When we move, six separate muscle groups interact in the human back. My model, a tolerant dancer with a string dipped in wet white paint across her shoulder blades, shrugs, humps forward, raises each shoulder up and down, then bends side to side, creating an image that depicts what these movements look like: wing-like designs. No wonder we imagine that angels sprout wings on their backs. The normally invisible impression asserts itself there each time we move.
In yoga, the model did four poses to produce this design: the side-bend, the back arch, the forward bend and the reaching-up pose. I superimposed a photograph with an upward reaching gesture because the arms suggest stretching to heaven. The historical picture I chose to exemplify this is the Russian army surrendering to the Germans in World War I, a powerful moment in history. But, in other circumstances, upraised arms can also signify celebration of victory. In Hawaiian hula, we see the same position in sacred reference to nature gods in the mountains and the rain.
Whether in surrender or celebration, when we bend, move side to side and extend our backs, unknowingly, we create an image of wings on our backs. As a symbol, wings remind us to fly away from danger or move toward joy. They connote the heavenly assistance of angels.
Pictured at the top of this page: Back Blue