Foundation-The Interface Between Ourselves and the World

Generally when we look at a system we can isolate it from its surroundings or we draw a line, a boundary.

“This is where the system ends, and this is where it begins.”

We can look at the main connection between itself and the outside world as the foundation. The part of the outside world to which it connects, is its foundation.

When building a building, the foundation is the first part made.

(The plan comes before the foundation, and the idea before the plan so we could say that the idea is the foundation for the plan, the plan the foundation for the making of the building.)

The foundation is usually a part of the earth, or it provides an interface, a solid link or connection between the earth and the building.

The metal framework continues that link upwards.

If we look at the earth and the building as two separate ideas we could say that the earth, particularly the small square parcel of land that the building is going to sit on, is the foundation in the relationship. It provides stability so that the building can be made and while the building is being made. It continues to provide that stability afterwards.

Relationships with the Inside and the Outside

If we look at ourselves in the context of our relationship with the earth, the earth provides stability so that we can walk run or even stand still. Because of the earth’s size, and the gravity that is a result of that size, the earth provides a foundation for us to change. We may change it in some small way, in the context of individual entities, but for the most part, it remains stable so that we can create or experience the change that we desire.

Looking at ourselves and the earth what we have is a relationship. In that relationship, change can occur easily, change that we desire can occur because the earth is stable.

Within the context of our body, we can say that our body is a relationship, actually a whole bunch of relationships. We can divide our body into two parts, the lower body up to the pelvis and the upper body, from the pelvis upwards. We can call the lower body the foundation, the upper body the expression and we can also use a third part, the center, in this case the pelvis, since it connects the two. We could go deeper, the feet, lower legs, thighs, pelvis, lower back, ribcage, neck, head, shoulder girdle, shoulders, arms, forearms and hands, these are parts and where they connect relationships are formed.

Depending on what we are doing, one model or the other may be more useful at the time.

Foundations or References for Change

Whichever model we use, if we are trying to create or understand a change that is happening in our body, in each relationship we can use one part as the foundation for the other.

Our feet and lower legs can be the foundation for our thighs and pelvis. In this case the thighs and pelvis are an expression. We could look then at the thighs as the foundation for the pelvis and the pelvis the foundation for the lumbar spine. In this case, because we are starting from the ground up, each lower part in the relationship, each part closest to the earth, closest to stability is the foundation and the other part is the expression.

Generally, the foundation is the part that stays still, stable while the expression is the part that moves.

With a foundation we have a point from which we can measure and create the change that we want to create. If we are looking at a relationship then a foundation gives us a reference against which to measure the change that occurs (if any.)

Generally, one would hope, when creating a foundation for a building, say a simple one, the top surface of the foundation is flat and level. Not only that, any mounting points, structural elements are set distances apart from each other.

Engineers create this by first digging or marking one point and using it as a reference to locate other points. Meanwhile these points and the foundation act as reference for the first part of the building. Once that is up, the floor below and the floor above can be used as references for the floors that follow.

Which reference used can depend on convenience and facility, which is the best to use at the time? Which makes it easiest to create the change that we desire.

Absolute and Relative References

If you’ve ever written web pages where even a few links are involved you are already used to this idea. If you know the page you are at and the relationship of the page you are going to you can write a full link or a short link. For example, if the page you are lining to is in the same directory of the same sight you can simply reference the file name.

But if the page is being used as a template or copied elsewhere then in that case you’d want to use the whole address.
In spread sheets we have the same flexibility.

We can reference cells based on the cell names, using the a1 cell as the master reference, or we can reference cells based on our current location, two cells down and one cell to the left. (Absolute and relative referencing)

The address that we use provides a reference, a foundation for the change that we wish to create whether linking to another web page on the web or another cell in a spreadsheet.

Creating Stable References

Generally, in relationships with the earth, the earth is the bigger party, it is also relatively stable and immobile and so it is the obvious candidate for the label of foundation.

In the case of our body, doing something while standing, we can make a part of our body stable, immobile, a foundation for the part that moves.

So while standing we can make our feet, ankles, lower legs strong, so that we can do what we want with our upper body. Our foundation may just be our feet and ankles, or it may include our shins, knees and thighs, and even our hips and our pelvis.
If we look at just our lower body, we can look for the foundation within the foundation, say the feet, ankles and shins, while the thighs and pelvis are the expression, relatively relaxed.

