Posture, Knots, and Slow Twitch Muscles

“I stand here on the summit of the mountain. I lift my head and I spread my arms. This, my body and spirit, this is the end of the quest.”

Posture is not just how you hold your shoulders and head. It’s a total body position. We just think of the shoulders and head because we sit all the time. When sitting, all you can see of a person is the top of his body. So we forget the rest of it.

When you move forward, backward, sideways, your body is constantly balancing its long self. It’s technically a couple of thin sticks with a really heavy bowling ball on top. Takes a lot of finesse to move that sort of thing through the world. The finesse is curated by an accumulation of nerves, bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. All of your body works to enable you to move through your environment with care.

Sitting in a chair, your body from the butt down is taken out of the equation. You leave it up to your torso, shoulders, and neck to balance your bowling ball. Because it’s been attached to your neck for so long, it’s hard to realize how hard it is to balance something of the weight of your head.

Your head weighs just around 11 pounds. Take a virtual, eleven pound bowling ball and stick it on top of a broomstick. Let’s say you’ve got really strong glue to hold it there. Now hold that broomstick just a few inches down from the ball, where your neck might be. Using the stick, virtually move the bowling ball forward, then backward, keeping it upright. Imagine the effort you need to keep it balanced.

Now tilt the bowling ball forward a few degrees. Hold it steady. You don’t need the real thing in your hands to know that this is quite a task. Now virtually hold it in that tilted position for the next two hours. Or four hours. Or however long it is that you sit at your desk at a time, you crazy human you.

Are your virtual hand muscles cramping yet? Sweating? Achy? How about your virtual forearms? Fatigued eh? You get the point. Your neck, shoulders, and torso work all day in this ridiculous balancing act as you sit slouched. What should normally be done in conjunction with your hips, legs, and feet, at least for a larger part of the day, you are doing with just your upper tippity top body.

No wonder there’s strain on the neck and back.

Your postural muscles, namely the neck, are mostly made of slow twitch fiber. Slow twitch muscle fiber gives small but steady output over sustained periods of time. This type of muscle is much more resistant to fatigue than fast twitch fiber, which gives big output for a short period of time.

Slow twitch fiber is ideal for sustained duties like maintaining posture. They take longer to get tired and only need a small amount of energy at a time. But fatigue is still possible. If slow twitch fiber is strained too long, it will fail. And when it fails, it fails hard.

Slow twitch fiber is known to crumple up into knots when it fatigues. Ever wonder why you keep getting those tight spots on your upper back? Do you sit at a desk for hours every day? Do you have a slouched posture? Do you drive for long distances or time? Think slow twitch fibers fatiguing. You’re hanging your bowling ball at an angle, and the strong glue that is your neck and upper back muscles are pulling back on it all day. At the same time, your chest, front shoulders, and biceps are getting a break. Except that they are resting in a shortened position, because your body is slumped forward.

Long term result: overstretched, fatigued neck and back; shortened, inflexible chest and shoulders. We could put a name to this specimen – the modern human.

Short term fix:

  • mobilize your chest, abdomen, biceps, and front shoulders
  • lay on a tennis or lacrosse ball on the floor and roll out knots
  • drink water and salt
  • breathe deep, relax your muscles

Long term fix:

  • adopt awareness of your posture – there is always something doing work
  • sit with your head balanced – may need to raise your screen and have your keyboard close (laptops are non-ideal)
  • time limit your sitting – does not work without an alarm
  • change your environment – sit on the floor, drive less, stand or squat when talking with someone

Live powerfully and live upright,


Rand, Ayn. (1999) Anthem. First published 1938.

MACKENZIE, B. (1999) Muscle Types [WWW] Available from: [Accessed 27/9/2016]

Sitting in Hyperloop Pods

You are in Hyperloop, zipping toward Singapore at seven hundred miles per hour. The pod glows in the deep, salt water blue of the surrounding ocean. The creamy butter coffee you grabbed from the New York station radiates heat from the bamboo tray.

Including the ten-minute stop in Honolulu, it’s a 2.5 hour trip. Enough time to finish your coffee, maybe enough to read the next chapter of the book in your lap.

The thick, plush cushion is nice. You’re cross-legged on the tatami flooring of your selected section. There’s silver threading in the seat cushion cover. A thin wire connects it to the grounding port of the pod. Naturally you want to be making skin contact with the cushion, so you’ve placed your shoes in the cubby by the entrance. Earthing while commuting. It didn’t seem possible a year ago.

