Da Vincian Principle 6: Corporalita

Corporalita — The cultivation of grace, ambidexterity, fitness and poise.

Leonardo’s extraordinary physical gifts complemented his intellectual and artistic genius. Among the citizens of Florence, he was renowned for his poise, grace and athleticism. His skill as an equestrian was of a very high level and his strength was legendary. A number of scholars have suggested that Da Vinci’s passion for anatomy was a reflection of his own extraordinary physique. Walking, running, swimming and fencing were his preferred forms of regular exercise.

Da Vinci believed we should accept personal responsibility for our health and well-being. He was a vegetarian and accomplished chef. He also cultivated the balanced use of both sides of his body by painting, drawing and writing with both hands.

He urged, “Learn to preserve your health!” and offered the following advice on maintaining well-being:

• Beware of anger and avoid grievous moods.
• Rest your head and keep your mind cheerful.
• Exercise moderately.
• Shun wantonness and pay attention to diet.
• Eat only when you want and sup light.
• Eat simple foods.
• Chew well.
• Go to the toilet regularly.

Whatever your God-given strengths or weaknesses, you can dramatically improve your quality of life through a comprehensive approach to corporalita.

So how can we follow in Da Vinci’s footsteps and develop corporalita?

Develop a fitness program — Da Vinci’s life was an expression of the classical ideal of mens sana in corpora sano, a sound mind in a sound body. Incorporate aerobic conditioning, strength training and flexibility exercises into your fitness regimen.

Study practical anatomy — Understand the human body, but more importantly, understand your own body.

Relearn poise — Leonardo was renowned for his effortless, upright poise and grace. Watch for inappropriate effort in everyday activities such as sitting, bending, lifting, walking, driving, eating and talking. Be aware of your posture and the impact it has on how you function and feel.

Cultivate ambidexterity — Taking his cue from Michelangelo, Leonardo — a natural left-hander — cultivated ambidexterity and regularly switched hands when working on The Last Supper and other masterpieces. Since the right hemisphere of the cerebral cortex controls the left side of the body and the left hemisphere controls the right, there is much evidence to suggest that coordinating both sides of the body promotes the coherence and balance of the two hemispheres. To develop ambidexterity, practice crossing your arms and legs in reverse of your normal pattern. Experiment writing with your non-dominant hand. Try drawing with both hands simultaneously. Learn to juggle.

Adapted from How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci by Michael J. Gelb