The stresses and strains of modern living, combined with the ubiquity of the computer, cell phone, tablets etc., seem to draw us in, collapsing us forward and down and giving us one version of bad posture. Another version of bad posture would be sitting up rigidly straight. That doesn’t work because it won’t be maintained, and it’s not helpful to add extra tension. Sitting or standing up straight usually means military posture.
So as not to smash our faces into the screen, desk, or floor, our neck and upper back muscles work harder than needed. This extra work eventually becomes habitual, even when we’re not at our desks. We then habitually walk, stand, and sit with some muscles, especially our neck and lower back muscles, working harder than required.
When muscles work, they shorten. So when we over tighten our neck muscles we’re pulling our heads backwards and downwards towards the spine. The good news is that we can learn to go the other way: Up.
We say we have a stiff or sore neck, as if someone gave it to us and now it’s ours. In Alexander Technique terms it might be more accurate to say, “I’m stiffening my neck.” Of course if you say it that way you sound insane. ‘Just stop stiffening it’ might be advice we’d get. It isn’t that simple, or is it?
The Alexander Technique tells us to ‘free your neck’. How do we do that? Let’s try it with a different set of muscles. Tense your bicep as in ‘make a muscle.’ Now let it go. I imagine you were able to do that. We have more conscious control of our arm muscles, as compared with the muscles in our neck. Through practice we become more adept at releasing unwanted tension in our postural muscles.
We want to cultivate the ability to identify and affect what we unconsciously, habitually overly tense. The Alexander Technique teaches to ‘free your neck so that your head can move forward and up.’Forward can be explained in different ways, but I find that thinking of forward as a forward rotation works best. It’s a forward rotation of the head on the spine, while the crown of the head moves up. You can achieve a forward rotation of your head by slightly lowering your nose, and a qualified Alexander Technique teacher will be able to tell if you’re overdoing it.
So, slightly lower your nose, let the crown of your head move up, leading your whole spine into length. If you are seated, let your sit bones release down into the chair. Let yourself breathe fully…slowly.
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Mark Josefsberg-Alexander Technique NYC