The Alexander technique
Tired of the perma-hunchback look? Give the Alexander technique a go.
Before you read this article stop and look at how youre sitting. The chances are your tummy muscles are loose, your shoulders are hunched forward and your legs are crossed.
OK, now uncross your legs, sit up straight and hold your shoulders back. How does that feel? Weird, but nice probably. If you check yourself again in a few minutes, however, youll probably have slipped back to where you started.
Dont worry, we all have a tendency to be slack about posture. The problem is that over the years our bodies adopt all sorts of lazy habits that actually make us more prone to injury, aches and pains. This is where the Alexander technique can help.
What is it? The Alexander technique is a method of postural awareness that teaches people to become more in tune with the way their body moves. Devised by Frederick Matthias Alexander, an Australian actor who suffered stress-induced breathing problems, this method consists of re-educating the body to achieve postural harmony. Nowadays the most common reasons people take it up are back and joint problems.
Sessions are soothing and calming, so dont expect to get sweaty or achieve a gym-style afterglow. First, a teacher will assess your posture and how you move about. Then, over a number of lessons he or she will teach you how to sit up straight, walk without hunching over and educate you about other techniques that will improve balance and co-ordination and relieve pressure on the spine.
One key point, for example, is learning how to loosen your neck so that your head extends gently forward. This movement results in a natural lengthening of the spine, which releases muscles and joints all over the body so that alignment is improved. This minor shift in how you carry yourself allows you to move your limbs more fully and helps you to breathe more easily under pressure.
The head weighs about ten pounds so places a tremendous load on the rest of the body, says a leading Alexander practitioner, Malcolm Balk. He adds that if you sit staring down at your keyboard all day with your head hanging forward, you put extra strain on the spine to support it. According to Balk, if you walk or run with your head tilted slightly upwards, as most of us do, you will be compressing the vertebrae in your neck causing stiffness and pain.