What do Zazen, Wabi/Sabi, and Chiropractic have in common? It is the spine!! The posture of the spine is a very important component to Zazen. Wabi/Sabi inspires asymmetric structure to be a beauty and harmony. Structure of the spine doesn’t have to be straight but instead, it needs adaptive structural integrity that is balanced to the natural forces from the environment. Chiropractic has a lot in common with Japanese ideas about the way of life and health. Chiropractor’s job is not about making perfect straight spine but finding Subluxation and correction of Subluxation!!
Zazen meditation has specific instructions for posture. The first thing to pay attention to is the position of the body in zazen. The body has a way of communicating outwardly to the world and inwardly to oneself. How you position your body has a lot to do with what happens with your mind and your breath. It’s very important to keep the spine straight with the lower part of the back curved. All of the aspects of the posture that is important when seated on the floor are just as important when sitting in a chair. The importance of keeping the back straight is to allow the diaphragm to move freely. The breathing you will be doing in zazen becomes very, very deep. Your abdomen will rise and fall much the same way an infant’s belly rises and falls. In general, as we mature, our breathing becomes restricted and less and less complete. We tend to take shallow breaths in the upper part of the chest. Usually, we’ve got our belts on very tight or we wear tight clothing around the waist. As a result, deep, complete breathing rarely occurs. In zazen, it is important to loosen up anything that is tight around the waist and to wear clothing that is non-binding. For instance, the material should not gather behind the knees when you cross the legs, inhibiting circulation. Allow the diaphragm to move freely so that the breathing can be deep, easy, and natural. You don’t have to control it. You don’t have to make it happen. It will happen by itself if you assume the right posture and position your body properly.
Keeping a good posture has many implications for the spine. Roger Sperry, Ph.D. (Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1981) discovered that 90% of the brain’s activity is used to balance your body within the gravitational field of the earth. If your body is mechanically distorted, it will affect the other 10% of the brain’s activity, which controls all the other body functions such as breathing, digestion, and cognition. If the body framework (bone structure and spine) is in an off-balanced or misaligned position it can impede or block the electrical and chemical transmissions of the nervous system, which controls all of your body’s functions. This interference with the nervous system can cause or contribute to all kinds of symptoms and illnesses (in other words, the feeling that “I am hurting or I am sick”). Published research studies indicate that when body balance is restored, the body enters a healing cycle that alleviates pain and symptoms, elevates the immune system, increases blood and oxygen circulation, normalizes nervous system communication and creates more optimum body performance (“I feel good again”). When head tilt develops (as pictured above) and the body becomes imbalanced, the brain stem is compressed, restricting the flow of communication between the brain and body. Health and healing messages are restricted in the part of the body serviced by these compressed nerves. Diminished and impaired function and pain follows. This can cause pain and suffering and decrease the quality of your life. When the body is balanced, there is no stress or tension in the brain stem. This allows communications between the brain and body to travel back and forth unimpeded, promoting maximum health and healing.
If you feel your posture is off it only means you need to look in further and deeper. When you have distorted posture there can be many problems that will cause pain and disease. How does Chiropractic help? Let’s talk about Wabi/Sabi and you will find the profoundness what is healing.
The two dominant principles of Chinese and Japanese art and culture are wabi and sabi. Wabi refers to a philosophical construct, a sense of space, direction, or path, while sabi is an aesthetic construct rooted in a given object and its features, plus the occupation of time, chronology, and objectivity. Though the terms are and should be referred to distinctly, they are usually combined as wabi-sabi, as both a working description and as a single aesthetic principle.
The term wabi-sabi suggests such qualities as impermanence, humility, asymmetry, and imperfection. These underlying principles are diametrically opposed to those of their Western counterparts, whose values are rooted in the Hellenic worldview that values permanence, grandeur, symmetry, and perfection. The contrast to Western principles of aesthetics is rooted in the contrast to Western philosophical premises of power, authority, dominance, engagement, and control, whether of others or of nature.
