By Joan Arnold & Hope Gillerman,
Certified teachers of the Alexander Technique
How often we envy the flexibility of a child, a yoga teacher or a loose-limbed dancer. Though we all are born supple, we can find, with every passing year, how easy it is to lose this precious commodity.
The way we move each day determines our muscle tone. Though range of motion is partly inherited, flexibility is usually compromised by chronic tension, inactivity or overuse. The Alexander Technique offers a way to undo the muscular overwork that contributes to habitual tautness. Proven to increase range of motion, it provides the necessary complement to exertion, which is release: the fine art of doing less. Combined with stretching or yoga, the AT can help you achieve your flexibility goals, and maybe get you moving again.
As posture and movement coaches, we encounter people who stretch daily, but haven't changed their overall movement style. They might have a prescribed routine but, even with diligent repetition, don't progress much or get stretching's full benefit. The missing piece is understanding how to stretch and support a new movement style. Learning the logic behind true flexibility gives you the means to free yourself from pain and frequent injury. If you exercise, stretching with the AT helps you build strength while improving your poise and stamina.
We've found that, to further their flexibility, our students need to:
- Understand how to use anatomical principles in order to stretch correctly.
- Learn to use breath and visualization to trigger muscular release.
- Learn how to use spinal alignment to promote the ease and fullness of any stretch, anywhere in the body.
Once the time spent on stretching is no longer futile, it becomes a welcome opportunity for tuning into the body and relaxing. Instead of nervously cracking joints and yanking on resistant muscles, intelligent stretching releases endorphins and makes stretching interesting and satisfying. Said one student when she returned to yoga after regular Alexander Technique sessions, "For the first time, head to knee pose was just that, rather than head straining toward the knee. I have more flexibility at 50 than I did in my twenties. What a surprise!"