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The Myth of Aging

One of the most ancient and famous of riddles is that of the Sphinx: "What is it that has one voice and yet becomes four- footed and two-footed and three-footed?" In Greek mythology, Oedipus provided the correct answer: the human being, who crawls on all fours in infancy, walks on two legs in adulthood, and leans on a cane in old age. This answers the riddle of the sphinx. But it does not answer a second riddle that lurks within the first: Why is it that humans, having learned to walk upright, may lose this ability and often end up walking with a cane? Clearly, the presumption is that to grow older is to become crippled. This presumption was accepted in the fifth century B.C. when Sophocles wrote about the Sphinx, but oddly enough it continues to be accepted in the late twentieth century. “It is obvious,” we all declare. “Aging itself causes us to become stiff and aching. From the fifth century B.C. to the twentieth century, A.D., as humans become older, they become crippled and infirm. How could it be any other way?” But there is another way… Human beings, once they advance from crawling on all fours to walking on two, no longer need regress to a limping posture as they become older. That is to say, the bodily decrepitude presumed under the myth of aging is not inevitable. It is, by and large, both avoidable and reversible. I know this to be true, because I have seen it occur thousands of times…

—from “The Myth of Aging”, the introduction to Somatics – Reawakening the Mind's Control of Movement, Flexibility, and Health by Thomas Hanna