( Originally Published 1930 )
A graceful, easy carriage, especially while walking, is greatly to be admired it is an art. The American Indian has mastered this art to perfection. He walks, runs, glides, or creeps with equal ease, maintaining perfect poise. He also moves noiselessly. Swift or slow it makes no difference which his method is the same.
With the increasing use of automobiles, walking seems to have gone temporarily out of fashion and with aviation, we fear, there is danger of it becoming a lost art! But only temporarily, for walking is an important and indispensable exercise as well as man's natural means of locomotion. Walking, not only once but several times a day, is necessary for the maintenance of health and happiness.
Walk whenever you can. Preferably not over the same route daily; a change of scene brings change of thought and this helps to keep one out of a rut. Make it a point to walk in the country or to take long hikes over the hills or mountainous trails for a holiday. Think cheerful, happy thoughts while enjoying the exercise. Breathe deeply and draw in an abundance of life-force to be distributed over the entire body. Walk with a free, easy, springing stride and drink in the beauties of Nature everywhere about you with appreciation.
To walk, as many do with considerable effort, pushing the foot forward and then pulling the weight of the entire body nearly three feet every step (Fig. 4), is hard work! With every step the weight of 150 pounds, more or less, must be hauled. If you had to pull a 150 pound weight, lifting, hauling, or pushing it at every step, you would soon realize the tremendous amount of energy uselessly expended. Walking is especially wearing when the back is held rigidly erect (Figures 5 and 6), for the jar that every step produces upon the spine is nerve racking. It produces a wobbly and graceless hip motion as well.
The Indian has figured it out so as to spare himself all unnecessary exertion and consequently can finish a sixty mile walk with perfect ease apparently as fresh as when he started. His endurance at all times is astounding. One of the secrets is that he is never guilty of wasting energy—such as pulling his own weight needlessly.
Miles may be covered by using the Indian's system of walking and with little or no fatigue. His system is invigorating, refreshing and exhilarating.
How Indians Walk
EXERCISE 5. It is a good plan to exaggerate all of the positions and motions at first proceeding slowly and carefully figuring out the weight placement and poise.
1. Assume the correct standing posture.
2. Allow the arms and hands to hang relaxed, swinging easily and naturally with the rhythmic movement of the body.
3. Balancing on the left foot take the first step with the right foot. Use the thigh muscles to lift the right leg. Bend the knee and keep the foot and ankle relaxed. (Figure 7.)
4. The forward motion of the leg should come from the hip joint only. Be careful not to sway the body to one side but keep headed straight forward.
5. Swing the body forward. The weight of the body itself is all the force that is needed to carry you forward—no pulling is necessary. Poise lightly on the right foot as it comes to the ground, the muscles of the thigh doing the principal leg work. Balance the weight over the arch of the foot, equally distributing the burden between the ball of the foot and the heel. It depends entirely upon how fast one is moving whether the ball of the foot or the heel touches the ground first.
When the weight is thrown properly forward the action of the heel and toe is so swift as to appear almost simultaneous.
6. It is important that the knee and ankle should be slightly flexed and perfectly limber in order to make the step with an elastic spring and thus relieve the head and spine of all jarring. The springy motion of knees and ankles acts as a natural shock absorber.
7. In poising the weight on the left leg, when making the first step, be careful to carry the emphasis of the burden fairly distributed over the arches and thighs. The knee and ankle should be flexible to facilitate an easy, springy action. (Figure Io.)
8. The spine should be relaxed or flexible, of course, and the abdominal muscles held in and up. The head should be held easily poised, chin drawn slightly in. Any stiffness prohibits easy graceful movement. (Figure 9.)
9. Between steps an opportunity is given the free foot and ankle to take a brief rest. Simply relax them at the finish of a step and during the lift forward for the next step. When the muscles of the thigh are used to lift the leg, the knee and calf also enjoy a momentary relaxation and rest. Brief as it may be it amounts to considerable, just as the rest between heartbeats or breathing rests the organs of respiration and circulation, and gives the system greater energy and endurance.
10. Walking is a constant "falling forward," as Emerson says.
This should not be done forcefully but gently, easily, and rhythmically. This Indian method of weight placement will conserve energy and save the useless pulling and hauling of tons of weight per day together with the subsequent wear and tear on the nerves and muscles. Learn to store that energy and reserve it for more important purposes; to keep young and enjoy a long, useful life.
11. The breath, when walking, should be rhythmic. Practice taking the same number of steps to inhale, to hold, and to exhale. For example: Take four steps, inhaling slowly; hold for four steps; exhale slowly during four steps; hold again for four steps. Increase the number of steps to the breath as you acquire strength and power with practice.