Sitting Up Straight With Dana Davis 

The Balance Method aims at restacking American spines.

As a professional flamenco dancer, Dana Davis thought she knew exactly how to stand up straight. "I had always been taught these three basics: Tuck your pelvis, suck in your stomach, and lift your chest," Davis said.

Then one night in 1994, she attended a slide show hosted by an advocate of the Balance Method, a modality that blames back pain on bad posture. The slides compared the standard American posture with the postures of people in other parts of the world.

"It blew my mind," Davis recalled. "In our culture, everybody walks around perpetually leaning forward or in a backbend, growing shorter over the years as their feet get bigger." But as the slides revealed, indigenous people as well as urbanites from Bhutan to Bali to Peru to Portugal "walk straight and tall even into old age. They don't shrink. And they do not tuck their pelvises, suck in their stomachs, or lift their chests.

"I thought: That's it. I'm never walking the wrong way again. I changed everything: the way I walked, the way I sat, the way I danced, and the way I did yoga," Davis said.

It wasn't easy, but the Holy Names College alumna became so committed to the restacking of American spines that she trained at Berkeley's Authentic Movement Institute, Palo Alto's Balance Center, and other venues, and now helms Petaluma's Sonoma Body Balance center. Her workshop at 4th Street Yoga (1809 Fourth St., Berkeley) on Sunday, January 9, is called "The Three Myths That Are Causing Your Back Pain." Those three myths, of course, are our old pals suck, tuck, and lift.

A key aspect of the Balance Method involves changing the classic sitting position, resting not on the tailbone or sacrum as most Americans do, but on the two sitz bones, aka ischial tuberosities, which are the front-and-forward projections of the pelvis.

"If we can get onto those bones, the pelvis then has the right positioning, and the angle of the sacrum will be right," Davis said. "The spine sits on top of the sacrum, so if the angle of the sacrum is wrong, the spine will just collapse. If the angle of the sacrum is right, the spine stacks up correctly."

In order to achieve this, "tilt your pelvis. Aim your 'fig-leaf area' to the seat of the chair, and unbend from the hips. It feels odd at first because most people aren't used to sitting on those bones." But it's worth the effort, because "sitting in a really rounded position — like a cashew — is not just bad for your back; it's bad for your organs and can crimp the arteries in your neck that affect the blood flow to your brain."

Babies around the world have natural, healthy postures, Davis said. "Then at age three or so, they start taking on the postures of their cultures. I look at six-year-old American kids and I feel so sad. They're already a disaster." 1:30 p.m., free. 4thStreetYoga.com

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