One of the most common reasons people have for taking lessons or classes in the Alexander Technique is for help correcting poor posture. But the Alexander Technique doesn’t address posture issues in the way you might think. In fact, many Alexander teachers can be quoted as saying the Technique is not about posture!
The Alexander Technique, however, undoubtedly has a great track record of having a markedly good effect on the posture of those who study it.
A participant in one my group classes said this:
“I didn’t know what to expect but I was pleased at how simple and beneficial it is. I honestly thought the class would consist of observing our normal behaviors and you saying, sit up straight, stop slouching, etc. I was pleasantly wrong!”
But, if I’m not telling people to “sit up straight,” how does the Alexander Technique help with posture?
The Alexander Technique is first and foremost a skill that clarifies our awareness of ourselves – of what our bodies our actually doing – and of our thoughts. And we can use this awareness to direct our thoughts to help us make better choices about how we move and react. When practiced over time, this indirect approach leads to improvements in posture without straining.
So, please try this little experiment for yourself:
Sit up straight right now!
Notice what changed in the way you feel – are you more tense or less tense? Can you breathe more easily or less easily? What has happened to your spine? And can you maintain this posture for long?
Now stop “sitting up straight” and let’s try a different, more indirect approach:
I want you to find your sit bones (see the picture to the left). Put your hands underneath and feel them – they’re the big, bony protuberances at the base of your pelvis. Shift your weight until you’re more or less balanced on them. Then try a little Alexander-style thinking. As you sit on your sit bones with your feet flat on the floor send yourself these thoughts: “I am allowing my neck to release its grip on my head. I am allowing my whole torso to expand into length and width. I am allowing my feet to rest gently on the floor.” Allow yourself time to be aware of the effect on your body and how you feel.
Was there a difference in how you felt with these two approaches? I’d love to hear how you got on. Let me know what you discovered in the comments below.