Stress Reliever: The Alexander Technique Practice of Lying Down
Last week I was interviewed by Robert Rickover, a fellow teacher of the Alexander Technique who, amongst other things, broadcasts regular interviews in his podcast devoted to all aspects of the Technique. The subject of my interview was the Alexander Technique practice of lying down, known as Constructive Rest.
You can listen to my interview here:
This practice relieves stress – not only the physical stresses in our body, but also our mental stresses. I believe it’s also one of the best things you can do for yourself to improve posture or release tension – even if you have no experience with the Alexander Technique. You can use it to prepare for stressful situations, or, even better, make it a daily practice. And it’s so simple – you just need a few minutes of time.
Now Constructive Rest isn’t just lying down any old how – it’s a thoughtful way of lying down in a semi-supine position (on the back with knees bent, and feet flat on the floor), that promotes good spinal alignment and release of excess tension. For those who practice on a daily basis the benefits accumulate. In fact, the first piece of “homework” I give my students is to practice lying down for a few minutes every day at home.
To try it for yourself simply find a warm, quiet place where you can lie down on the floor undisturbed for a few minutes (10-20 is best, but even a couple of minutes will do you good). The floor is best as the firm surface will support your back – but I’d recommend a carpeted floor or using a yoga mat so it isn’t too hard. Put a few books under your head (not your neck) – enough so your head is not tipping back, but not so many that you are tucking your chin – bend your knees and widen your elbows gently away from you so your hands can rest lightly on your abdomen. During your lie down be aware of the ground supporting your back, allowing your shoulders to rest as your back widens and your whole body lengthens and expands.
Just relaxing as you lie in this position will do you good – after all you’re letting go and practicing good posture! Add some Alexander Technique thinking in the mix, and it’s really powerful. For help with this listen to my audio talk-through (about 11 minutes long) which will help guide your thoughts during your lie down:
For more detailed information on the whole process, visit the Constructive Rest page on my website.
As an antidote to the stresses of the holiday season, I encourage you to try out this practice. Do let me know if you have any questions about this – and if you’re trying it out for the first time, I’d love to hear how you get on.
**NEW Constructive Rest Audio Guide
Since writing this post almost 5 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).
Click here for more information or to buy now >>
—Imogen, November 19, 2016
I laughed when I first saw this, because my husband would love this idea–he lies down all the time and enjoys resting! Of course, he’s not following what you describe here about getting in alignment and feeling the ground underneath you. Seriously, I think this would be excellent for me. I don’t “rest” easily. I am most comfortable resting when I’m writing and reading, but I’m sure it would be good for me to practice letting go in this manner. Good for my mind, too! Quieting it while I quiet my body.
The Reflective Writer
Personal-Professional Balance Through Writing
Judy – I hope you give it a try. It is so simple, yet effective and costs nothing! Some people find it quite hard just to do nothing (letting everything, mind and body, quiet down). You might try listening to my audio if that’s the case with you – or even listening to music that you find relaxing. Please let me know how you get on.
great instructions! My chiropractor told me to use this technique every day for at least 15 minutes. I do it but I have to admit, not every day… I definitely feel the difference what a great effect it has on me. Should get back into my routine and make time for it.
Love your blog, you got some great advice,
Franziska San Pedro
The Abstract Impressionist Artress
Constructive Rest really is a great practice – for so many reasons. I definitely encourage you to make time for it again 🙂 So glad you like my blog. Thanks.
Ive often seen people do this technique and I’ve wondered why. Thanks for clearing this up for me. I usually do something similar when I’m at the gym but now I’m going to do it in my office. By the way, we’re in the circulation desk group on Facebook together. Welcome!
Glad you learned something, Dennis! It’s such a simple, yet helpful thing we can do for ourselves. I’m also looking forward to reading your blog and those of the other bloggers in the Circulation Desk group.
Imogen, This is my first time visiting your blog and I can picture myself trying this. I actually feel more relaxed just reading it. One of my resolutions for 2012 is to start taking more time for myself and to relax. This technique sounds simple to do. I’ll definitely try it. Thanks. Best wishes for a happy, healthy and successful 2012.
I’m glad you like the blog and do let me know how you get on with the constructive rest. It’s so important to carve time for ourselves, and this has lots of other great benefits too. Thanks for reading my blog, and wishing you all the best for 2012!
I’ve had back pain for years (and so does hubby). We’ll both have to try this technique. The hard part will be just laying still for 10 minutes! 🙂
If you really think you’re going to have a hard time being still ( 🙂 ), I suggest you play my audio (http://imogenragone.com/self.html) while you’re lying down, or even listen to some music. It won’t be beneficial if the whole time you’re dying to get up and do something else!! Having something to listen to, to “keep you on task” can be really helpful. Also – for back pain it’s really helpful to rest your lower legs over a low piece of furniture – encourages those muscles in the back let go. I’d love to hear you get on or let me know if you have any questions.
