by Laurie Kline
Pain in the body can stem from many factors: a fall, car accident, scoliosis, and bad posture, etc. No matter what the reasons may be for your back pain, you should know that how you move throughout the day can make a difference in how it feels and how it heals. You are most likely unaware of the forces that you are constantly setting in motion every time you move. What makes it difficult is that we are not sensitive to these unconscious choices. The choices we make unfortunately go unnoticed because they are so much a part of our everyday reactions. Every time you make a decision to move, your brain sends a signal to the muscles, which creates muscular tension that is habitual, automatic and very quickly established. If it is an inappropriate and destructive pattern then it will cause you trouble over time.
Say you have a pain in your lower back and you are sitting and standing in a way that compresses the area where you experience the pain. At this time you may not even feel that you are compressing your spine, and even if you do feel the compression you may not see another possibility or strategy of how to improve the way you sit and stand. The possibility of your seeing how you may have brought about the injury through years of bad physical habits may seem rather theoretical at first. You may not have considered the fact that there is more than one way to go about sitting and standing. But let us just say you do know that changes need to be made. Your instinct will be to start to make a change in your seated position once you are in the chair, right? That may seem obvious in most people’s minds, but by then it is too late in the sequence to make an appropriate change. If you want to change an inappropriate way of sitting you need to start at the moment the thought occurs to you to sit. The first step is to see that once you think of sitting or standing or walking, the brain is setting up a programmed response.
In most people’s minds the process goes like this:
You decide to sit, the brain tells the usual muscles to work in the way they have always done, which is: sitting as you know it. And you sit. You see you are slumping and you try to sit up straight by stiffening and holding yourself up.
After lessons with an Alexander Technique teacher:
You decide to sit, and at this moment in time you are still standing. However, since you are schooled in the Alexander Technique you will see how you have already in your mind “sat down.” Even before you have bent your knees to sit, your brain sent a quick message to the body to respond habitually by hunkering downward towards the chair, thus compressing your back. This is a pattern shared by most people. A trained Alexander teacher can see and feel these small compressive patterns before they have gone very deep and she will have given you the tools to stop and choose a better response.
From an Alexander Technique point of view this is the “Aha” moment, or the moment of choice. Remember, you are still standing, there is still time to change this pattern to a more reasoned one. From your Alexander technique lessons you will know that this habitual pattern leads to a deeper compression as you get lower to the chair. Most importantly you will see this habitual pattern before it goes too far, – “Aha. “ You will be able to bring about corrections which leads to a better way of sitting, thus giving the area around your injury the space and possibility for healing.
“If you would become educated, first know thyself”