LIFTING brings us to the use of the entire body, which is considered simply in the most common of all its movements,–that of walking.
The rhythm of a perfect walk is not only delightful, but restful; so that having once gained a natural walk there is no pleasanter way to rest from brain fatigue than by means of this muscle fatigue. And yet we are constantly contradicting and interfering with Nature in walking. Women–perhaps partly owing to their unfortunate style of dress–seem to hold themselves together as if fearing that having once given their muscles free play, they would fall to pieces entirely. Rather than move easily forward, and for fear they might tumble to pieces, they shake their shoulders and hips from side to side, hold their arms perfectly rigid from the shoulders down, and instead of the easy, natural swing that the motion of walking would give the arms, they go forward and back with no regularity, but are in a chronic state of jerk. The very force used in holding an arm as stiff as the ordinary woman holds it, would be enough to give her an extra mile in every five-mile walk. Then again, the muscles of the throat must help, and more than anywhere else is force unnecessarily expended in the waist muscles. They can be very soon felt, pushing with all their might–and it is not a small might–officiously trying to assist in the action of the legs; whereas if they would only let go, mind their own business, and let the legs swing easily as if from the shoulders, they might reflect the rhythmic motion, and gain in a true freedom and power. Of course all this waste of force comes from nervous strain and is nervous strain, and a long walk in the open air, when so much of the new life gained is wrongly expended, does not begin to do the good work that might be accomplished. To walk with your muscles and not use superfluous nervous force is the first thing to be learned, and after or at the same time to direct your muscles as Nature meant they should be directed,–indeed we might almost say to let Nature direct them herself, without our interference. Hurry with your muscles and not with your nerves. This tells especially in hurrying for a train, where the nervous anxiety in the fear of losing it wakes all possible unnecessary tension and often impedes the motion instead of assisting it. The same law applies here that was mentioned before with regard to the carriage,–only instead of being quiet and letting the carriage take you, be quiet and let your walking machine do its work. So in all hurrying, and the warning can hardly be given too many times, we must use our nerves only as transmitters–calm, well-balanced transmitters–that our muscles may be more efficient and more able servants.
The same mistakes of unnecessary tension will be found in running, and, indeed, in all bodily motion, where the machine is not trained to do its work with only the nerves and muscles needed for the purpose. We shall have opportunity to consider these motions in a new light when we come to the directions for gaining a power of natural motion; now we are dealing only with mistakes.