This article was originally published in Positive Health issue 42 – July 1999
What is your idea of human beauty? Do you fancy giraffesque necks or chipped teeth? Or do you prefer huge and bulky buttocks and droopy breasts? If scarred and tattooed skin, stretched and pierced ears and lips are not to your liking, what about atrophied feet?
These features may not appeal to you, but to others, in different parts of the world, they are highly covetable signs of beauty.
It is easy to scoff arrogantly at these mutilations and deformities which pass for beauty. But let’s not be too hasty in our judgement. The aesthetic tastes of our so-called civilised Western world differ in degree only, not in kind.
The corset, which was in great demand not so long ago, has been responsible for many deformities and suffering. Today, there is a resurgence of tattooing and piercing, and for the latter, in places that no sane person would even think about. The civilised foot, crushed in the contraptions we call shoes, always ends up definitively ugly and painful. There is also the deformity of the superwaif look or of the musclebound hunk enhanced by steroids. This non-exhaustive list suffices to prove that our boasted civilised condition has not improved much on the varied standards of beauty of the so-called primitives.
Society imposes on us a false, spurious idea of beauty. In pursuit of this misguided ideal, many resort to short-cuts: cosmetic/plastic surgery, silicone implants, lipo-suction, enlargement and the use of all sorts of pills. The resulting “beauty” is highly plastic. Its cost is high, and not only in terms of money as the beauty thus obtained usually ends up in an unhealthy ugliness that can even be life-threatening.
We are witnessing an obsession with the body beautiful without a clue of what constitutes it and how to develop it in a natural way. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder (get it out with Optrex said Spike Milligan), it is high time to educate the said beholder. But don’t count on the fashion industry or the world of advertising and most of the media to train your eye in recognising beauty. They all plot to coax or coerce our bodies into an unnatural mould.
What is beauty then? The artists in ancient Greece asked themselves this timely question and, after painstaking study and work, found a reasonable answer. By selecting the most beautiful parts of various individuals, they combined them into a well-proportioned, symmetrical and harmonious tout ensemble. Guided by this patchwork the Greek sculptors, driven by a Pygmalion impulse, created a paragon of the “human form divine”. It is in these ancient Greek sculptures of the Classical period that we can look for a safe criterion of true and natural beauty. But before you go off to study these statues let me give you the description of an ideal body:
From the front: the collar-bones, the shoulders, the nipples, the space between the arms and the ribs should be symmetrical and on the same level;
From the back: the neck should show an appearance of length and fullness (no grooves), the shoulder-blades should not stick out and should be level, the shoulder and pelvic girdles should equally be level;
In profile: the nipples should be the most protruding points, below them the anterior outline of the thorax and abdomen should be straight down to the pubis; the posterior contour should not be concealed by the arms which should be situated between the rear 1/3 and the middle 1/3 of the torso. The middle finger should fall in the middle of the side of the thigh;
In the standing position: with feet together from heels to tip of the big toes, the legs should be in contact at the upper thighs, the calves, the knees and the ankles bones. The inner bones of the ankles should be higher than the outer ones. The foot should widen out from the heels to the tip of the toes which should be spread out and lie flat on the floor. The sides of the feet should be straight, the inside one should be notched by the arch which should be visible;
In the forward bending position: with head hanging down, feet together and legs straight, the spine should present a uniform convexity, the knees should be in line above the ankles and should not turn inwards.
What I have just described constitutes the template that guides the Mézièristes in their work. A trained eye is needed to detect slight deviations that can make the difference between success and failure in a treatment. It’s not always the most obvious deformities that cause the most trouble.
Now, get rid of your clothes and have a look at yourself in a full length mirror. Don’t be too disappointed if the apparently innocent description given above is not what you see (don’t blame the mirror). You might find it difficult to simply put the feet correctly together and to get all those unruly toes to lie quietly flat on the floor. And what about your knees? Do they look cross-eyed? Are they far apart as if they hate each other? Or are they so closely, so firmly together that your feet don’t stand a chance to ever meet?
I am sorry to tell you that any departure from this description should be interpreted as abnormal. Any deviation from the norm (or beauty) is pathological for it is always the cause of aches, pains and malfunction – present or future.
Do you qualify for a place on the pedestal of the Greek model? If yes, you are normal – and an exception, a rarity. If not, don’t despair, you are not in an irreversible condition.