Salvador, Bahia in the Northeast of Brazil throbs with a pulse that is African and Brazilian all at once. In spite of the particularly brutal conditions of slavery in Brazil, the African immigrants kept their musical and dance traditions alive. Salvador, Bahia is where the Afro roots of Brazilian culture are most in evidence. I visited two times and those visits reawakened something in me from way, way back — from when my ancestors drummed and danced in Africa 60,000+ years ago. There’s nothing that gets to my gut the way African / Afro-Brazilian drumming and dancing does. Here follow some posture lessons I brought home from that magical place.
Healthy posture is sexy
Bathing beauty in Salvador, Bahia.
Healthy posture looks sexy, feels sexy...it is sexy! Healthy movement patterns result in a slimmer waist and juicier hips for women, and broader shoulders and better-toned gut for men. As one of our slightly bawdy physician referrers puts it, “you get a tummy tuck, boob job, and butt lift all for the price of one course.”
More seriously, you’re really not doing your reproductive organs a good turn when you internally rotate your legs, tuck your pelvis, and put your (imaginary) tail between your legs. The reproductive system, like all your other systems, needs sound architecture, vigorous circulation, and healthy innervation (nerve action) to perform its amazing range of functions. Over the years, our Gokhale Method teacher team is very proud to have been proffered credit for romantic matchups, improved sexual function, conception of babies, and sans trauma deliveries.
Healthy posture connects with and facilitates joy of life
Preparations for Carnaval in Salvador, Bahia.
You’ve got to give it to the Brazilians for outstanding ability to have fun in the face of grave challenges. As with all strengths, when taken to extremes, strengths can become weaknesses — sometimes work doesn’t get done; sometimes children roam the streets uncared for...
I visited Salvador, Bahia two times, including during Carnaval preparation time in December. Salvador is the party capital of Brazil, with most events happening in outdoor spaces and on the streets. It doesn’t matter what you wear; most people are stripped down to little clothing. In the bigger parties, you are surrounded by people whose energy is infectious. Limited to a tiny space, dancers express themselves in small writhing movements that are artful and powerful and do not escape your notice. The song callouts notch up the general energy level and the crowd takes it from there. Truly intoxicating.
There’s magic to be had from samba or any traditional dance form
Dancing in El Pelourinho in Salvador. The name of the plaza means pillory, or whipping post, where African slaves received punishment for various infractions, as well as for disciplinary purposes.
In trying to figure out what makes Brazilians stand out (though this is sadly changing with the rise of junk food consumption) in their physique, I concluded that samba was a part of the equation. Samba is ubiquitous in Brazil. You samba to celebrate a soccer win, you samba to spend time with your friends and family, you samba (differently) when you need to work through a difficult emotion (e.g. saudade, a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia that is a mainstay of Portuguese or Brazilian culture). Whatever your reason, samba means you are toning your glutes, abs, and leg muscles, loosening up your shoulder girdle, stimulating circulation throughout your body, and laying down helpful neural pathways in your brain. Samba, I came to an early conclusion, is the ideal counter activity to sitting (or standing) behind a computer. It strengthens and lengthens appropriate muscles, it patterns you for healthy walking, it helps keep dementia at bay (helpful for your computer job — tell your HR person that!), and it helps connect members of a corporation or community.
So here’s a little snippet of what lies ahead of you, straight from the environs of Brazil:
But first (yes, there’s a catch!) you must learn your basics in our ever-popular Gokhale Method Foundations course. Our course, which has earned us the #1-ranked intervention (out of 44 interventions for lower back pain) on the crowdsourcing website healthoutcome.org, will teach you the basics needed to samba without swaying your back and pounding your joints, and rather, become the new (old) sexy, joyful, healthy you!
This post is part of a series about posture lessons learned from Esther's travels. See the previous installment, about Burkina Faso, here.