My partner Knut and I were in Bali in August. It was an amazing journey as we had never been before. I particularly loved watching the local people move about in their daily lives. I was fascinated watching them carry heavy loads on their heads instead of in their arms. I marvelled as I watched them squat and bend while doing manual tasks for extended periods of time. They seemed to move through their work with ease and grace. They performed tasks in a way that Westerners would struggle to do with such efficacy.
I wondered, how the Balinese people could do such physically demanding tasks day after day and still be smiling so beautifully. I believe it has to do with their outlook on life along with the intuitive way they carry and hold their bodies. I watched a group of villagers bringing in a catch of Mackerel when we were in Lovina. I was told that they did this quite often to supply fish to resorts and restaurants in the area. It was like watching a dance as the men pulled in nets full of fish. I noticed that as they heaved on the nets, they were hip-hinging with flat backs. They used the larger muscle groups in their body to pull in the heavy loads. The muscles in their abdomens and backs were engaged in a way to help protect their spines. They used their legs and glutes along with their arms to perform their task. They made it look so effortless! I marveled at the way the women bent to the ground to sort the fish and load them into large buckets. Their legs were straight, and they bent from their hips. Their hamstrings were incredibly long and flexible. In our society, there are not many people who can bend all the way down to the ground this way without bending their knees or rounding their backs. They chatted away playfully as they helped load heavy buckets of fish onto each other’s heads. Once they were loaded up with full buckets, they walked with the precision of a type rope walker, balancing their heavy loads with ease. They moved with lengthened necks and straight backs. Their gluteal muscles were switched on and engaged. They used their well-developed muscles along with a straight back leg and their heels pushed into the ground to drive themselves forward. It was so powerful, and yet it was done in a way that made them look as if they were gliding. This is a normal part of daily life in Bali and explains why the women have such strong necks and good posture. It is a far cry from many Australians who walk, stooped over with heads protruding forward.
· There was a study done in Kenya by N. Heglund. “The Energetics and Mechanics of carrying Head Supported Loads by African Women” They tested the respiratory rate of women carrying heavy loads on their heads while walking on a tread mill to measure their oxygen consumption. The researchers were astounded to find that when they loaded these women up with heavy sandbags, their oxygen consumption did not increase. It remained the same as when they were unloaded. In this study they compared the efficiency of these head carrying women to soldiers loaded with packs. It turns out that the women were about 60% more efficient when it came to carrying weight than the soldiers were.
I also loved watching the way the Balinese squatted in tiny boats as they paddled around fish farms on Lake Batour. The boats sat low in the water and it seemed that there wasn’t enough room for their legs to sit western style. As they paddled they maintained a position that looked more like a squat with very straight backs. They moved in and out of the boats, hopping onto little jetty’s with ease checking their nets.
Workers in rice fields stayed bent over for long periods of time working their crops. Again, the majority of them hip-hinged with backs so straight you could eat your dinner off of them!
I could go on and on. I loved observing the way the traditional Balinese people moved and functioned. I observed that some of the younger men that I met, mostly drivers that were taking us around the island, didn’t have such beautiful posture. They had adapted the “western way” of sitting, standing and moving. These were the ones that complained of back or neck pain when I asked them if they’d ever experience it. I told them that that they needed to mimic their elders. There is a lot of wisdom in the way that they move. Sometimes you need to look at the old ways to find your primal posture.
If you, the reader, want to learn more about primal posture and how to move more efficiently, I am offering a Free Workshop on the subject at the St Helens Neighbourhood House Tasmania 5:30pm – 7pm on Thursday October 18th 2018
Written by: Michelle Mickie Ball Massage therapist and Gokhale Method® Teacher. Contact me: 0428 223 271 or for information on all of my workshops go to my teacher’s page.
Moving with Grace and Efficiency