Back in December I wrote about the Alexander Technique practice of Constructive Rest as a way to relieve stress, both physical and mental. For anyone with back pain this simple self-help practice can be very powerful and empowering! Unfortunately, for some people with back pain, depending on the severity and/or particular type of pain, the standard position, with the knees bent and the feet flat on the floor, can be uncomfortable or even painful. Luckily there are some very helpful variations that are great alternatives for people with back pain or hip problems, or in fact anyone who would like to rest their legs completely.
In this position the legs are draped over a bolster, pillows or cushions, so they are fully supported, yet the knees are still elevated easing pressure on the lower spine.
This time the lower legs rest on a low piece of furniture (ideally probably something slightly lower than this chair – maybe over sofa or ottoman). This really eases pressure on the lower back, and I’ve found that my students with sciatica often find this particularly helpful.
The Importance of Elevating the Head:
It is very important that your head is elevated. Traditionally Alexander Technique teachers use books, but just about anything will do. The support under the back of the head, not the neck, stops the head pulling back and compressing the neck. Rather, a lengthening and ease in the neck is invited, which has a positive knock-on effect throughout the spine.
Whatever position you choose to lie in, give yourself about 10-20 minutes if possible, as long as you are comfortable. I often recommend starting your lie down by becoming aware of the support of the ground beneath you and noticing those parts of you that are making contact. Constructive Rest is a conscious process where you guide your thoughts positively to encourage expansion, release of tension and easy breathing (though, to be honest, if you do fall asleep as you relax in these positions you will still be greatly benefiting your back). Students of the Alexander Technique are familiar with this process, but Constructive Rest can be very helpful even if you’ve had no lessons. For help with guiding your thoughts you can listen to my audio talk through, which lasts about 11 minutes:
For Severe Pain:
If you’re in a situation where your pain is so severe that none of these positions is comfortable*, you can still use some Alexander-style thinking to help you. Lie down in a way that is most supportive to you – in bed, on your side, or on a recliner for instance. As you do so listen to this very gentle audio that accompanies Carolyn Nicholl’s book, Body, Breath & Being: A New Guide to the Alexander Technique:
If you have back pain I hope you will try Constructive rest – in whatever position is best for you! Lessons in the Alexander Technique can provide tremendous relief for back pain, but lying down every day in Constructive Rest is something you can do for yourself right now!
I’d love to hear what you think! And do you have any other self-help techniques that work for you? Let me know in the comments below.
* None of these ideas are meant as a replacement for medical care.
**NEW Constructive Rest Audio Guide
Since writing this post over 4 years ago, I have produced a new, updated Constructive Rest Audio Guide which is ideal for both beginners and people who already practice Constructive Rest. The audio is a little under 20 minutes long (18:21), which is considered the optimal amount of time lying down to allow your spine to regain its full height. It includes my latest ideas on how to direct your thinking and awareness most effectively. Accompanying the audio is a 18-page companion guide containing all you need to get you started, as well as additional tips and suggestions for alternative positions. When you purchase the Constructive Rest Audio Guide you will be sent a link to download both the audio (MP3) and the written guide (PDF). The cost is $9.95.
Click here for more information or to buy now >>
—Imogen, November 19, 2016