The Graceful Woman is the Healthy Woman - The Evil Effects of an Ungraceful Carriage-exercise Necessary to Counteract the Effects of Sedentary Occupations - Contributory Causes of an Ungraceful Carriage - Simple Exercises - The Power of the Mind Over the Muscles he advantages of a good carriage to any T woman are self-evident, both from the point of view of health and of appearance.
The girl who knows how to sit, stand, and walk gracefully possesses a beauty asset of a very desirable kind, while the appearance of the prettiest woman is spoiled by a slouching deportment. A plain girl who holds herself erect, moves easily, lightly, and gracefully, has a "presence" of which many of her prettier sisters may be envious.
For health reasons, also, it is exceedingly important that every woman should try to acquire a good carriage and graceful deportment. Although it is true that some women are more blessed by nature than others in this respect, a good deal can be done by physical culture. Carelessness is the real cause of slipshod walking, slouching attitudes, and round shoulders. If you hold yourself badly, if you are aware that your carriage lacks the desirable quality of grace, and your figure droops in the wrong places, you can alter the fact if ,you like.
How is it done? In the first place, realise your defects. Look at yourself carefully, critically, and with unbiassed mind in a full-length mirror.
Notice if your chin pokes forward, if your shoulders droop, if you stand straight or tend to rest on one or the other foot, to assume a lop-sided position unconsciously. Probably you shuffle your feet in walking, or take mincing steps. Perhaps you sit huddled in a chair, and have got into the habit of lying in the wrong attitude whilst asleep. Each one of these defects will have to be corrected.
Every bad habit you have formed will have to be replaced by a good habit, and that means a great deal of concentration of mind and self-control. By carelessness and neglect, the habit of slouching has established itself. By care and culture it must be replaced by the habit of unconscious, graceful, and erect carriage.
A certain time each day should be devoted to physical culture exercises, in order to tone the flabby muscles, to practise poise and balance, and to improve the general health.
Fig. 2. The right arm is thrust forcibly into the air, whilst the left closed fist is placed in the hollow of the left shoulder
Evil Effects of an Ungraceful Carriage on the Health
The woman who slouches compresses her lungs and prevents expansion of the chest. The capacity of the chest is markedly diminished if the shoulders droop and the head inclines forwards. This means that less fresh air is taken into the lungs, less oxygen passes into the blood, and the nutrition of all the tissues suffers in consequence. Thus, a slouching gait in itself tends to produce anaemia, a bad complexion, and an appearance of ill-health. The lungs themselves are less healthy than when the shoulders are kept braced and the chest expanded to its fullest extent. The round-shouldered woman, therefore, is more liable to consumption and other lung complaints, because enfeebled lungs are less able to resist the microbes of disease.
The commonest type of ungraceful carriage is associated with round shoulders, and attention should at once be directed to any such condition. First ask yourself if there is any cause for the stooping attitude you have adopted. Short sight, for example, will encourage round shoulders unless proper glasses are obtained for correcting the error of refraction. Badly fitting corsets, or tight clothing, by pressing upon the muscles, and interfering with the action of the lungs and heart, encourage stooping. Occupations, such as reading, writing, or sewing, that entail constant sitting, will produce an ungraceful carriage unless a woman is careful to counteract the condition by exercise and outdoor games.
Apart from stooping, an ungraceful carriage may be caused by high heels and ill-fitting boots. High heels throw the body forward, and produce a jerky gait. They interfere with the natural swing of the leg from the hip, and make a graceful carriage well-nigh impossible. The woman who wishes to acquire graceful deportment must wear well-fitting, comfortable shoes, with a moderate heel placed under the natural heel of the foot. She must choose well-made corsets which do not exert unnatural pressure on the vital organs, a well-cut skirt and underskirt which do not impede movements, and which clear the ground.
The next thing is to practise how to sit, stand, and walk gracefully. By sitting well back in a chair, with the lower part of the spine supported by its back, and the feet resting upon the floor, comfort and support are both ensured, and the spine is held erect at the same time.
