Many kinds of muscular pain are caused by unconscious habits of tightening, compressing, holding or collapsing the body for extended periods of time. An Alexander Teacher can identify these habits and gently improve how a person uses his body in a way that is pleasurable and practical and gives results that are long lasting.
In a study conducted by The British Medical Journal comparing massage to the Alexander Technique for relief from back pain, participants who had 12 Alexander lessons were largely pain free a year later. Whereas those who had massage only were still in pain.
The following is a short list of some of the issues that bring people to study the Alexander Technique:
- Poor posture
- Repetitive Stress injuries
- Back, shoulder and neck pain
- Painful joints
Many people who have desk jobs develop issues listed above. All of these issues can be eliminated or greatly reduced from the practice of the Alexander Technique.
One of many benefits from the study of the Alexander Technique is good posture. Good posture must be sustainable and almost, if not completely effortless otherwise we will not be able to maintain it. We are not practicing a militaristic type of, “Standup Straight, shoulders back chest forward” kind of postural improvement. Instead we are unlearning bad habits and may be very surprised at the ease and comfort and lightness of the resulting good posture.
One of the most distressing postural ailments is jutting the head forward. If you notice many people have this posture from texting and slumping forward. When the head is jutted forward from its neutral position on top of the spine the 10-12 pounds that head weighs is supported by a set of muscles that are not designed to hold this weight and fatigue and pain are the normal result. Every time the head is craned forward to text or look at a computer screen this habit is reinforced until even when standing the head is craned forward. This can result in neck pain, shoulders rolled forward and the development of a fat pad a dowager’s a hump at the top of the back. Even people in their late 20’s have these humps unfortunately. Following is a link to an article about the Alexander Technique.
Having good posture has a positive emotional impact. Part of the effect of poor posture affects mood and self-esteem and is a “protective” stance. Hunched shoulders, collapsed torso and habitually crossed arms convey negative emotions to others but more importantly they reflect our own feelings about our lives, the world and ourselves. Through the study of the technique the posture changes and emotions and confidence change as well and one experiences much more positivity and confidence overall.
We learn poor postural habits over many years but we can undo them permanently with the Alexander Technique. Check out this article and this one in the New York Times for more detailed information about the effects of poor posture.
The Alexander Technique teaches you how to have excellent and sustainable posture in all activities: sitting at the desk, texting, driving, working out and doing chores, gardening house work, etc.
Mindfulness in Activity
A tool that Reduces stress and anxiety: The goal of the Alexander Technique is to teach a person how to be more at ease in all activities of life. It is a practical tool to use in dealing with the stresses of modern life. It enables one to react far less and stay calmer in stressful situations. Perhaps this is why so many chronic pain sufferers find relief by studying the Alexander Technique.
One of the things a student explores in an Alexander Technique lesson is their stress response or the fight/flight/freeze response. You probably see and experience the fight/flight/freeze response all the time and just never stop to think about it. When you are worried, late, in an argument, have a big deadline, have to give a speech chances are you have activated the fight/flight/freeze pattern and are unconscious of it. When this response is activated we compress and pull our heavy heads downward onto the neck and keep it there. In fact many people are chronically in a state of “high alert.”
In an Alexander Technique lesson we will examine your head/neck/back relationship and see what unique patterns of tension and stress you are maintaining. They are probably patterns that up till this point have been unconscious. Once these habitual patterns are brought into awareness, we will work out a way for you to undo them. In other words, you’ll re-train your brain to be more conscious of your un-constructive habits – whether they are postural, mental, or emotional – or all three.
What are body mechanics? It is how you use yourself in everyday movements. Take the act of sitting in a chair : Now a days we sit in chairs and not on the floor or on stools the way we did centuries ago. We have “adapted” the way we move to the conveniences of modern life. When modern man sits in a chair instead of gently bending at hips, knees and ankles to sit, he usually “falls” into the chair, slumps when he arrives and cranes his neck and tighten his lower back to rise. By learning the Alexander Technique we learn how to sit down in a chair and standup with incredible ease and no extraneous tension.
Substantially increases ease of movement: Many people walk very heavily, with flexed ankles and their heels hit the ground with a mechanical thud. Others unconsciously compress their torsos downward when moving. This increases the force of gravity and diminishes the ease with which the joints can move. In addition many people end up heaving from side to side instead of naturally lightly flowing forward.
Learning Balance and coordination in everyday movements such as climbing stairs, ladders, lifting heavy objects are part of the Alexander Technique.
As a landscaper my day-to-day routine is filled with opportunities to pull a muscle or do more serious harm to my body. “Up and away” has become a little mantra and by implementing the core principles of the alexander technique I’ve been able to go about my work, efficiently and with an ease that continues to surprise me. What was once a deliberate practice has become second-nature and when I notice myself slipping into old habits I am able to pause and make minor adjustments with very little effort, and I continue to be encouraged by how I feel at the end of the day.
– Jay M. | Landscaper and long time student of the Alexander Technique