"The Owner's Guide to the Body"
by Roger Golten
Reading history and reviews
Finished on 29th October 2009Another book that I'd had for a while and not got around to reading until now. I think I'd expected this to be a rather straightforward book on anatomy and health for the layman, though I don't know why I thought that - instead it takes in various ideas from less conventional practices such as rolfing, hellerwork (of which Roger Golten is a practioner, although I'd have to admit I'd never heard of it until I read this book) and other "somatic" therapies which take a more holistic view than the perhaps more traditional mind/body divide.
The book turns out to be an easy and interesting read, starting off by challenging the idea of the mind/body divide and encouraging the reader to take a more holistic view. It then moves on to examine various everyday activities such as standing, walking, sitting and even breathing, with a view to explaining how the body operates when engaged in these activities. Golten's assertion is that often the "normal" way that we do things can actually be quite bad for us, but by paying attention to anatomy and biomechanics we can change for the better.
Golten has a readable and engaging style of writing, peppered with light humour and lots of quotes from philosophers, scientists (most frequently Buckminister Fuller) and luminaries from various therapies, and I found many of his discussions to be quite thought provoking - particularly memorable (for me) is the advice on sitting, and the quote (attributed to Fritz Perls) that "fear is excitement without breath". On the downside, it felt in places like a mish-mash of bits from different therapies, which could make it feel a bit insubstantial at times - and also I found myself a little sceptical of some of the scientific facts that were quoted near the start.
However as a student of Alexander Technique I found that many of the ideas in the book chimed with my own view of how the mind and body interact as we go through life, and while I didn't have a major shift in my views I did find it extremely interesting, with a number of useful practical suggestions alongside the more general food for thought.