FM Alexander (1869-1955) was an Australian actor whose own habitual patterns wreaked havoc on his voice. He recognized that when he rested his voice his voice improved. Since no one was able to help him with his chronic laryngitis and since he knew that he was causing the problem he decided that he would figure it out for himself. Thus through incredible observational skills, he created the Alexander Technique and spent his entire life honing it and making it the amazing technique that we know today.
Based on the Alexander Technique (AT) I’m going to share with you a few unknown sometimes counterintuitive ways for you to add simplicity and ease into your life.
To those unfamiliar with the Alexander Technique, it is a mindfulness practice that addresses how you move and think. Through mindfulness and attention to yourself, you learn how to move better with less muscular tension, pain, and stiffness. As a result, you feel tremendous freedom when you move instead of laborious strain. So read on for some surprisingly different advice!
- Don’t try. Stop trying. In particular, stop trying hard. FM Alexander said that “Trying is only emphasizing the thing we already know.” If you want to do something in a new and improved way then trying just gets in your way. Instead of “trying,” think “allowing.” Tell yourself that you will allow yourself to play the piano. Tell yourself that you will allow yourself to walk a mile today. Tell yourself that you will allow yourself to lift these weights. Got it?
- Always Sit On Your Sitz Bones! This is how: first, sit on a hard chair and slide your hands palm-side up under your bum. Do you feel the boney bits? Those are your sitz bones (otherwise known as your ischial-tuberosities.) This is where you are meant to sit. The bottom of your pelvis is shaped like a “U”. Many of us rock back off the bottom of the “U” and this forces us to slouch. To sit with any degree of ease you need to be on your sitz bones.
- Sit On A Sitting Wedge, particularly while at the computer. Most furniture is designed to look pretty, not to help you sit naturally. A sitting wedge elevates your hips higher than your knees, which is a good thing. Your hips are more comfortable when they are higher than your knees. A lumbar support pillow allows you to easily lean back in a chair and still remain upright. You can click this link to find a sitting wedge on Amazon and click this link for lumbar support.
- Ditch Your “Ergonomic” Chair and use a hard kitchen or dining room chair with a wedge and a lumbar support cushion. Here is a link to an article I wrote about why you don’t need an expensive office chair. “Ergonomic Chairs”, and I put the words in quotations for a reason, are expensive and well, not very ergonomic. Many chair seats tilt backward and this forces you to slouch forward to partake in any task. So use a hard kitchen or dining room chair and fix it up with a sitting wedge and lumbar support cushion such as the ones photographed above.
- Stop Doing Neck Exercises, instead think about softening your tongue, jaw, and, neck. One of the tenets of the Alexander Technique is that the way your head relates to your neck and the rest of your spine dictates how well you function. In other words, if your neck is tense so is the rest of the body. Too much tension interferes with the way that your body moves through space. Most of us use way too much muscular tension to get through our days. Softening your tongue and your jaw is an easy way to address too much tension in the neck. Remember the ear bone is connected to the toe bone. Everything about you is in relationship to everything else. Pay attention to jaw and tongue tension you will be amazed at your transformation.
- Stop Stretching. In Fact, Stop Stretching Altogether– think instead movement and repetition equals flexibility. Really. In an NYT article, journalist Gretchen Reynolds writes: “The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, concluded that if you stretch before you lift weights, you may find yourself feeling weaker and wobblier than you expect during your workout. ” It turns out that stretching can damage the muscle and make it less resilient. Instead, try this. Do a motion that may be difficult for you. Maybe you are stiff and inflexible. Maybe the move is lying on the floor and tucking your knees to your chest. Then do it again. Then do it a third time. Do you see how much easier it is by the third time? You don’t need to stretch in a conventional way static way. You just moved in succession and as a result, you are more flexible. This is called rhythmic stretching and is much gentler to your body. But still, don’t stretch your neck!
- Pay Attention To Your Senses. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you feel? What do you taste? Paying attention to your senses brings you into the moment. When you pay attention to the moment you stop the rushing around and the chaos of life. So when things feel a little unbearable take a moment to key into your senses and enjoy the relief.
- Stop Taking Deep Breaths, Instead Exhale Then wait until you feel the necessity to breathe. When you exhale you are emptying your lungs and preparing for a wonderful long deep inhalation. Long exhalations and inhalations stimulate the vagus nerve which helps regulate your parasympathetic nervous system. In short, it calms you down! Watch my video below on how to practice the Alexander Technique breathing called the Whispered Ah. Click here for the video.
- Practice the Wonder Pause. Get out in nature and let it sink in. I know that you know this but it is worth repeating. You need to get outside and take in nature. Look at the sky, listen to the birds, breathe in the fresh air, feel the warm sun or even the cold wind. I call it the Wonder Pause and you can learn more about it here: Wonder Pause.
- Take Time To Do your Alexander Technique Lie Down. You may be wondering what the Alexander Technique (AT) Lie Down is all about. Lying down on the floor (or in a bed if you cannot get down to the floor) is a cornerstone of AT. We live in a Go-go world with everyone rushing around from here to there all tense and stressed out. When we practice the technique we make a conscious decision to bring rest into our lives. When we stop and rest we can reset ourselves, relieve tension, feel better and then continue our day in a calmer more relaxed way. Lying down for 15-20 minutes once or twice a day can be transformational. Be consistent with it. You will get better at lying down for longer periods. Click on the video here for more instruction.
Sometimes we think that it takes something very complicated to solve a seemingly insurmountable problem. A problem such as back or neck pain, anxiety, or even unhappiness. It has been my experience that simple solutions can make all the difference in the world. I have offered some very simple solutions or practices in this blog post. I promise you that by just choosing to adopt a few of these changes you will see improvement in your life. Choose ease my friends!
How You Move Matters!
Teaching people how to move well is my passion.
Our culture is way too sedentary. In fact, you may have heard that sitting is the new smoking. Think about that for a moment. Sitting for long periods of time can be as detrimental or even worse than smoking! That is astonishing!
But how can you move more if you are in pain and everything about you is telling you to move less?
The key is that it is not just about moving more but also about moving better so that you can move more freely, and with less pain and stiffness.
When you learn to move better you will feel light and free and you will want to move more.
Over the years I have helped thousands of people to get out of pain and to get on with their lives. That is why I write a weekly- or almost weekly blog post. Sometimes I even create vlogs or instructional videos. My mission is to get people feeling better in their bodies so that they can lead a more active and happier life as they age.
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My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a fitness and movement coach. My methodology is the Alexander Technique, a mindfulness practice that teaches you how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves! Let me know what you think or ask a question! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to post in the comments section below and feel free to share this with your friends!