And then our waist, ribcage, neck and head can be the foundation for whatever we are doing with our arms.

Working from the Center Outwards

Another way that we can create a foundation for our body is to work from the center outwards. In this case our spine, pelvis, waist, ribcage neck and head can be made stable to provide a foundation for our arms and legs.

In this case our foundation is at our center.

Once our center is firm, we can adjust our connection with the earth to suit.

This could be like building a mobile home, carting it to its new site, and then setting the foundation to suit the mobile home. Depending on what we are doing, one point of view may be more useful than the other.

We could also look at the earth as one big ball, globe or planet. Rather than thinking about the small patch we are in contact with we could think about the whole of the earth. Then in that context, the earth’s center is the foundation for ourselves. It is the point which gravity pulls us in towards and it is the point that we stand up and radiate outwards from.

Choose Your Starting Point

Whether thinking in terms of center or foundation, the most important thing is to be clear on which is which so that you have a reference for the change that you are trying to create.

If you haven’t got a reference then that can be the first change that you can create. You can pick some part of a relationship to use as a reference and if it is less than ideal then change it and choose another.

Anatomy and the Anatomical Position-Let’s have new references for change

Anatomical position is a reference used by surgeons (or people who study dead bodies) to describe the position a body is currently in.
With the body prone, knees pointing straight up and palms facing upwards, we have a reference for describing any other disposition of the body while it is laying on the table.
For those of use that are living and doing things with our body while we are in them it may be useful to have more than just one reference for change.
What is important is that we state clearly the starting position of the body.
Then from there we can go on to describe movements relative to that starting position.
As an example we could start in a standing position with the legs wide and the knees pointing straight ahead. this is our reference. From there we tilt the pelvis forwards while keeping the spine straight.
If we used the anatomical position as our reference we would first have to abduct the legs and then tilt the pelvis forwards.
Having to always use the anatomical position as our reference for movements or positions of the body it is like
having to travel from London to New York in order to get a flight to Paris.
Being able to use other reference positions we can go straight from London to Paris and back again if we choose.
The purpose of being able to choose our reference position is to make it easier to describe what we are doing to get the body from our reference position to our finishing position.
It’s to make the movement description simple, less wordy.
It’s for convenience, efficiency and ease of communicating what we are trying to get the body to do or communicating what a body has done.

Creating References for Change

One way of looking at a yoga pose is that it is a change that we are trying to create.


