Overwork and Study Pressures Can Harm You

 

Studying can damage you – if you mis-use yourself 

 

 
Offices and performances have deadlines and exams get students working long hours. Some people will be damaging their health in the process. This has been understood for a long time. As Mary Wollstonecraft said in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman 1792, ‘People of genius have, very frequently, impaired their constitutions by study or careless inattention to their health’
People still pressure themselves into over-working intensely (in-tense-ly – get it? ) at the expense of their health, whether it is reaching deadlines for the boss, feeling stressed, aiming for high scores in exams, over-practising on a musical instrument, or pushing themselves way beyond their natural limits in dance or sports. The end gainingno pain no gain’ attitude has, unfortunately, led to many injuries over the years, which so often stop the person working or performing altogether. We don’t need to do that. How much better when we pace ourselves and are mindful of how we are using our bodies, particularly under stress.
 
 
Be mindful of your habits and how much tension you put into your mouse hand
 
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Are you aware of how much tension you put into your mouse hand and do you keep working without a rest, despite RSI pain developing and making life miserable? This does not serve you – stop such habits now, before they stop you working! Many people set their equipment up well but do not notice how they actually use them. Do you tense yourself as you anticipate using the keyboard and ‘getting down to work‘? This downward energy will restrict your hands and arm use and such compression often results in neck and back pain.
Become aware not just of what you are doing but how you are doing it.  Be mindful of your habits and allow your hands to move towards the keyboard and mouse softly and freely, without any reaction of tensing up. Keep reminding yourself not to tighten as you work and take frequent little breaks to free up your hands, arms and back again. This will also clear your mind and help you work better. This is easier to do with the help of an AT teacher.
Don’t mindlessly ‘Keep going until it’s finished’, without taking breaks
It is a common story that new AT pupils tell me as they describe why they have come for Alexander lessons ~ ‘I felt I had to keep going because ‘it’ was so important and then I got headaches / RSI / hurt my back / got ill / strained a muscle’… Many people raise their blood pressure levels because of stress and overwork and that driven ‘nose to the grindstone‘ attitude towards work, usually distorts our posture and impacts on our general health. 
 
If we thrust our neck out to look at books, phones and screens, we collapse the chest and our (heavy) head gets pulled forwards and down. The neck is constantly held out in front of the torso, so that it gets more and more tense as it tries to hold up the weight of the head without proper support from the bony structure of the skeleton and back. The neck and head become out of alignment – typical of ‘Text Neck’! This distorts us and puts a lot of pressure on the neck vertebrae and the upper back so that Kyphosis develops, frequently resulting in damage and pain. It also pushes extra weight down into the arms and hands, making hand-use more difficult and restricted – very unhelpful if you want to make music, for instance.
 
This fixed, pulled down posture has been beautifully portrayed in a sculpture, ‘The Scholar’ shown below, which was exhibited in Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens, Cape Town. How familiar is that body-shape in those that study hard! You can see how the heavy weight of this man’s head has been dragging his body down; endless study giving him a wealth of knowledge perhaps, but at the expense of his physical well-being. 
‘The Scholar’ by Tapfuma Gusta 
 
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All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy
 
Have you noticed how many words in English that are associated with work are descriptive of tension and a downward energy? We reflect that in our minds and bodies if we are not careful – but luckily we can learn to change this!
 
It helps us in many ways when we let ourselves lighten-up and allow our minds and bodies to change gear, to rest and play as well as work. As one pupil put it:
 
“When I use the semi-supine rest procedure in the office at lunchtime, it means I have a clearer head when I re-start work and I get less back pain”
 
Next Introductory WorkshopUnwind Free-up and De-Stress ~ 18 June
 
Limited Places, so please book in advance

Keep Calm in the Dentist’s Chair

 

‘I’m Going to the Dentist’

 
For many people, even the thought of going to the dentist tends to bring about a reaction of tensing up in defensive anticipation and their anxiety can mount still further when they actually see the dentist and his tools. However, we can learn the Alexander Technique and use it to help reduce our tension levels and anxiety whilst the dentist is working on our teeth, so we are much more comfortable throughout dental procedures. Also, if we have a relaxed jaw and are calm, this will make things easier for the dentist!   
 
