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Walking - a lesson in observation

It's a beautiful summers day today but how many people have taken the time or have the awareness to observe the little things going on around them?

Most people from my experience of asking where they look and have their vision directed will probably be looking no more than 30 feet in front and for a lot of people it will be a great deal closer than that. Why I often ask and they reply that they need to see what they are walking on and where they are going to take their steps, there is a fear of falling, tripping or standing in something unwanted. I then counter this by suggesting that the only way you can actually see where you are going to place your feet is by directly looking down at our feet which is very difficult and none of us want to do that.

So what is actually going on when we are walking. Our eyes act as receptors for the brain and take in information which then used to adapt to where we walk and our balance or propreoception also adapts to changes in the surface so minor adjustments are made to how we walk. Now this can be done by looking 30 feet in front or 100 feet in front of us as the brain is still taking in the information and processing it and making corrections or changes as required.

As I have previously discussed in other blogs the head is very heavy (about 10-14lbs) and if you lower your vision and drop your head this will put a huge strain on the muscles supporting your neck and be a potential cause of neck pain. So next time you are out walking try being more aware of your surroundings notice where the focus of your vision is and be more attentive.

In terms of how we walk there is no correct way to walk but there are ways to improve our fluidity and balance when walking. So here are a few pointers. Firstly, think of your support from the ground, the soles of your feet, sense your socks in your shoes and really let the ground support you. From this base we can think obout the support that our skeleton gives us - up the shins, up the thighs, through the pelvis and up the spine to the crown of the head and including the space above our head. When we are walking it is important that we maintain our true height, often people enter a purposeful "stoop" as soon as they walk (not a good look!). Rather than taking large srides, try shortening your stride a bit as large strides can create a shock through your heels and up through your knees. Try thinking of the back foot rolling from the heel towards your toes as your weight shifts forwards resulting in a spring off the bendy part of your foot. As you spring off your back foot think tall. Try this walking slowly at first maybe barefoot in the house and as you speed up just let your arms swing naturally with the rythmm of your walking. If your arms don't swing it probably means there is some stiffness somewhere and you are hindering your movement to some degree.

So give this a go and remember in walking there is no right or wrong just habit.

This is what Brian had to say about his Alexander Technique lessons:

"I decided to walk across to the retail park today. When I got back and checked my fitbit it said that I had covered 5.4 miles for the day. Seeing that I had only been pottering about in the house before that including a lot of time at my computer desk, I must have walked near enough five miles. Normally I would have been in pain and my lower back almost completely seized. I am happy to say that I only had sore feet (probably from wearing light trainers), a few achy muscles and a slight pain in my lower back. I could have happily continued." 

Feel free to use this as a recommendation.
 
Brian W 

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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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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