Triangle Twist

Side Angle

Standing Side Bend

In the process of going into a yoga pose we create a change because we are moving our body from one position into another. We are also changing the parts of our body, streching some muscles while strengthening others. We can also be changing our state of mind, perhaps going from lethargy and unhappiness to a more awake and happy state of being.
In doing a yoga pose (or in doing anything for that matter) we are creating a change, and a question we can ask ourselves while doing a yoga pose is
“What is the change that we are trying to create?”
One simple answer to this question is that given the particular “shape” of the yoga pose we are doing we can be trying to create as much space in our body as possible. As an example, in any pose, no matter which way we our bending our spine, or even if it isn’t bent, one thing we can try to do is make our spine long. In so doing we make our waist long, we open the ribcage and we lengthen the neck.
The degree to which these parts lengthen or open will vary depending on the pose we are in but it is still something that we can try to do.
As a compliment to creating space within our body another change that we can create is that of “letting go.” Having lengthened our spine in a pose we can then relax it, either while we are still in the pose or after we come out of it.
Why try to create space in our body?
Why then let it go?
For the experience of it and because it is what we chose to do. In addition, by using yoga postures as a way of practicing creating space within our body we can learn to carry that openness into anything that we do. We can look for the ways to create space within ourselves or around ourselves so that we have room to do what we are trying to do. (Then afterwards we can let the experience go.) But for now lets get back to creating change.
Having chosen (or been told) the change that we wish to create in a pose we can look for the way to create that change. So that it is easier to create the change that we desire we need references for this change. As an example, if we want to lengthen the spine, one of the ways that we can do this is to divide the spine into parts and then pull these parts away from each other.
Focusing on the part of the spine between the ribcage and the pelvis we can lengthen this part of the spine by keeping moving the pelvis in one direction and the ribcage in the other. We then lengthen our waist. So that we lengthen our neck we move the two parts that it connects away from each other. We move the head away from the ribcage or we move the ribcage away from our head. In either case we lengthen our neck. We create the change that we desire.
How do we create space in the ribcage? We create space between each adjacent pair of ribs. We open the spaces between our ribs. Because of the way the ribcage is structured it is a little bit difficult to do this one set of ribs at a time so we do them all at once. We bucket handle all of our ribs so that they move up and as they do so they separate and so we get space between each set of ribs. We open our ribcage.
While working at lengthening our neck it is relatively easy to pull our head up and away from our ribcage but one other thing that we can do to maximize the length of our neck and to make the lengthening even at the front and back of the neck is we can pull our chin in slightly as we pull our head back and up. Not alot but just enough that our head is level from front to back. Then our neck is maximally long not just at the front but at the back as well. Then not only have we lengthened the neck (and straightened it) we have also created a firm foundation from which the muscles that connect the neck to the shoulders can act from. As an example, the trapezius and the levator scapulae both reach down from the neck to the shoulder blade or scapula. With the neck straight and long and stable these muscles then have a firm foundation from which to pull up on the scapula. Because the neck is long they also have lots of room to pull up on the shoulder blades. As a result we can pull our shoulder blades up to our ears without these muscles “jamming up” for lack of room.
All well and good for me to say “move one part of the body away from another part to create space” but how do we know when we’ve created this space and how do we know if we are continuing to create space?
We feel our body. In this instance we feel our muscles or we sense the information that our body sends us about the state of our muscles. We also feel our joints and if we want to go even further we can also learn to feel the weight of our bones.
If we don’t already know how to feel our body, whether it is our muscles or our joints or even the weight of our bones then we practice. We practice moving the parts of our body so that we can learn to feel them so that we then have references for knowing when our muscles are active or relaxed or stretched or flacid or when our joints our open or closed, or straight or bent. As an example, we can get used to feeling our lumbar spine by tilting our pelvis back and forwards in time with our breath. Whether we inhale as we tilt our pelvis forwards or whether we exhale, what is important (in this instance) is noticing the changes that happen in our lumbar spine as we tilt our pelvis forwards and as we tilt it backwards.
Initially all we may notice is some sensations but we have no way of knowing what it is that these sensations are telling us. So we look in a mirror. With our pelvis tilted fully forwards, we notice that our lumbar spine is bent backwards and we may also notice that the back of our lumbar spine feels a little “jammed up.” We then have a reference for knowing when our lumbar spine is bent backwards.
Going the opposite way and tilting our pelvis backwards we may notice that the back of our lumbar spine feels long or stretched. We then have a reference for noticing when our lumbar spine is bent forwards. Practicing our awareness more and more we then may develop the ability to sense not only when our lumbar spine is bent forwards or backwards but when it is straight.
Using movement and to move between extremes and noticing the way we feel as we do our movements we can learn to feel the parts of our body. One important thing when using movement is to move slowly and smoothly. The slower the better. Then not only are we giving ourselves the opportunity to learn to feel our body we are also practicing our ability to control our body. To move slowly takes control. Once we’ve learned to feel our body we won’t have to move it slowly to keep on feeling it. We can then practice moving faster while still sensing the parts of our body, where they are in relationship to each other and where they are going.
So lets say that we can feel the parts of our body (or at least some parts) and that in the pose we are doing we know the changes that we are trying to create. How do we go about creating all of those changes?
If we are driving from one place to another the important thing is to know where we are going. Also important to know is where we are in relation to where we are going. If we are going to be travelling over a long distance what is also important is having stopping points or references along the way. These are places not only for us to rest but for us to check that we are where we think we are so that we can continue to head to where we are going. So for example, if we are heading from Toronto to Chicago and one of our stopping points along the way is Detroit, then if we somehow end up stopping in New York then we know we have gone wrong. And even though we have gone wrong at least we know how we have gone wrong so that we can correct. If we find that we are still on course then there is no need to correct ourselves. We can admire the scenery and then carry on with our journey but while being aware of where we are so that we can continue towards where we want to go.
Getting back to yoga, so that each change connects to the next or provides a reference for the next change what we can do is travel through our body, creating the changes that we desire as we go along.
We adjust one leg and then that leg becomes the reference for adjusing the other leg. Then we use both of our legs as our reference for adjusting our spine. Then our spine becomes our reference or jumping of point for adjusting and changing our arms. And then we are done. Or we can go back through our body again and fine tune the changes that we have made.Although I started with the legs we don’t always have to do so. We could also start by adjusting our spine first, and then do our legs and then our arms. We could also start with our arms, then adjust our spine and then adjust our legs.
If we know the change that we are trying to create then we can go about creating it, in any order that we choose.
Then if we feel our body at the same time we can experience the change that we create.
To read more about using references for change and experiencing change in specific yoga postures, click on any of the pictures below.

