Hello Original Alignment: the name search is over
I’ve loved this picture from the moment I saw it.
What strikes me most is the energy, relaxation and strength of the young mother, who carries her babies on her head as though it were the easiest thing in the world.
It’s this ease that draws me into my practice, and the increase of ease in my life that keeps me there.
And yet for six years, ever since I took a life-changing weekend workshop with Jean Couch in Palo Alto, CA, I’ve struggled with what to call this work.
In an ideal world, we would call this work Aplomb, which is the name Noëlle used. Derived from à plomb, on the plumb line, in French it suggests physical balance and ease, along with poise and finesse.
Then came the pandemic. Teachers and dedicated students met on Zoom, found out we liked each other, and started working for a common cause: forming an association to promote Noëlle’s work in North America. And finally, after two years and 34 meetings, we have a name: Original Alignment in the lineage of Noelle Perez.
Unlike any of the other contenders, Original Alignment is specific and arresting, and prompts the question: what do you mean by original?
Original alignment is original because it’s the posture of pre-industrial societies, including ours before 1920. And it survives wherever people still carry loads on their heads, or with a tumpline, a strap that crosses the head and is used to carry a pack. Tumplines are more efficient than backpacks, because they use the spine, rather than the shoulders, to carry weight.
Take another look at the woman in the photo above. Despite her live and possibly squirmy load, she makes carrying a couple of toddlers on her head look effortless. Most of us, no matter how much time we spend at the gym, would suffer serious damage to our neck if we tried to carry half that load.
Original Alignment is also the posture of healthy toddlers the world over.
To learn to walk, a baby must balance its head with muscles that aren’t strong enough to hold its body in a counterbalance. So, each toddler learns to find the line of gravity – the spot where every load is light.
This easy, balanced, efficient, upright posture is our birthright as human beings. The fact that in our culture, hen’s teeth are more common than people in Original Alignment only tells us that posture is cultural. We shape ourselves to look like the people we’re with.
In the modern Western world, our idea of beauty and coolness is miles from original alignment.
Take a look at this woman. If you’re thinking: cute, young, thin, normal, and you don’t see anything strange about her posture, that’s because her misalignment is so common that it’s become invisible.
If you turn her upside down, her backwards lean is obvious.
How is it that she doesn’t fall over?
She’s being held in place by tight, gripped muscles, that have been drafted to hold her in this position. She has begun to form a rounded upper back and a protruding belly, and her neck and shoulders are strained. But her misalignment and the tension it creates are so common that they remain hidden in plain sight.
Sadly, this culturally accepted misalignment is anything but harmless.
Low back and neck pain topped all other health spending in the US in 2020: $76.9 billion paid by private insurance, and $45.2 billion paid by public insurance. Another $12.3 billion paid by out-of-pocket, by people in pain. These numbers don’t include money spent on other posture-related issues, including hip and knee surgeries. Nor does it include treatment for the depression that often accompanies chronic pain.
The good news?
The path to healthy alignment is simple. It doesn’t cost a lot of money, or require expensive gadgets, or onerous exercise routines. It’s not foreign, exotic or new. Our grandparents and great grandparents knew how to live in alignment. So did we when we were toddlers.
Noëlle Perez’s work is based on more than 50 years of research, a painstaking study of the alignment of young children and of people in pre-industrial cultures. Through her teaching, she demonstrated that this alignment maintains our mobility, strength and vitality into old age. And she lived the work. Noëlle was 93 when she passed away, still vigorous, and, until the last few days of her life, looking forward to teaching her annual week long workshop in Italy.
Original Alignment is simple and effective. It’s not easy, but the difficulty lies in taking off our cultural blinders, and then changing our habits. The rewards – comfort, relaxation, increased energy, a sense of being at home in your body – are more than worth it.
Now that we have a new name, I’m going to be revising my online course.
Naturally, the name is changing to Original Alignment Foundations. Along with more technical finesse, the course will include an enlarged library of short practice videos, and more interaction in the way of coaching calls.
But if you’d like to get started now, the original version remains available, at https://courses.spinefulness.ca/courses/spinefulness-foundations-f2020
Here’s a recent review:
I have some experience with Spinefulness and was delighted to find this wonderful course after my local teacher moved. Eve is both precise and concise in presenting the natural alignments of the body. These alignments help in every posture: walking, sitting, standing, bending, and stretching. Spinefulness practice has helped me relieve back pain and release energy. Highly recommended! Carolyn Dille, Santa Cruz, CA.