 
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This image expresses some of the feelings associated with sitting in the dentist’s chair. It also shows the dentist looking rather unhappy about his own experience, which, sadly, is often the case. Research has shown that many dentists suffer from back pain, heart problems and depression and, apparently, are twice as likely to commit suicide as the rest of the population. It would be great if more dentists learned the Alexander Technique so that they had a tool they could help themselves with whilst they work, could look after their backs as they bend over their often agitated patients and could help themselves let go of tension at the end of what can be a long and stressful day’s work. 
 
I saw my dentist recently and was very aware of how I constantly needed to remind myself not to react with tension to every drilling noise made! On a practical note, I first had to ask the dentist to adjust the height of the neck rest to suit my body as I lay back in the chair. Then it was up to me to keep calmly maintaining the length in my spine and to avoid creating tension in my jaw, neck and back muscles so that I could make the procedure more comfortable for myself.
Dentist at work.jpgThis image illustrates just how easy it can be to compress your neck in order to let the dentist look into your mouth and pulling your head back like this puts so much extra pressure on your cervical vertebrae and discs. It is really worth being mindful of how you lift your chin and open your mouth, so that you do this freely, with as much length along the curves in your spine as you can, thus reducing compression and distortion.  It will also be easier for you to have a relaxed jaw so that it opens wider, if your neck is relaxed.
Another great thing about using the Alexander Technique whilst at the dentist’s, is that it gives you something positive to think about, rather than just focussing on all the sounds and sensations – and you can feel less powerless as the dentist drills and polishes your teeth.
How useful the Alexander Technique can be!

I Love Being an Alexander Teacher

 

I Love My Work

 
How often do you hear people say that? Possibly not as many times as you would like – but you would probably hear a lot of Alexander teachers saying this – myself included. In fact I heard a colleague saying this a couple of days ago.
 
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Helping people to be more comfortable in their bodies and at ease with themselves, is very satisfying and it is a privilege to be able to do this. Also, in order to be able to teach other people, every Alexander teacher has to look after themselves and to pay attention to their own body-use, particularly during the act of teaching. Regularly practising the active rest procedure in semi-supine is one part of this process and it helps to maintain a lengthened spine, relaxed body, a quiet mind and nervous system – and helps us to re-charge our batteries. What a lovely work requirement!
This is in contract to my first career in classical ballet. Life at the Royal Ballet School could be very exciting but also challenging and could be unpleasant with all the pressures involved. Once I started training as an Alexander teacher I realised just how much I had, as a dancer, been trying to force my body to perform better and better and to stretch more and more – and just how this way of making my body do things had caused damage. I had to unlearn lots of negative attitudes and habits that did not serve me! Learning the AT introduced me to the initially strange concept of allowing my body to work the way it needs and wants to, without over-controlling it all the time. Such a relief!
I find AT work is so rewarding, particularly when my pupils say things to me such as

 

  • “Lying down in semi-supine is the best part of my day”
  • “My back pain has improved massively since starting AT lessons”
  • “I can’t imagine how people manage without using the AT”
  • “AT has helped me be more upright and confident so I don’t feel I have to hide any more”
  • “It feels as if someone has just oiled my spine!”
  • I have already benefited a lot from this first session”
It is immensely gratifying to know that 1:1 Alexander lessons can bring so much help and indeed pleasure to pupils who learn it and use it in their daily lives. The more people take the AT work on board and think about how to use it, daily, the more they will benefit and the more at ease in their bodies they will be. Many people find that learning the AT really improves the quality of their life – and it has also greatly improved the quality of my life AND my working life.
I also work at LCATT, teaching Alexander teacher trainees, which is very enjoyable stimulating and rewarding. The students and staff are such a dedicated and friendly group of people at this Alexander teacher training course and it is very special to see each person blossoming into becoming an AT teacher. It is great sending more Alexander teachers out into the world, so that more people can experience the joys and benefits of learning the AT.
It is quite special when one of my Alexander pupils who has gone on to train as an AT teacher, then teaches a pupil who also trains and qualifies as an AT teacher. It’s like being a Grandparent!

