How Indians Sit
( Originally Published 1930 )
The same basic principles for posture are employed for sitting as for standing. The Indian, when living a natural outdoor existence, makes use of several sitting postures which the white man has little opportunity to employ in civilized life, but which are excellent practice for development and poise and are of great value when vacationing in the big out-of-doors. A brief outline will suffice.
All Indian postures are studied ; they are absolutely balanced, natural and easeful. Whether on the ground, a log or a rock, the Indian sits ready to spring into instant action and this without any tenseness of the muscles or nerves. Even when crouching, he half squats with the weight well forward, but still poised, so as to lift himself instantly, using the thigh muscles for the pull and the tendon Achilles to push himself up. (Figure 29.)
When mounted upon his pony, the Indian again employs his thigh muscles to bear his weight. His legs and feet either hang relaxed or hug the pony. His spine is always relaxed or at least absolutely flexible. His abdominal muscles hold the internal vital organs firmly in place as a precaution against misplacement through jolting.
The unquestionable value of a helpful posture when evacuating the bowels has long been understood by the Indian, therefore he squats, with the knees well up so that the muscles may easily push forth the feces. This position helps to open and relax the anus. (A hassock or box will answer the purpose in the bathroom, to rest the feet upon and help to force the knees up while at stool.) The Indian method, however, is the natural and normal way.
At meal time the Indian sits cross-legged upon the ground with his weight well forward on the thighs and legs and the tip of the coccyx (the extreme end of the spine) on the ground. (Figure 30.) He believes that the nerve ganglion at the base of the spine is sensitive to earth currents from which he draws power, as do animals, plants and trees ; he also contacts electricity from earth and air; he is grounded. Sitting thus he can easily sense earth vibrations such as hoof beats and can thus be warned of an approaching enemy.
As a rule, the Indian kneels or squats upon the ground while employed in his arts and crafts or when cooking. In all cases the torso is always poised well forward, the thighs assuming the burden of the weight.
If you will try out some of these natural postures while sitting at your work, you will find them both helpful and restful besides keeping the knees and ankle joints limber. The author finds that sitting cross-legged on a couch or the ground while writing is by far the most comfortable attitude and much less fatiguing. The alignment of spinal vertebrae, nerves, neck, head, and brain all work together better for normal mental efficiency. Until taught to sit on chairs, children invariably prefer the ground or floor even when quite grown up.
The Indian seer or adept, who must not be confounded with the ordinary fakir or commoner type of Medicine man, meditates and thinks upon his God and the universe in this or a similar position. (Figure 3o.) Sometimes he places a heel against the anus, to close it, thus preventing the influx of lower forces. He keeps his vital energies and nerve currents circulating within his body, in the form of an eight, and in some cases a double eight, while keeping the mind positively receptive to higher forces from the sun and the universal mind of Manitou. In this way he maintains perfect mental control over his entire body and his emotions. This posture is accompanied by a con-trolled, rhythmic breathing which produces (with meditation, thought and pure living) some very remarkable powers. Only prepared disciples are trained after they prove that they are ready for the work. Their methods are similar to the higher Hindu Raja Yoga practices. Both are guarded with great secrecy, it being considered very dangerous to play with the inner hidden fires and powers of man without due preparation and a purely unselfish desire to live and work for humanity. Otherwise, they believe, dark forces or evil entities may intrude and even take possession of the body. They also believe that such is the case with insanity some entity having taken possession of a living body while the mind of the rightful occupant was not in full control. Many cases of obsession are of a like nature, but are removed with proper treatment of an occult nature with which the Indian seers are perfectly familiar.