BACK CARE BASICS
By Hope Gillerman and Joan Arnold,
certified teachers of the Alexander Technique
Your Posture and Your Health | Daily Guidelines
Do's and Don'ts for Intelligent Back Care
YOUR POSTURE AND YOUR HEALTH
A solution to persistent pain and tension
Do you feel mystified by an array of tensions, aches, stresses or general discomfort? Do you attribute such symptoms to heredity, aging or to one of your activities, such as tennis or computer work?
You may have more control over such nagging discomfort than you realize. Most pain and muscular tension is the result of how you move and hold yourself through the day. With the Alexander Technique, you can learn to use your body differently. You can relieve many of those mysterious aches and chronic pains and make lasting changes in your movement style.
Compression causes pain
Do you try to correct a slump by straightening your back, and find that tiring and unnatural? Do you think your back is weak, that there is no way to sit upright through a long work day with comfort and ease?
Both slumping and straightening can be harmful. Stiffening overworks the back and neck muscles and compresses the spine. Slumping stresses muscles and joints unevenly and compresses your breathing and digestion. Over time, compression can cause persistent fatigue, excess tension, chronic pain or even back injury-but only if you accept your symptoms as an unchangeable fact of life. There is an accessible method for managing your posture and your health the Alexander Technique.
Discover your natural support system
The human body is designed to move in concert with gravity. You can see how our natural support system is supposed to work if you watch young children. They don't stiffen to maintain upright posture. They look comfortable, free and erect. Each of us has the capacity to access that natural support and restore our original poise. With the Alexander Technique, you learn how to elicit your body's inherent postural reflex and experience your full potential to function pain free, with ease and grace.
With the Technique, you can find a more efficient response to stress. You can learn how to protect your back, how to sit comfortably at your computer, how to put some power in your tennis swing. You can learn how to change the way you move through everyday activities and tap into more of your personal resources.
The Alexander Technique is a unique form of self care. You learn it through a series of private sessions with a qualified Alexander Technique teacher. Though you need a course of lessons to change the ingrained habits that get in your way, you can begin to work on yourself now. These guidelines will help you release muscular tension, soothe your aching back and begin to move in harmony with your body's natural design.
In the rush of each day, you may forget to attend to your body's signals. But what you do and how you do it is crucially important, affecting your mood and the shape, tone and feel of your body. By paying attention to how you sit, stand and move, you can effect real physical change .
Whenever you remember to, stop what you are doing and . . .
- Notice how you're moving and holding yourself. Are you reaching for your coffee cup with your shoulders hunched up to your ears?
- If you find yourself in a position that is awkward or collapsed, take a little time and center yourself.
- If you suffer from chronic discomfort, give yourself 15 minutes each day to lie down, rest your back, tune into your body and unwind. Something so simple can give you a surprising degree of relief and new awareness.
- Use the following do's and don'ts to discover a better way to continue your activity.
DO'S AND DON'TS FOR INTELLIGENT BACK CARE
Resting your back
- Lie down on a mat or carpet.
- Put a firm cushion under your head to raise it to a comfortable height, 1-3 inches from the mat.
- Support your knees either by:
- bending your knees with your feet flat on the floor, hip width apart
- putting a pillow under your knees so they are slightly bent.
- Rest your hands on your lower ribs; rest your elbows out to your sides.
- Cross your legs or keep your heels lifted.
- Slump or stiffen.
- Sit for long periods without back support.
- Slide your hips to the front of the chair.
- Vigorously straighten your back.
- Bend forward at your waist, upper back, or neck.
- Stay in one position for hours.
When bending to. . . brush your teeth. . . lift something from the floor . . . get into bed or into a car . . .
- Bend at the hip joints, knees and ankles.
- Lift your chin.
- Bend at the waist
- Keep your legs straight.
- Twist as you lift.
Standing & moving
- Think of your body expanding and releasing tension.
- Imagine your body as an arrow. Aim it up.
- Allow your legs to swing freely from your hip joints.
- Move your knees to walk.
- Push your hips forward over your toes.
- Lean forward as you walk.
- Lean to one side or lift a shoulder to carry a bag.
- Exercise regularly. If you don't have time, walk more.
- Get qualified advice, at your gym or with a private trainer, on using good form.
- Select a trainer sensitive to your individual needs.
- Pay attention to how you use your whole body when lifting a weight.
- Use a mirror to note whether you are moving symmetrically.
- Keep breathing easily and freely.
- Set reasonable challenges for yourself.
- Work for awareness and enjoyment.
- Lose self-awareness in reaching for your fitness goals.
- Strain for more reps at the expense of your form.
- Lift a weight that is too heavy for your to maintain good alignment.
- Work so intensely that you can't breathe easily.
- Lean forward or support your weight on your arms on a Stairmaster or stationary bike.
These guidelines are designed for you to enjoy, to use as a springboard for your awareness and experiment. Give yourself a few minutes each day to see how much relief and change you can effect in your own body! Don't let gravity or fatigue get the better of you. Think up!