Leonardo do Vinci draws Monkey Position!

I love these drawings by Leonardo da Vinci

The toddler is captured just moving through what we Alexander teachers call ‘monkey position’ and he is balanced and grounded with a lengthened spine, even though he is bending forwards and looking over his right shoulder.
 
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This is such a basic and useful movement and most children use it regularly but unfortunately we often lose this as we grow into adulthood and we often gather habits of mis-use and curl over instead, which puts pressure on our spines – and squishes our lungs and internal organs – fortunately we can re-learn how to use our bodies in the way we used to do when we were children.
F M Alexander used to call this ‘the position of mechanical advantage’ and it is possible to see why he did so at it is such a good way of using body when we want to bend forwards, utilising the large hip joints in order to allow the body to fold forwards and protecting the spine as we do so.
However, FM’s students soon found a more user-friendly name for this way of using the body and ‘monkey position‘ it became from then on!

How Aware Are You When Driving and Cycling?

Safety First – Maintain Awareness
 
There have been so many accidents, injuries and deaths of cyclists in London recently and I believe that a lack of awareness, in both drivers and in cyclists, is part of the problem – and we can all do something about this. There are too many stories that cite drivers using their mobile phones and not paying attention to the road, for instance, so they drive into cyclists and often kill them – we all know that this behaviour and lack of awareness is dangerous. One pupil was referred to me by her Doctor for Alexander Technique lessons, because she had painful shoulder and rib injuries, plus a high level of anxiety, after being knocked off her bike by a thoughtless driver. In one sense she was lucky though, as the driver’s insurance paid for her AT lessons. 
 
Many cyclists appear to be unaware of their surroundings too! 
 
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Look Where you are Going
I have seen people texting on their mobiles and wearing earphones whilst cycling, so they cannot see or hear any signals from the traffic around them! This cyclist above is riding fast but ‘sensibly’, leading with her head into movement and her back is lengthening – so far so good. But where is she looking? She appears to be looking at the road below her, so I wonder, just how much of the traffic around her can she see and be aware of? Surely this way of cycling has to be dangerous! The only way she could see in front and around her from this position, is to lift her face and pull her head right back, thereby crunching her neck and cervical vertebrae and probably giving herself neck problems. If her handlebars were a little higher and her body more upright, she could see ahead quite easily.
This cyclist is not alone unfortunately and many people cycle with their bodies much lower and pulled down, particularly the more end-gaining cyclists who are focussed on going as fast as possible to their destination. This may be good for their hearts but it’s dangerous in other ways.
London Cyclists
 
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The group norm here seems to be to look down onto the road in front!
If you look at the photo above carefully, you can see that only a couple of cyclists in this London group appear to be looking out and about! The rest look down rather tensely, with eyes glazed-over, which is risky to say the least. It is so easy to get caught up in riding as quickly as possible from A to B, that it is easy to lose awareness of the actual process of riding and what’s going on around you. This photo is in stark contrast to the photo of some Danish cyclists below, who are alert and poised as they ride in the city. They are able to look where they are going because they are using a much more upright position with higher handlebars, so they are comfortably looking ahead as they ride. They also look less stressed which must have a lot to do with the fact they have proper cycle lanes to use but I believe that the way they are riding helps them too.
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Photo: The Times
 
The Way We Ride Matters
 
I have worked with many AT pupils on what to think about when riding a bike or driving a car. I sometimes sit people on the exercise bike for part of their AT lesson, not to see how fast they can cycle but to explore how they sit and what happens in their body when they start cycling. All sorts of unhelpful habits are revealed and then I can help people to let go of them so they cycle with improved use. A pupil’s comments a couple of days ago made me think about these issues again:
 “When I think about Alexander Technique whilst driving and cycling, I am more alert and more able to respond to traffic – and I don’t get back pain any more”
 
The Alexander Technique Can Enable Us to Cycle More Safely.
 