The design principles of wabi-sabi fall into several categories; of course fine arts like poetry, drama, and literature, have not physical objects, embody these principles in a different way: type, form, texture, beauty, color, simplicity, space, and balance.
In the philosophy of Wabi/Sabi, the work reflects the physical balances found in the natural world. Hence no preconceived formula for symmetry is tenable because nature defines itself by circumstances: a tree grows tall or short, thin or thick, leafy, crooked, etc., in the context of other trees, rocks, water, soil, hummus, etc. in the forest. This balance as circumstance is a design principle for the artist to infuse into a work. The work, like the tree, is unique. The regularity, uniformity, and prescriptions contrived by the artist are secondary to the requirement to reflect a natural and unforced appearance to the object and its context.
We talked about posture is an important component of Zazen and your health. Now we need to take a closer look at how the actual shape of the spine inside your body. Most people are diagnosed with Scoliosis, Forward Head Tilt, Hunch back postures that are connected to health hazard and Pain. Those diagnosed postures and pain are just a tip of the iceberg. On x-ray films, we can see the actual shape of the spine compared to what you can see. There are two things that the healing professionals try to strive for and they are important for a good posture, having a straight spine and having curvature.
Most Chiropractors, Orthopedic Physicians, Physiotherapy, or any other healing professions correct these postural problems tries to make the spine straight and restore the curvature. There are many devices and techniques that try to straighten the spine and restore curvature of the spine. There are techniques in Chiropractic profession that will answer the public questions about the posture problem. Although for a Chiropractor having a normally straight spine and curvature is not the answer for everything.
Just like the concept of Wabi/Sabi of Balance, asymmetry of the spine is not as crucial as most healing professions advertise. In Wabi/Sabi, they strive for uniqueness in a natural process of growth in a tree. This natural process is the same with how Chiropractic views the spine. The famous Dr. Gonstead who established the Golden Standard for Chiropractic Technique said in his book,
“It is not to be implied that the chiropractor’s objective is to straighten the spine. Since every individual has some structural variations, each spine will vary according to those differences. ‘What is normal for one may not be normal for others.'”
The Wabi/Sabi and Chiropractic Philosophy has the same contrast with the western ideals of balance and symmetry. In the medical normal of the spine is based upon structural symmetry. Many medical profession will advise children with a severe degree of scoliosis should get surgery/brace to control the body. Other healing professions would take control of the spine by strengthening the muscles and or use manual therapy of manipulation of the spine.
Dr. R.W. Stephenson said in Chiropractic Text Book, ” Chiropractic does not pretend to “straighten” curvatures by force, or to force abnormal spine to an “educated ideal.”….Neither does Chiropractic adjust with the intention of forcing or driving vertebrae into perfect alignment; for Chiropractic does not treat effects at all. It seeks to remove the cause and the cause is always in the spine. “ Dr. Stephenson further says about postures, “Curvatures caused by occupations, as hod-carrying, bookkeeping, locomotive driving are occupational curvatures. They are adaption to the occupation instead of having a disease….the X-ray shows many vertebra “out of alignment,” and if he has apparent curvatures; if he still has practically perfect health, it is a mistake to adjust these vertebrae……That the spine is just as she wants to be.”
What then? Why do we need a Chiropractor? The job of a Chiropractor is not about aligning the spine to be straight.Chiropractor’s job is to find “Subluxation” and correct them. What is Subluxation? Dr. R.W. Stephenson says, “It is the condition of a vertebra that has lost its proper juxtaposition with the one above and one below or both; to an extent less than a luxation; which impinges nerves and interferes with the transmission of mental impulses.” These subluxations will cause the difficulty to have good postures, deformed shape of the spine, causes pain, and health hazards.
Do you have good posture? Did you see your spine on an X-ray film? When you are meditating or when you’re doing a Japanese Tea ceremony, you should be asking these questions to your self. At our office, we take X-ray films and analyze them and understand the person’s condition and give them health care that you need and nothing Extra. We have exercises that will help you condition yourself so that you won’t need Chiropractic all the time. You have healing From Within!