In standing, the main point is to stand erect, with the weight equally distributed on both feet, so that a straight line could be drawn from the forehead to the feet. Too many women stand with the lower part of the body protruding, and imagine that they are standing upright.
To walk properly the head should be held up, the shoulders braced, and the feet lifted, to avoid scraping the soles along the ground.
Certain outdoor games if indulged in moderately, and correctly, make for grace. Others, such as hockey, which encourage a stooping attitude and faulty positions, have the reverse influence upon a woman's looks.
Simple exercises must, of course, be practised daily in order to remedy defects, to educate and tone the enfeebled muscles, and to teach a woman how to hold herself erect. Five minutes night and morning devoted to deep breathing is a simple measure, the health advantages of which cannot be too often emphasised.
Almost any simple exercises are useful if they are properly done, but the drawback to many of these is that they are performed mechanically, in a passive fashion, as a matter of routine. Now all physical exercises lose half their value if the mind does not follow the movements, and so bring itself into conscious relationship with the muscles. For that reason, the exercises which we shall now describe are useful because the movements are varied, and the mind must be brought to bear upon their performance, in order to bring each side into co-operation. So note the first four pictures. There are four movements which follow each other in sequence, and which can be repeated for a considerable time without fatigue or overstrain.
Fig. 3. Shoot the left arm into the air and bring the right fist to the right shoulder
First Movement. Stand erect easily. Close the right fist, and put it on the right shoulder with the left arm hanging.
Second Movement. Fling the right arm into the air briskly and firmly, whilst bringing the left closed fist into the hollow of the left shoulder.
Third Movement. Shoot the left arm into the air, whilst the right closed fist is placed on the right shoulder.
Fourth Movement. Let the right arm reach the side, whilst the left hand rests on the left shoulder.
Repeat these movements either with or without musical accompaniment.
These exercises are very popular in Belgium, and many of the Flemish girls are exceedingly agile, muscular, yet graceful, with wonderful control over their muscles.
Practise walking correctly with a basket on the head. It is a splendid exercise for a graceful carriage.
An immense improvement in the carriage of the head and shoulders will be observed, even in a few weeks, if these exercises are regularly practised.
The woman who wishes to be graceful also finds time for walking out of doors as much as possible. She plans her day so that her hours of sitting for needlework, reading, or writing, are divided into various periods, and when she feels her muscles tired and relaxed she spends a few minutes in physical culture exercises. She does not pin her faith to special corsets, supporting braces, or straps. She day after day "suggests" to herself that she will correct her bad habits, her faulty positions, and she gives sufficient time to the exercises which are absolutely essential to strengthen the muscles and increase their vitality.
By these simple means, the muscles are enabled to hold the bones in their proper place, and gradually the drooping appearance, so fatal to a graceful carriage, is overcome. The head is held erect, the shoulders are braced. The whole health is tremendously improved in consequence, ana gains in nervous energy and vitality very considerably.
Many a delicate, nervous woman subject to depression and worry would be cured if she would only take steps to improve her carriage and physique. From the point of view of appearance nothing further need be said upon the importance of a graceful deportment.
It merely remains, therefore, to advise the reader not to lose her valuable acquisition of graceful carriage and movement. Bad habits, alas! are like weeds in their facility of springing up anew. It will not be a tedious or a lengthy matter to retain what has been won by a brief daily practice. Such should be, indeed, a pleasure.
his is a commonsense age. The idea that T most of the ills of mind and spirit can be prevented has spread to all sorts and conditions of people. In the realms of medicine, common-sense preventive treatment is gradually taking the place of remedies and drugs. The mother in the nursery who knows how to prevent illness gives her children a better chance in life than any money or educational endowment.
Fig. 5. How to acquire a graceful carriage. The basket should have something heavy in the bottom to prevent it from slipping