If you've never built anything, you'll be forgiven for not knowing what a plumb line is. I certainly didn't until I got interested in human movement and alignment.
So, what is a plumb line?
- A line from which a weight is suspended to determine verticality or depth.
- A line regarded as directed exactly toward the earth's centre of gravity.
We humans are designed to stand plumb to the earth's centre of gravity, but mostly, we don't.
This doesn't mean there is anything wrong or bad about us.
It just means we are working harder - and straining our bodies more - than we need to. Yoga is about comfort (it totally is, right? More about that in a few weeks).
So knowing we are off plumb is a starting point.
It's how we can begin to understand how we use our bodies and get at the deep changes that we may need to make to ease pain and unhelpful movement patterns. The more effectively we use our bodies, the better everything in them can work, and the better we feel.
That promise of ease is what makes understanding plumb lines so important.
The easiest way to assess your own postural alignment is to get someone to take a photo of you in profile, standing as you normally do (no fixing/adjusting for photo purposes). Then, draw a vertical line straight up from just in front of your ankle joint. If your posture is perfect (and nobody's is) then the line will pass through you body like this:
- Slightly anterior to your ankle
- Slightly anterior to your knee joint
- Through your greater trochanter
- Through your lumbar vertebrae
- Through your ribcage
- Through your shoulder joint
- Through your earlobe
Like in the pic at right (found in this excellent blog post)
You might get a shock when you first do this. You might be a little freaked out, even. But don't be! There's nothing WRONG with you, you've done fine in your body so far. All you are doing is working towards constructive change.
Getting closer to standing plumb will reduce wear on your joints, help you use your postural muscles better, align your internal organs better, and most likely reduce your pain.
In the next few weeks we will give you pointers on how to do this - but start here.
It's also worth noting that trying to make this change all by yourself can be very hard, because you have unconscious habits that you will just adjust around.
If at all possible, work with a qualified teacher who can help you unwrap your habits and learn to feel how better alignment feels in your body. It's the kind of thing we routinely do in our workshops, retreats and private classes. There isn't enough time to to it thoroughly in group classes, unfortunately.