But now, an order quickly given immediately put all mal-coordinations right, and then, with the automatic regularity of a man-made machine, my breath would recover its normal rhythm, my hands and arms would hang loosely from the shoulders, and I would feel my back widening and straightening, as if the slight lordosis, which I had when I first undertook the course, were visibly correcting itself.
Is it possible in a sentence to say wherein the change of conditions lay?
The nearest I can get to such a summing-up of this alteration in my stato-kinetic reflexes is to state that, whereas in the past every form of activity had been accompanied by a tendency to draw myself – my stature and my whole frame – down and in, now, by the use of my central control (primary control), I met every muscular effort by an extension of my stature and whole frame. I lengthened myself out, so to speak, at every action. To watch it (the lengthening), is to see that it is a deliberate stretch of the spine, so as to obtain a relaxation of the suspending thorax and abdomen, which allows of perfect breathing at a moment when a great effort may be necessary. Nor is the “lengthening out” to be conceived as a marked movement. It is simply the reverse of cowering. Modern man unconsciously cowers before each effort, and by so doing imposes wholly unnecessary and often terrible strains upon his system.
While, therefore, my spine lengthened and stretched in every activity, the rest of my body – that part of it which hitherto had been stretched and tense, particularly my thoracic cage – loosened and grew mobile.
From being a tent that was supported habitually and largely by the stiffened fabric of the cloth bell, I became a tent supported by its central pole. That is the crux of the whole matter. If the reader can visualize this difference, he has visualized the change in me. For this, in fact, is what the technique achieves.
Modern men, to a far greater extent than they know, are like tents whose erect position is maintained, more or less effectively, by a stiffening of the actual fabric of the bell, instead of being maintained effectively by an irreducible pole at constant tension.
Nay, more! If the average man is watched it will be seen not only that he is like a tent trying to support itself by the stiffness of its fabric, but also that, even when he is sitting, he hangs on to everything he can – backs of chairs, tables, ledges and any projecting solid – to assist the stiffening tent wall in its abnormal task of supporting the tent.
A stiffening of the wrong parts in order to maintain erectness, however, obviously leads to all manner of faulty constrictions and strains; and it is the gradual but certain loss of these constrictions and strains, together with the transfer of the supporting strain from the fabric to the central pole, which, as one acquires the technique of correct use, constitutes at once the great benefit and the substance of the process of re-education.
Thus, as I acquired the knowledge and habit of correct use, I found that, provided my part was done – that is to say, provided I carried out my instructions and gave the correct directions for the operation of the central control (primary control) and use of my mechanisms before any activity – I was able to maintain that part of myself which hitherto had been stretched and tense in action (particularly my thoracic cage) loose and mobile, while, on the contrary, that part of myself – my tent pole, in fact – which had usually been forgotten, or if not forgotten misused (shortened, compressed, or bent), was properly brought into action to bear the principal strain of every activity.
Certain minor troubles, due chiefly to inadequate oxygenation of the blood, thus steadily improved. I distinctly grew. My clothes of a year previously were the garments of a different man. No amount of tailor’s tinkering could any longer adapt them to my frame, and with it all I began to feel a new joie de vivre, a new zest both at work and at play.