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Tai chi and the Alexander Technique

I recently attended my professional association conference in Leeds and on the Sunday morning after breakfast instead of offering some more workshops to attend the organisers arranged three activity classes and I chose Tai Chi. It was a cool and rather blustery day and around thirty other like minded souls gathered in the lovely grounds of Leeds Trinity Uni on the grass under some trees.

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We formed a circle and I noticed some people were barefoot so I decided to give it a go and this was the start of a rather special experience. I could sense the cold damp grass, the undulations in the ground and once I started to take in the space & other people around me I felt a greater connection with the world around me. We then spend over an hour doing gentle movement exercises paying attention to the contact with the ground, our centre or dantian and the space above the crown of our head. As we were all Alexander Teachers used to mind body practices we all started to flow in our movement and you could see the freedom that we were all experiencing through the joy and smiling expressions.

Towards the end of the session we did a kind of bird flapping or wafting with our arms and hands. Initially we were all probably a bit out of sinc with each other then gradually we seemed to become connected with each other somehow and everyone was moving with synchronicity it was a really special moment that I won't forget.

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5 ways to improve your posture & relieve back pain

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Remember we all start off like this but something starts to wrong soon after we start school but we can do something ourselves to restore some of our natural poise by noticing our postural habits. Here are some useful tips to sit better and improve your overall posture.


#1 What type of chair are you sitting on? 

I prefer a plain old stool, Chair backs make you lazy and stop your postural muscles in your back from working.

#2 Locate your sitting bones and use them!

While sitting slide your hand underneath your bottom and locate the two nobbley bits - these are your sitting bones and form the basis of the support for your upper body when sitting. Now slump, what do you notice (you are no longer sitting on your sitting bones). So find your sit bones again - you will probably feel more balanced and poised and on your way to better posture.

Improved posture

#3 Wear your invisible crown

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Think that you are wearing an invisible crown and think into the top of your head as your spine lengthens towards the crown of your head. Alternatively you could think of the upper molars (the teeth at the back) coming away from your sitting bones. You may get a sense of your torso lengthening at this point.

#4 Notice where your feet are

Are your feet tucked under the chair or your legs crossed? We all know these are bad habits, but seriously they are bad habits which may cause us to overarch our lower spine as we need our legs and feet to help support the weight of our upper body.

#5 Notice any tension in your shoulders

Observe any tension in your shoulders and allow them to soften. Slumping causes us to have rounded shoulders and a rounded upper torso, which ultimately can develop into a dowagers hump.

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So to recap, we now know we have sit bones, so try using them more. Why not put a post it note on the edge of your computer screen to remind you. We can think into our invisible crown and notice if our shoulders are opening out naturally or are they rounded or raised.
Apply these basic skills and you are on your way to having better posture.


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Does back pain run in families?

I read today in the US survey of Back and Neck Pain that 21% of respondants thought it ran in the family. This I found very interesting because apart from a few heredetary conditions, back and neck pain are unlikely to be inherited. So what is going on here?

Human beings are very strange we often adopt behaviours and habits from the people we spend most time with. We are all very aware at how good children are at mimicking adults from an early age, well what if children subconsciously follow our own habits and look very like us as adults.

If you slump in a chair a lot at home, or if you have an usual gait when you walk or tilt your head to one side when you talk. Maybe your children or family members pick up these habits too.

So what I am suggesting is that back pain may be as a result of habits we pick up from an early age.

I am aware myself that within my family there is a history of back problems. Interestingly my father often walks around tightening at the hips in a slight stoop and then walks with his hands clasped behind his back. On occasion before I discovered the nature of habit with the Alexander Technique I was known to walk like this too. I had also back problems in the past.

Maybe bad backs do run in families but it maybe down to the way we use our bodies not down to a heredetary musculoskeletal condition.


African lady walking with poise


Next time you go for a walk observe what you might be doing with your body. Do you bounce up and down, do you lean back with your hips and pull your shoulders back. Watch other people walking its quite amusing as you will see all kinds of strange habits when walking. Clearly the lady above has not developed any bad habits when walking.