The Heady Heights

Wow, you’re tall – how tall are you?” Is a question I often get. At just shy of 6’ I am above average height for both men and women in the UK, so I suppose it is not a surprising, if somewhat blunt, question. However, this is not the most inconvenient thing about being tall. I have to shop in the tall section for clothes, I need to watch I don’t bang my head in country cottages, and there is the restricted leg room on aeroplanes – ah those were the days! Thankfully with these negatives come some great positives – easily reaching things on the top shelf at the supermarket, changing light bulbs without a ladder and, one of my favourites, being able to see everything at concerts.

When I was a teenager, I was very self-conscious about my height. Mainly because all my friends were a good bit shorter, so I was always stooping. Then when I went to university and joined the rowing club, notorious for recruiting giants, my posture improved. I realised height gave you a distinct advantage in this sport. Unfortunately, all the rowing did make my shoulders lopsided. As a long-term stroke sider (rowing blade out to the right of the boat), I developed stronger muscles in my left shoulder. I am pretty sure this is why I have suffered with neck and shoulder problems in this area ever since.

I have just finished reading ‘Rolfing and Physical Reality’, by Dr Ida Rolf. She talks a lot about how function affects structure and the impact of gravity on our bodies. This got me thinking about how our body size and shape impact our ability to do things and that in turn impacts our shape. By moving out of balance over a prolonged period of time – as in rowing to one side everyday – we train our bodies to move in that way, which means other parts of our body are then working harder or not as effectively.

By definition very few people are actually average height. And, as the world has been designed for that average (male!) height, our bodies are always adapting and moving to accommodate this. We all know about having our desks correctly set up for us, so our screen is at eye level and our wrists are not bent. (Easier said than done when we are now working from our spare room or kitchen table.) However, have you thought about the height of your kitchen work surface or the size of your car – folding 6’ into a mini or 5’ stretching to see over the dashboard of an SUV. What about the height of your pushchair, lawnmower or washing line? Or maybe you wear high heels to make you taller and have shortened your calve muscles as a result.

My husband has recently raised the height of our kitchen extractor fan. We have both been banging our heads on it for the past 18 months – why did it take so long for us to think of that? What do you find yourself doing, on a regular basis, that if you were a little taller or shorter would be a lot kinder on your body? Think about how you are adapting or compensating and whether that might be having a knock-on effect on your body’s structure.

So, going back to Dr Rolf, although I don’t use her techniques, I can see that I am also trying to enable your body to work with and not against gravity. To create space and realign your body…putting it back to where it should be.

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