QW Week Six – The Water Bearer

This week’s practice has great postural benefits.  It will help to open the shoulders, lengthen and straighten the spine, bring the legs under the pelvis and encourage healthy rotation in the lower back.  We will be walking as if we were an ancient water bearer carrying vessels of water across our shoulders.

QW 06

For this practice, simply extend your arms out to your sides with your palms facing outwards and your fingers pointing upwards.  With your arms extended in this way, your shoulders open and the muscles of your back engage.  As the muscles of your back engage, they gently pull on the spine helping to straighten it upwards and balance and stabilize it.  You can begin walking straight away with your arms in this position.  As you walk you will notice that your legs naturally come under your pelvis, and your pelvis naturally aligns under your spine.  You need to have good alignment through your whole skeleton to support the weight of your arms extended out from your sides,  and this walking practice will naturally encourage this.  You should focus on the feeling of being very upright with your shoulders wide and open.  If you struggle to feel this, you can try getting a pole and putting it across your shoulders to get the idea, or if you want to you could even hang some weights from the ends of the pole to help amplify the effect until you can feel it with just your arms.

If your habitual posture is not ideal, you may find it difficult to straighten out like this for long periods of time.  Any imbalance in your alignment will cause your arms and shoulders to become fatigued as they have to work harder than is necessary to maintain the posture.  If this is the case, don’t push yourself too hard.  Walk like this for awhile, and when you become tired lower your arms and continue walking while they relax, then try extending them again.  It helps to remind yourself to not hunch your shoulders up but keep them open and relaxed down.  It also helps to keep the point of your elbows facing the ground.

If your spine is slouching or collapsed it cannot rotate freely, to do so it needs to be lengthened and balanced as it is in this practice. While you are walking, trying turning around from time to time as well.  You will notice that this posture really encourages healthy rotation in the lower back.  You will notice that when you go to turn your shoulders and head naturally rotate first before the hips and feet follow.  This makes for a healthy relationship between the hips and shoulders and healthy nerve activity into the intestines from the nerve which come from the lower back.

Once you are comfortable walking with your arms extended like this, try lowering them to your sides and see if you can maintain the same sense of uprightness and balance through your hips, shoulders and spine.