Being present and noticing our reactions

What a strange and challenging couple of years we have all had. I think that all of us have had a tough time and have handled the situation in different ways. I have certainly found myself on heightened alert.
As we are starting to emerge from the worst of the pandemic I thought it would be a good idea to remind people of the relevance of the Alexander Technique to how we handle everyday situations.

Our reactions to what life throws at us can have an impact in all sorts of ways. It can leave us fearful and stressed, with a resultant additional layer of tension in our body that we are not even aware of. If we carry on in this way we may find that our old areas of pain resurface to some degree or we remain on heightened alert and become stressed, often over reacting to situations. However if we start to reapply some of the principles of the AT we have a chance of restoring some our natural balance.

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Let's just try this little exercise so we can move from" being in our head" to "being in our bodies" and experience ourself as a whole.

Find a nice supportive chair where there is peace and quiet

Firstly let us just stop & press the pause button, you don't have to do ANYTHING just sit quietly........................... 
What do you notice? Do you notice your breath? - I often find when I come to quiet that I involuntarily take a deep breath.............................. 
Now let's think about the support of the chair, our sit bones & the support of our feet on the ground. Feel connected to the supporting surface
So we are not only connected to the ground but get a sense of the space all around us, above our head, behind us & in front. Think of our 3 dimensional whole and allow yourself to take up that space and if you are a fan of the Great British Bake off imagine you are the dough rising in the bowl as it proves
Now again be present listen to the sounds around you.....................
We can now think some Alexander thoughts. Think of our sitting bones on the chair and our spine & torso are supported like building blocks and finally our head sits gently on top of our spine. We can think of releasing any tension in the shoulders and neck as we think of lengthening & widening in the whole of the upper body as we continue to grow into the space all around us
Notice if there is any tension in the jaw, think of the jaw hanging from the little hollows behind the ear lobes
Sit quietly and observe how you feel overall 
I hope you have found this useful and I that you could maybe try this daily for the next 7 days and let me know how you get on. You don't have to be sitting you could try it while you are waiting for the kettle to boil.

How did you get on with the 7 day challenge? Let me know - I welcome feedback

Essential tips for home workers to avoid the pain of poor posture

Over the past couple of years a lot of us are home working. At work we will have probably had an HSE assessment for our workstation and maybe we have had special chairs or equipment provided to help us sit more comfortably then we switch to working from home leaving all these aids behind. If you have been working from home for a few weeks maybe you are starting to experience neck or shoulder pain because you are not sitting comfortably.

So here are 5 tips on how to improve your posture when sitting at a computer.

#1 What kind of chair are you sitting on?
I prefer a plain old stool. Chair backs make you lazy and stop your back muscles from working properly. If we use a chair with lots of lumber support this doesn't help strengthen your back muscles, so when we do other activities we already have weaknesses in our back. It's no wonder we are prone to slipped discs when we attempt a spot of gardening or DIY. A useful tool I show my clients is the use of a foam wedge to sit on. This encourages a more upright posture and is a good investment rather than buying a posh office chair.

Foam wedge for sitting#2 Notice where your feet are

Are your feet tucked under the chair? Are your legs crossed? We all know these are bad habits, but they are seriously bad habits that can cause overarching in the lower spine. You need your legs and feet to help support the weight of your upper body so place them flat on the floor.

#3 Locate your sitting bones and use them!

Sit bones

  When seated slide your hand underneath your bottom and locate the two knobbly 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?). Find your sit bones again - you will probably feel more balanced      and poised and on your way to better posture.





#4 Wear your invisible crown

 always wear your invisible crown 5

Imagine 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) moving away from your sitting bones. You may get a sense of your torso lengthening at this point.

#5 Notice any tension in your shoulders

Your arms and shoulders work more efficiently when you are sitting upright. The arm is a ball and socket joint that hangs beneath the shoulder girdle. Let your arms hang down to the side of you. Observe any tension in your shoulders and allow them to soften. Slumping causes us to have rounded shoulders and a rounded upper torso, which can develop into a dowagers hump.
Now think about the hands leading the arms towards your desk and the computer. Practice initially with the palms of your hands on the desk, think about your shoulders softening, releasing any tension you may have and let the elbows hang down. Turn your attention back to your sitting bones and feel the support of the chair - think about your torso lengthening. You are now ready to start work.
If you need to lean over your desk it's useful to know where your hip joint is. Most people think it's to the side of the pelvis when it's actually where your trouser pocket is. This is not only where we bend but we can also use this joint to maintain an upright posture and straight back when sitting. So to lean forward go over the hip joint keeping a nice straight back.

Improved sitting   A quick recap
  * You have sit bones so use them more. Why not put a post it note on the edge of your computer screen to remind you.
  * Think into your invisible crown and notice if your shoulders are opening out naturally or if they're rounded or raised. Allow       them to soften.
  * Apply these basic skills and you'll soon be on your way to having better posture.

            And in the words of Alexander

                     Its not the furniture its how you use yourself FM   

AT Girl with arms in air

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. 

  1. 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.
  2.                                                Balanced on sit bones
  3. Now allow your attention to go into the space above your head, think of your spine lengthening upwards as your head releases upwards.
  4. always wear your invisible crown 5
  5. Rock backwards and forwards in the chair continuing to think about length up the spine.
  6. Next time as you rock forwards go onto your feet and extend upwards to stand up with your head leading you. 
  7. You should have found this an easier way to stand up out of a chair.