 

It’s not just about the position we sit in that matters but that is a good starting point. Being conscious of whether we hold the handlebars (or steering wheel) with awareness, or grab it with a strong grip, is one point. When cycling, do we just think of pushing ourselves forwards with our legs, or do we think of leading with our head to aid the forward momentum?  Do we have so much weight going through our arms that our shoulders are hunched and ache with tension and our wrists are getting painful? 
 
As drivers and cyclists, are we so caught up with end-gaining and ‘getting there in time’ that we lose awareness of how we are riding or driving right now and what is happening around us? This is the route through to trouble – but we can choose
to change ourselves and our behaviour, so that we can remain mindful not only of our body-use but also of our surroundings during these activities.
In Alexander lessons we can learn to minimise tension and help ourselves keep calm. We can sit in a manner that lets us see where we are going without hurting our necks, protects our backs and allows us to see around and make use of our peripheral vision, which will help keep ourselves and other people safe. Surely this is a much more enjoyable way to cycle and to drive, as well?

 

F M Alexander’s Birthday

F M Alexander was born on 20th January 1869 in Tasmania. 

 
Alexander was a premature baby and had a struggle to survive. He later attributed his frequent bouts of illness as a child and young man to his poor body-use and once he taught himself to improve this, after several years of meticulous research and experimentation, his health also began to improve.
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This print was made by FM Alexander’s pupil Ronald Searle in 1953 and I am grateful that I can enjoy looking at this every day in my teaching room. Searle wrote under his signature:
“For ‘FM’ from the reconstituted artist, with thanks”

Alexander’s family had originally lived, for many generations, in the ancient village of Ramsbury in Wiltshire. Whilst exploring some of my own family history I discovered that some of my mother’s family also came from Ramsbury and one of them married a Mary Alexander in 1764, quite possibly part of F M’s family, although I have not been able to verify this yet….. research still to be done here.

F M’s paternal grandfather, Matthias Alexander was a hurdle maker and other family members were craftsmen. However they supported the impoverished agricultural labourers during the swing riots, in which they protested against the new threshing machines which were costing them their livelihoods. As a result of this support, Alexander’s family was sent to Tasmania as convicts in 1831, something that F M never admitted to in public. If you are interested in discovering more about Alexander’s background, his biography by Michael Bloch makes for interesting reading.

From these difficult beginnings, F M developed an interest in horses and in the theatre and in 1889 he moved to Melbourne, Australia and began to train for a career as a reciter. A few years later, after many bouts of illness which threatened his new career, F M began to develop his now famous Technique. This process is described in some detail his book ‘The Use of the Self‘ and it is highly recommended reading for anyone interested in learning more about the Alexander Technique.

After Alexander’s death in 1955, a group of teachers that Alexander had trained, formed the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique, STAT, in order to maintain and develop high standard of Alexander Technique Teacher Training and Professional practice.
Alexander has been listed as one of the top 200 most important Australians and in Tasmania there’s this inscription acknowledging his importance:

 

“On a nearby property was born Frederick Matthias Alexander, 20th January 1869 – 10th October 1955 Founder of the Alexander Technique, Discoverer of Fundamental Facts about Functional Human Movement. One of 200 who made Australia great”.

 

Use the Alexander Technique to Help You Get Stronger

TV’s Trust Me I’m a Doctor  – ‘How to get stronger in just a few weeks without going to the gym!’

