We’re only a few weeks into 2019 and do you already feel overwhelmed by yet another well meaning but predictable health headline? Articles telling us about the benefits of everything from running to golf, the dangers of what we should or shouldn’t be eating or doing, revelations that we’re sitting for too long (but don’t stand for too long either) and that we’re even holding our phones and tablets incorrectly. So what are we to do?
Pause, take a breath and relax. At the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (STAT) we have a very simple answer; focus less on the all or nothing mentality and just make sure that whatever you’re doing, you do it in a way that doesn’t put your body at risk of injury and illness.
But first, let me explain a little about the Alexander Technique. It’s a holistic, self-empowering approach which educates us to be more aware of harmful postural and mental habits which may be the cause of stress, pain and a multitude of everyday ailments and complaints. By improving posture and being conscious of how you move – whether sitting at your desk, getting up from a chair or running a marathon – the technique teaches you to undo bad habits and re-discover how to use your head, neck and back in a coordinated way. By learning to give priority to the poise of the head and the whole spine, you can relearn how to use your body in a more natural way as young children do.
Acclaimed by celebrities, sports personalities, musicians and actors worldwide – Madonna, Dame Judi Dench, Lenny Henry and Benedict Cumberbatch to name but a few – it’s an educational process rather than a relaxation technique or form of exercise and this is where the difference lies.
The Technique teaches you how to prevent unnecessary tension in everyday activities, mental or physical, to stop problems and ailments developing in the first place. In the long run, this translates into less neck pain from holding our phones incorrectly and no back ache from attempting to stand whilst writing a report because we’re concerned that the article we read this morning said we’re all sitting for too long.
To return to our initial question, it’s about striking a balance of activities and ensuring that whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it in a way that means your posture is as good as when you were a small child – before you picked up lots of bad habits. It’s no good ditching your office chair for a stand up desk if you’re going to spend the day standing as badly as you were sitting. Leaning on a high desk with your weight predominantly on one leg is just as detrimental to your wellbeing as being slouched over a computer with no proper back support.
The Alexander Technique teaches you to recognise and undo bad postural habits and can be applied to absolutely anything you do. Using your body incorrectly every day, whether sitting, standing, running or swinging your club on the golf driving range, can lead to a whole host of health problems such as back and neck pain as well as the detrimental effects it has on the skeletal and muscular system.
People often turn to Alexander Technique lessons after years of suffering from something such as back pain, sometimes having spent thousands of pounds on different solutions such as orthopaedic beds, massage, physiotherapy, osteopathy, chiropractors, acupuncture and health spas – you name it.
These can all help, often providing a temporary quick fix but the pain inevitably comes back. The reason is that the underlying cause, usually bad habits of excessive tension and bad posture, is still there.
During Alexander Technique lessons we address these habits and help you become more aware of when you react in the same habitual way so you can stop the pain triggers at source. As we all know, it is much easier to acquire a new habit than to unlearn one that has been with us for years. What is more, once familiar with it, this is a Technique you have the choice to apply it in everything you do.
Usually a block of about 15-25 lessons, if taken regularly and frequently, should be a good start for a long-term journey of self-discovery and improvement. At the beginning it’s good to have two or three lessons close together and then gradually spread them out more. Some people find that the benefits affect other aspects of their lives and continue to take lessons for a long time.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could all learn to use our bodies better to prevent problems and pain in the first place?
To find an Alexander Teacher near you call 020 8885 6524 or visit www.alexandertechnique.co.uk
By Ilia Daoussi