Pain Relief with Alexander Technique

I began taking Alexander Technique lessons when I had chronic neck pain, so I have personal experience with the process of healing damaged nerves and freeing oneself from the cycle of pain.

When I see a new student, I begin by fine-tuning their balance, so that natural forces of uprightness can begin to replace muscular tension used to hold oneself upright. 

Students then learn how to rotate around their center and use the joints with increasing freedom.  These new patterns of movement are clarified and refined in their lessons, including a focus on activities that causes them significant pain.

As the student begins to understand how they can change their physical habits, we begin to explore mental habits, including responses to pain, which are often part of the pain cycle.  

Alexander Technique lessons teaches the student to integrate the body and mind, so that they can have balanced, adaptive responses to the internal and external stimuli, that is part of our everyday life.

When I started taking lessons, I began having periods without neck pain.  At first I couldn't sustain this, but I knew I was on the right track, and increasingly I experienced longer and longer periods without pain, until one day I realized that I couldn't even remember what neck pain felt like.

Alexander Technique Self-Guided Lessons--Introduction

I will be posting a series of basic Alexander Technique lessons, to be used to reinforce information in private lessons, as a refresher course, and for newcomers to the Alexander Technique.  These self-guided lessons will give you a sense of the topics discussed in lessons.

I'm hoping to frame these lessons in a way that everyone can benefit from them on some level, but they are not intended to be a substitute for private lessons.  An Alexander Technique instructor can observe your habits of movement and provide personalized guidance to increased coordination and freedom of movement..

Lesson 1 (Self-Guided)--Standing Forward and Up

Freeing the Ankles to Establish a "Forward and Up" Standing Orientation:

A common misconception is that standing straight or upright means that you stand perpendicular to the ground, with most of your weight on your heels.  This is a hold-over from the Military Posture, a way of standing that does not maximize agility, balance, or coordination.

Activity 1:  Without bending the rest of your body, shift your weight forward to your toes and back to the front of your heels, moving from the ankle joint, and getting comfortable with your weight balance more forward on your feet.  When you get too far forward and feel your toes gripping the ground, picture your toes extending forward like roots on a tree.  (See below.)

Activity 2:  As you are getting used to balancing more forward on the feet, notice where you most easily pivot on your feet.  Experiment with looking behind you, allowing your entire body to pivot around a Forward and Up axis of rotation.  Try both sides.  (See below)

When you are balanced on this pivot point, the weight of the head is over the ball of the foot, allowing the spine to be free from most of the weight of the head, reducing compression of the spine.

Until the next lesson, continue to practice standing in a "forward and up" position, with the head balanced over the pivot-point of the feet. 


Lesson 2 (Self-Guided)--Sitting Forward and Up

Two common misconceptions about sitting:

1.  Sitting straight does not mean that you sit perpendicular to the chair, which often results in locking the hip at a right angle, so that, as you work on activities that are in front of you, you bend the spine, either at the waist, shoulders, and/or neck.

2.  Tilting the pelvis back, so that you sit on the tail bone causes the upper back and shoulders to round. 

3.  Below are some activities to help you sit Forward and Up, so you entire torso comes toward your activity from the hip joint.

Activity 1:  As you are getting used to sitting on your Sits Bones, notice where you most easily pivot when you are sitting.  Experiment with looking behind you, allowing your entire body to pivot around a Forward and Up axis of rotation.  Try both sides.  When sitting on your Sits Bones, notice that your shoulders are naturally wide.  (See below)

Activity 2:  Now roll back on the pelvis, until you are sitting on the Tail Bone.  Notice how the shoulders round, mirroring the shape of the lower back.  Instead of straightening your shoulders, simply roll forward again, so that you are sitting on your Sits Bones, and notice how your shoulders naturally widen.

Activity 3:  Sit at a table in the Forward and Up Position, balanced on your Sits Bones.  Reach for something far across the table.  You'll notice that your entire torso comes forward from the hip joint.  Now pretend you are coming slightly forward to do an activity like eating.  In the same way that you came forward for a long reach, try to come forward from the hip joint (with a relatively straight back), for this more subtle forward movement.  Many people lock their hips and bend from the waist, shoulders, and/or neck for these subtle forward motions.  (See below.)

Activity 4:  Sitting At a Computer:  Sit in the Forward and Up Position, angled slightly forward from the hip joint, towards your activity (the computer).  Align your computer screen with your angle of vision.  The upper arm is parallel to the side and the elbow is bent at a 45 degree or slightly wider angle, so that your hands land on a slightly lowered key tray.  (See below.)