You take a quick break from your novel, noticing the three other passengers. The lady to your left is serenely enjoying the momentary view of a large school of fish weaving through the kelp forest a mile south. This passes out of sight of the large window as she assumes the next yoga pose. The other two in front of you, an elderly couple, are napping. A gentle snore rises from one of them.

You silently chuckle. The dozing pair probably won’t wake until the end of the trip. The clean, spacious pod is sound-proof. Not that much noise would penetrate the transparent vacuum tube through which you are flying. An illustrated book is tucked into the arm of the gentleman, probably for a grandchild awaiting them for a day of fun. The forecast promised a sunny afternoon.

Bright yellow and silver triggerfish meander over the coral reef in Honolulu station. The stop in the peaceful teal waters of Hawaii is uneventful, and after waiting for passengers to board the pod ahead, you watch the fish, reefs, and rocks blend and blur as you accelerate. The next stop is Singapore.

The next hour glides by quietly through the Pacific expanse, with the occasional blip of islands coming and going. Then all goes dark, save the inside of the pod. Light-sensors activate the ambience and a warm glow emanates from the top of the enclosure. The pods travel in complete darkness for a minute, then burst back into the blue. Indonesia.

There’s a slight sensation in your belly as the vessel makes a gentle rise up through the ocean depths. The surface of the water gets closer, the pod making to shatter the ocean ceiling. Bam. In a split instant, marine blue vanishes and crisp atmospheric cyan shines through the windows. You think to yourself that you’ll never get used to that. It will be thirty seconds over the Java Sea to Singapore.

It’s all ocean for a bit, then more green islands whizzing by. You look out the side window, at the jagged waves half a mile out, eerily frozen in motion as if carved out of blue granite. The pod is going so fast there’s no time for waves to oscillate. It’s like passing above the hide of a reptilian behemoth. Closer to the tube, it’s an indistinguishable smear of gray.

Something catches your eye through the front glass. The cityscape of Marina Bay materializes. At first it’s just surfboard-shaped roof of the Marina Bay Sands hotel. It’s visible against the sky, a tiny figure on the horizon. The skyline zooms toward you, little hairs on the globe’s skin rapidly growing, tally marks shooting up into large blocks. The pod begins to decrease velocity. Growing dots of windows appear on the buildings.

A yawn, a blink, and skyscrapers suddenly loom above.

Think About It

Hyperloop pods, the future of transportation, where people spend their mornings and evenings going to and from work.

30 minute trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco, or a two hour trip from New York to China.

Eighty-six percent of U.S. workers commuted to work in 2013.

Half of all working Americans had low back pain in a 1985 study.

According to studies by the Global Burden of Disease 2010, low back pain causes more disability than any other condition. 9.4% of all human years lived were spent with low back pain. 1 of every 10 moments in human life were spent with low back pain.

Few doctors can name a cause for low back pain. Sitting is emerging as a possible cause.

Working 5 days a week: 8 hours a day + 2 hours of commute = 50 hours of sitting.

Add to that sitting at home.

Sitting is the New Smoking

What does sitting have to do with low back pain? The shape of the typical chair or seat forces ninety-degree angles in your ankles, knees, and hips. This is natural, right? Let’s question that assumption.

Dr. Kelly Starrett, a leader in human mobility, has been exposing the effects of sitting and the benefits of full hip mobility.

He provides numerous exercises that “undo” the effects of sitting at a desk.

Young children “sit” in a full squat position without any problem (until we start having them sit in chairs – ask a teenager to sit down in a full squat).

People of cultures that primarily sit on the floor at meals and squat during leisurely conversations maintain the capability to fully squat through adulthood.

Squatting also happens to be the optimal birthing and pooping position.

Sitting in Hyperloop Pods

Hyperloop has the potential to ease low back pain for the world through careful seat design.

Possible solutions: seats low to the floor, allowing passengers to sit cross legged or in a squat position while securely strapped to the seat.

Seat bottoms could be made large enough to allow for passengers to fold up their legs on the seat. Try doing this in a bus or airplane. Unless you are small, it’s quite difficult.

Imagine every car, bus, plane, and restaurant with seats that allow you to sit with legs crossed. Imagine the reduced number of hours spent in a chair-sitting position per day, per week, month, year, lifetime.

Hyperloop can pivot the course of humanity and help build a new era of human well-being. Let’s see to it that traveling and back pain cease their synonymy.

To powerful living,


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