 
In the first programme of a new TV series, Dr Michael Mosley demonstrated novel ways to increase muscle strength in a few weeks, purely through performing everyday tasks such as washing up and hoovering differently – and he could almost have been showing us how to use Alexander Technique procedures during daily activities in order to become stronger and healthier! I really like this approach to exercise and it is one that I have worked on with some of my pupils. This is in addition to their standard Alexander lessons and we do not use a ‘set of exercises’. One big thing missing in the TV programme, as is so often the case, is that there was little mention as to how to perform these tasks, apart from a warning to ‘look after your back’. In the info available on the programme’s website, there are a few more instructions available but they could be refined and extended, to great advantage.
 
 
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Deep Monkey for Picking Things Up and Cleaning Teeth
 
A partial squatting movement, or monkey position, was suggested by Mosley to use for both picking up shopping bags and for cleaning the teeth – both of which are standard applications of AT procedures. One difference was that Mosley used some deep squats repeatedly, in order to strengthen the leg and buttocks muscles. Unfortunately he twisted round towards the camera as he cleaned his teeth, which would not have helped his back – of course he wouldn’t usually have cameras in his bathroom, so perhaps he wouldn’t twist as he bent forwards. This twisting is the type of problem to look out for and the sort of thing that so easily creeps in when we perform tasks repeatedly, particularly if we are endgaining and just doing ‘x’ amount of repeats in order to ‘get stronger’. However, they are difficult to notice on our own ans our habits are so familiar to us. If an AT teacher can help us be mindful of how we perform such movements, this is a simple exercise to add in our our daily routine in order to maintain leg strength whilst incorporating the AT. How wonderful our language is! I’ve just realised that ‘incorporate‘ means to ‘take in’ and ‘embody‘ so yes, we want the AT to be embodied within us, so that we use it for everything we do.
 
Lunges Whilst Hoovering
 
I also teach people to use a lunge whilst doing tasks such as sweeping and hoovering but Mosley uses a much deeper lunge than usual, in order to increase leg strength. An important aspect of this movement to be aware of, is to keep the hips knees and ankles in line with each other, so that you avoid twisting them The programme website repeatedly states ‘do not let your knees go out in front of your toes’ and if you are unused to exercise this can be a good maxim to follow but make sure you do not lock in your hip and ankle joints plus over-use your thigh muscles in order to block the forward movement of your knees. However, if you are aware of your body-use, allowing your knees to ease out over your toes is no problem and this can help you to move more freely and to maintain a central balance over your feet.
 
Cleaning, Using Calf Raises
 
Rising up onto our toes to ‘demi-pointe‘ as ballet dancers call it, is another movement sometimes used in AT lessons, in order to explore our balance and the use of our feet and ankles. Many people have rather rigid ankles and rising up onto he toes can help free them up. As the TV programme suggests, this movement can be fed into daily activities when you want to reach up high or when drawing curtains for instance – Mosley demonstrated this whilst at a kitchen sink. It is easy to habitually lead with the hips when rising to the toes, which causes the back to arch, creating an imbalance throughout the whole body. This habit can be avoided which allows us to direct the movement so that the head leads and the whole body follows, rising up onto the toes whilst continuing to be in alignment. Balance will improve too.
 
Interestingly, a pupil brought an air-filled cushion to her AT lesson and told me that she has been using it like a wobble board and has been standing on it whilst washing up. That adds some fun and interest to a daily chore! What she noticed was that she has a habit of thrusting her pelvis forwards (like Mosley) in order to rest on the sink, which actually threw her off balance. When she thought through how she was moving, she allowed her head to lead her into the standing movement and was then able to stand on the wobble board using a small monkey position over the sink. This protected her back and allowed her to balance more easily.  
 
