What does freedom mean to you? - this was a trailer I heard for a programme on the radio coming up next week. The trailer included excerpts from famous people talking about the usual things associated with freedom such as liberty to do what you want to when you want to. However this got me thinking and I think its many things not only the above but if you have mobility problems your freedom is restricted in a different way as you are unable to fulfil a life that you want to. I was in this situation around 14 years ago. I was active, competative and filled my life with doing stuff. Being sedentary was not for me but suddenly I was trapped and my lower back was ceased up, I had horrendous sciatica and I even had to rely on a neighbour to drive me to the chiropractor.
Over time my back pain got better but the sciatica persisted and it was really very dibilitating, my freedom was certainly curtailed. I needed to find a solution quick. By chance my friend suggested I try Alexander Technique lessons but this was not a quick fix she said. I didn't care as I wanted to find a permanant solution to my pain. I was fortunate that after a few sessions of Alexander Technique lessons that my pain started to dissipate and I was able to return to what I wanted to do and lead a very active life.
So essentially learning the Alexander Technique has enabled me to experience the freedom I believe we should be able to do. I am very active sailing, cycling, playing golf and skiing.
How does the Alexander Technique help? It helps us to achieve freedom of movement. How does it do this? Well many of us have a very faulty awareness of the functionality of movement. Let's call it faulty living anatomy. I think its essential that we learn where our joints are located that are used in primary movement first such as for going from sitting to standing (& the reverse!) bending (and I don't mean the HSE ergonomic idea of bending of back straight and knees bent) and also our points of support and hence balance when we are standing and walking. I don't really care about real anatomy - the proper names of body parts its the useful bits of how we function and use our body that are important if we are to achieve balance, poise and freedom of movement.
Let's try this little example of how to get in and out of a chair.
- To attain balance in the chair we need to locate our sitting bones. Place your hands underneath your bottom and locate the two knobbly bits. These are your sitting bones.
- Now allow your attention to go into the space above your head, think of your spine lengthening upwards as your head releases upwards.
- Rock backwards and forwards in the chair continuing to think about length up the spine.
- Next time as you rock forwards go onto your feet and extend upwards to stand up with your head leading you.
- You should have found this an easier way to stand up out of a chair.
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.
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.
5 ways to improve your posture & relieve back pain
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.
#3 Wear your invisible crown
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.
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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