Imogen, This seems so simple yet I’m sitting here thinking “where will I get 10 minutes to lay down in a quiet area?” Pathetic! 🙂 You were so helpful when I wrote about my husband’s chronic pain problem and so I am going to find those 10 minutes and also encourage my husband to try this and more of the Alexander Technique. I look forward to reading more of your bogs through the CD!
caregiving. family. advocacy.
Thanks, Trish. It is simple, and to be honest I find I’m much more productive when I do find time to do it, so well worth it even if you think you’re too busy! If you’re like me it felt sort of selfish at first to just set aside time for me instead of “getting things done” – but believe me it’s better for me and and my family!!
Very nice, clear post Imogen! I worry a lot about the kids I see using their iPhones and other handheld dieecvs with particularly challenging keyboards and tiny screens that almost force your to push your head down to meet them. Perhaps future blogs about handheld dieecvs and/or children and technology?
I’ve just done a series on using the computer, and will almost certainly be addressing using phones, etc. in the future. Thanks for your comment.
Imogen, welcome to our Circulation Desk blogging group! I’m so pleased to meet you & love the blog. What you describe is actually part of my physical therapy for my lower back, although I’m usually concentrating on pushing my lower spine into the ground. I’m going to work this move into my meditation practice (with less emphasis on the p/t piece, just for relaxation & elongation).
Looking forward to more of your wisdom!
“commentary to give you paws…”
Heidi – nice to “meet” you to. Interesting that you are doing something similar (as far as position anyway) for physical therapy. Personally I think it will likely be more helpful without the “pushing” – better to just have more awareness and allow for the back to release. Great idea to do as part of a meditation practice!
Hi Imogen, thanks for the description and the audio; that is a very good help to focus on letting go, elongating etc, because my mind tends to wander. However, I have a problem; it is very painful for me to lie with the feet on the floor because the pressure on my sacrum causes a lot of pain in that position. If I curl my legs up over my abdomen, that pain is not there, but in that position I need to hold the legs and relaxation disappears. Also, I guess it ruins the realignment of the spine?? Grateful for any tips! 🙂
Hi Lotte, I wondering if you might find it more comfortable to rest your lower legs over a couch or other lowish piece of furniture (Check out this photo to see what I mean). That is often helpful for people with low back issues, and it would allow you to let go of your legs. Let me know what you think!
Pingback:Lying Down for Back Pain Relief | Body Intelligence
Pingback:Stress Reliever: The Alexander Technique Practice of Lying Down | Constructive Rest Resources
Pingback:Stopping, Pausing and the Art of Saying “No” | Body Intelligence
Pingback:Taking Time to Rest: Alexander Technique’s Constructive Rest as a Way to Release Tensions for the Artist at Work
Pingback:Lying Down for Back Pain Relief | Body Intelligence
I love this so much I am linking my community to your lesson! Thank you for reminding me why I love horizontal and the Alexander Technique! Debbie Rosas CEO and founder of the Nia Technique.
Debbie, I’m so glad you like it, and thanks for passing it on to your community. I love horizontal too 🙂
Pingback:7 Things To Do That Free Yourself From Fibroids Abdominal Pain
I’m on day six. My legs with feet on floor are sometimes restless, falling in or out. How about extending the legs ? I guess that strains the lumbar area. Or bringing the knees closer to your middle ? What does AT have to say about those positions ?
Congrats on getting to Day 6. Yes, please don’t feel like you can’t move from the standard position. The knees are elevated to help the lower back, as you say, but stretching them out for a minute or so, then returning to the bent position feels good. I also like bringing my knees toward my chest (hugging them too me) in a way that allows the low back to release before bringing the feet back down to the floor.
Other alternatives are (and I write about this in another blog which comes up later in the Challenge – sneak peak here: http://www.imogenragone.com/lying-down-for-back-pain-relief/) resting the lower part of the legs over a low piece of furniture, or putting something under the knees like a bolster or pillows. That way the knees are elevated but you don’t have to hold them up yourself.
I hope these ideas are helpful. Let me know how you get on in the rest of the Challenge. 🙂
Pingback:Stress Relief Videos! Take a Tissue
Pingback:How To Relax Quickly When You Are Addicted To Work - Save My Life
Pingback:lifehack.org | How To Relax Quickly When You Are Addicted To Work – mukeshbalani.com
Pingback:How To Relax Quickly When You Are Addicted To Work – Jalvis Life
Pingback:How To Relax Quickly When You Are Addicted To Work - Success Life Lounge
Pingback:How To Relax Quickly When You Are Addicted To Work – NTech
Pingback:How To Relax Quickly When You Are Addicted To Work – What !
Pingback:How To Relax Quickly When You Are Addicted To Work