Bicep Curls, Tricep Extensions, Deadlift and Oblique Twists
 
I haven’t used these in AT lessons unless someone has specifically
asked to explore such movements and sometimes this can be a useful thing to do, in order to learn how to avoid habits which could contribute to strains and other problems. I do often work with people to find a way for them to rotate their bodies with greater freedom and flexibility – this is a useful movement to make occasionally if you are desk-bound for several hours – and I have found it helps free me up as I am sitting writing this. Take extra care if you want to include weights whilst rotating, as Mosley suggests!  Strenuous twists holding weights could be a quick route through to hurting your back…
 
Wall Press-ups
 
This is another movement which has been explored by my students quite frequently in
Alexander lessons and it can be performed quite easily. The most important thing to think about from an Alexander Technique perspective, is to keep noticing your body-use and not get caught up in endgaining in order to just do lots of press-ups. As soon as our attention wavers from thinking about the means whereby we are performing such a movement all sorts of mis-use can start coming into play – the neck can become contracted, the lower back can start arching, the jaw can tighten and a load of unhelpful tension can build up – which is not strength, just tension.
 
I love working with people in order to explore how to use the Alexander Technique to underpin and enhance their movements. Yes the AT can help us be calm and quietly balanced as we sit, stand and lie down and it can also help us free up so we are more dynamic, moveable and even stronger without having to pump iron!

Bend Your Knees When You Cough and Sneeze!

It’s the Time for Coughs and Sneezes!
 
An osteopath told me that some patients come to her because they have hurt their backs when sneezing and coughing. So, as winter arrives, yet more people may find their way to her door, unless they find a way of avoiding this problem to begin with. One way to help ourselves is through looking after our backs by having Alexander Technique lessons and being more mindful of how we use our bodies during everyday activities – even when coughing and sneezing!
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One of the main reasons that we can hurt our backs when coughing, is that if we habitually hold ourselves in a fixed manner with contracted, tense back muscles, this tightness will be increased by the strong spasms of coughing and sneezing, which will obviously be more exaggerated if you have a long bout of coughing. The lower back in the lumbar region can be particularly vulnerable and the jolting can jar the spine or strain the muscles, sometimes even damaging an intervertebral disc, causing great pain. There can also be a problem for people with hypermobility, as they can sometimes dislocate their joints if their body gets jolted strongly.

Protect Your Back 
If we anticipate these sorts of problem, we can cough and sneeze with some awareness and protect our backs. If we are standing we can unlock our hips, knees and ankles so that they can bend a little and, ideally, allow the back to continue lengthening even whilst we cough. Take care to align your hips, knees and ankles so that your knees move forwards and outwards over your toes without twisting.

If you have had some AT lessons, you can remind yourself to use a small (and moveable) monkey position when coughing. If we are sitting, we can free the hip joints and let our bodies angle slightly forwards from the hips, so that the torso is freer to move around as it needs to.

This allows our muscles to respond more with more elasticity but with direction so that there is a centredness within the coughing and this allows our ribs to expand and contract more easily with the spasms. In this way, the jolts can be softened and ripple through us, rather than straining us. As I have personally found, this way of sneezing and coughing can also be helpful for people after having abdominal surgery, possibly with the addition of holding the abdomen during the sneeze, to give the muscles more support.
Let the Tension Go Again

Importantly, let the tension go again after coughing and allow your chest to uncurl and open up again. If you forget to do this, the tension and inevitable pulling down that takes place when coughing will just go on building up. If you can lie down in semi-supine afterwards that can help enormously but sometimes it is hard to lie down horizontally if you have a bad cough. In which case, make sure your back (and head?) has good support and spend a few minutes encouraging your chest and back to free up again, just as you would if you were practising the lying down procedure.

The more able you are to have a free neck and back, the more resilient your muscles will be and the more efficient the coughs can be too. Even if you have not had Alexander Lessons, you can help protect your back as you allow your legs, with their moveable hips, knees and ankles, to act as shock absorbers when you cough and work your way back to health.

Remember: Bend your knees when you cough and sneeze!

Alexander Technique and Movement

The Alexander Technique is Not Just About Sitting and Standing!

