love to hear those as well.

©  2012 Robert Rickover

Up With GravitySM Lesson 1 – Locating your Center of Gravity

Imagine a line connecting your two finger tips.  Your center of gravity is right in the middle.

Although we normally think of gravity as a force pulling us down, it also can be a powerful tool that enables us to sit, stand and move more easily, while reducting effort and tension.

The first step in learning to use the power of gravity is to to locate your center of gravity.

Start by standing up and placing the tip of your index finger just below your navel.  The height of your center of gravity is three finger widths (about two inches) below that point.  Move your index finger to that point. Then, using the index finger of your other hand, trace a line around one side of your torso at the same height until you come to the midpoint of your back. Your center of gravity is midway between between your two index fingers.When gravity applies its force on you it acts on your entire weight, concentrated at your center of gravity. Your individual body parts (head, arms, and legs, etc.) also have centers of gravity, and we’ll learn about them in later lessons.

Although there isn’t a physical marker for your center of gravity, such as a bone you can feel or joint you can move, it’s not difficult to find.

An imaginary front to back line, two inches below your navel helps you to mentally access your center of gravity,

You can use some very simple mental imagery to do this and, as we’ll learn in later lessons, to actively use your center of gravity to bring greater ease to your body.  Here are three images that are helpful

The first is the back-to-front line located at the height of your center of gravity, which we explored at the start of this lesson.  As before, the height of your center of gravity is three finger widths below your navel. Place one index finger there. Place your other index finger at the same height on the center of your back.  Using your two index fingers, draw an imaginary line connecting the two. Your center of gravity is in the middle of that line.

The second image, a side-to-side line, nicely complements the first. To locate it, start by placing an index finger three finger widths below your navel to locate the height of your center of gravity.  Then, trace lines around your torso at the same level to your left and right sides and imagine a line going sideways through your body which connects those two points.  Your center of gravity is in the middle of that line.

An imaginary side to side line, at a height of two inches below your navel, is another way to access your center of gravity.

A third method is an imaginary circle going around your abdomen at the height of your center of gravity.  Your center of gravity is at the center of that circle.

Of course these images are not real; there are no lines going through your body, but they help you access a point that acts as an important aid in helping you to function better.

Here’s an experiment you can perform with a partner that illustrates the power of simply being in touch with your center of gravity.  Stand near your partner and, with advance warning, give him or her a little push forward or sideways in their shoulder area.  Be sure it’s just a little push, enough to slightly and temporarily disrupt their equilibrium.  Notice how far they move and how easily they recover their upright position.

Now, show them where their center of gravity is located and ask them to simply be conscious of it.  Then give the same little push and see what happens.  You might want to have them do the same to you.

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Placing the palm of your hand on your belly with it’s center about two inches below your navel is an quick and easy way to remind yourself that your center of gravity is below your navel.

What did you notice?  Most people are far more stable when their attention is lightly placed on their center of gravity.  Notice that this increased stability requires no physical work whatsoever – no stiffening, holding, or tensing – just an awareness of where your center of gravity is located.

As time passes, many students have a tendency to forget the location of their center of gravity, incorrectly shifting it upward. It’s very important to correct this and remember where your center of gravity is actually located  – two inches below your navel.

Reminding yourself a few times a day of where your center of gravity is located can make a significant difference in how you function. The mental images I’ve suggested can greatly assist in that process. Simply placing the palm of one hand on your belly, centered about three finger widths below your navel, is another quick and easy way to do that.

In the Lesson 2, you’ll start exploring how to use those images to make active use of your center of gravity.

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For the anatomically inclined, your center of gravity is approximately at the level of your 2nd sacral vertebra, and just in front of it.

I’ve talked a great many students through this process, in person or over the phone, but this is the first time I’ve described the process in writing and I want to make the explanation as clear as possible.  So please use the comments box to let me know how well my explanation has worked for you.

 ©  2012 Robert Rickover

Image credit: hfsimaging / 123RF Stock Photo