Warrior 1

Triangle Twist

Side Angle

Standing Side Bend

Having references for the change that we want to create is useful for more than just doing yoga. We may use “references” to measure change without even knowing it. For example, measuring our speed while driving if we see that we are moving at 100 mph then we are moving at 100 mph relative to the earth or relative to someone who is standing still. Measuring the speed of a ball we’ve just hit, what we are measuring is the speed of that ball relative to the earth, and relative to ourselves if we are standing still. If we are driving at 100mph and someone drives past us going at 200mph then relative to ourselves that person is going 100mph.
Measuring temperature using the Centegrade scale, if we see that it is 32degrees centigrade then that temperature is 0.32 times the difference between the temperature that water freezes and the temperature that water boils at.
Having a means of measuring temperature, not only can we measure change, but we can also create change. We can check when the oven is at a desired temperature so that we can bake our cookies. If we see that our oven is too hot or too cold we can adjust the heat so that the oven cools down or heats up to the temperature taht we need.
Having a means of measuring speed we can see if we are going faster than the speed limit and slow down. Or if we know how much time we have to get to somewhere else, we can calculate what speed we need to travel at in order to get to that place on time.
In either case, having references for change, being able to measure it, we can go about creating the change that we desire.

Basic Principles for Life

Learn more about “References for Change” in

Ultimate Simplicity and Efficiency
Ultimate Simplicity and Efficiency is about a set of Basic Principles that can
be applied to any aspect of life so that we can simplify it and get on
with living it. Among these principles is that of creating references for change, not just for doing yoga but for use in any aspect of life whether leading, teaching, learning, creating, designing, building or just having fun.
Learn more…

The Coffee Grinder

On one occasion I was at a coffee shop sitting at the counter while one of the staff was in the process of calibrating the stores two grinding machines. There are various degrees of grind ranging between fine and course for various types of coffee machines.
The guy was making sure that when each machine was set to “fine” the grind it actually put out was “fine” as opposed to extra fine, or what was more likely the case, ” really coarse.” Over time and use machines like grinders tend to go slightly out of wack so they need checking are recalibrating regularly.
I watched as he put beans in both machines with both machines set to the same setting. He was talking as he did this, explaining what he was doing to anyone who was listening.
He then poured some of the ground coffee from each machine onto a paper towel, side by side. Even “eye balling the grind” from a distance it was obvious that the grinds from each machine were considerably different.
He proceeded to dismantle one machine and then the other so that he adjust them. In the process, he forgot which pile of coffee corresponded to which machine.
I had left before I had a chance to see what he ended up doing.
Part of my thought thinking back to this instance is that when we are trying to create change it can be a good idea to only change one thing at a time. We know what we are trying to change and it is easy to see when we get the change that we desire. By only changing one thing at a time the things that we don’t change provide a reference for us to measure the change we have created. It is then easy to see if the change we are making is in the right direction or the wrong direction. Back to the coffee machine example, we could then see if the adjustment we made was actually making the coffee even coarser than we wanted or if it was making it finer as we desire.
Another point is that when we are creating change, the more present we are the more engaged in what we are doing the easier and quicker we can create the change that we want. In the above example, if he had been focusing on what he was doing instead of talking to the customers, the mistake probably wouldn’t have happened. Even better, if he had worked on one machine at a time this mix up would not have happened. He could have fine tuned one machine, got it working well so that it put out the correct grind and then he could have worked on the second machine. In each case he could have had a “reference grind” some ground coffee in a bag that he knew to be the correct size for a “fine grind” and one at a time he could have adjusted each machine so that they put out the same size grind as this reference grind.
That being said, I still go back to the same place whenever I get the chance.