Although the Alexander Technique is well known for helping people with their poise and their backs, and in particular for using the Lying Down Procedure, the Technique can also help us move more mindfully in a wide range of activities. Many professional dancers, musicians and sports people use the AT whilst performing, for instance. I wish I had learned the Technique when I was working as a ballet dancer – I know it would have helped me in many ways!
 
 

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Clissold Park Skatepark
 
This young man has kindly allowed me to use this great photo of him. He has not had AT lessons but using a skateboard demands that he has good balance, poise, co-ordination and a flexible body-use – all aspects of movement which can be enhanced and refined through learning the AT. 
 
Interestingly, as he swoops around the skatepark, he is using a very active version of what we call monkey position (although I like to use the term ‘monkey movement’ to avoid people holding a position with rigidity). The young man has his legs bent and flexed at the hip joints with the torso angled forwards and this gives him an excellent base from which to balance, as he constantly re-adjusts himself over the fast-moving skateboard. You can also see how he is leading into his movements with his eyes and head, whilst maintaining a lengthened spine.
 
This way of using the body in order to bend forwards, is an important procedure which we learn to use in AT lessons, although we mainly align the head and neck forwards and away from the spine for most activities, rather than having it turned around, as the skateboarder has to do in order to see where he is going.
 
As an Alexander Technique teacher, I use variations of this movement constantly whilst I am teaching, so that I can bend forwards towards my pupils whilst protecting my own back, particularly when I need to reach over someone who is lying on the AT table in semi-supine. F M Alexander used to call this ‘the position of mechanical advantage’ which it definitely is – but his student teacher trainees were very quick to rename it as ‘monkey position’.
 
This way of using our bodies can also be used in more mundane ways, with small versions of this monkey-like movement being very useful when chopping vegetables or bending forwards to clean our teeth!
Want to try out the AT? Individual lessons are available on a regular basis.

Evidence of Text Neck in 7 Year Old Children!

Text Neck

 

Following on from my previous Blog entry on the condition called ‘text neck’ , it is interesting to see that the Daily Mail has published an article about an Australian chiropractor, Dr James Carter, who has reported seeing ‘an alarming increase’ in the number of patients coming to him with text neck within the last 2 years – and that about 50 percent of those patients have been school-aged children.

 

Dr Carter, and many other practitioners, have been finding very obvious postural changes associated with text neck, which lead to spinal damage and pain in people – including children as young as seven – which Carter puts down to their addictive over-use of smart phones and tablets for many hours at a time. 

 

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X-Ray of Seven Year Old Child’s Neck

These X-ray photos illustrate the damage to the neck that can result from this type of prolonged misuse. The first one is, sadly, of a seven year old boy and it shows just how compressed the cervical vertebrae are and how over-curved the neck has become, so that the head is pulled back and down. What cannot be seen in these particular X-ray photos is the way this compression continues downwards, into the rest of the spine.

 

Of course children are very mobile physically and it’s possible for them to assume this sort of position temporarily and then to come out of it into a more aligned poise with a more suitably lengthened-out neck. However, the more frequently such contracted positions are assumed, the more habitual this way of being becomes for the child – so the less mobile and adaptable the child’s body-use becomes and the more damage ensues .

 

The second of Dr Carter’s photos shows a more normal curve in the neck. This is particularly obvious at the top of the neck, which shows a space between the top vertebra and the skull – a crucial area which we need to keep freely moving, in order to enable good poise, balance and general body-use. Freeing up this area is a central part of Alexander Technique lessons.

 

F M Alexander’s ‘Directions’ that he formulated for us to use on an everyday basis, is one of the AT tools we can use to help us avoid this back-and-down compression. If the 7 year old child was able to give himself these directions regularly, this would allow his spine to freely lengthen out again, in a similar manner to that shown in the second photo. FM’s directions are regularly taught in AT lessons and give people a wonderful tool with which to help themselves:

 

Allow my neck to be free

To allow my head to go forward and up

To allow my back to lengthen and widen

 

 

 

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X-Ray of ‘Normal’ Curvature of the Neck