By Hope Gillerman and Joan Arnold,
certified teachers of the Alexander Technique
Many women come to expect the symptoms that usually accompany pregnancy: lower back pain, sciatica, insomnia, shortness of breath, headaches. Medication may not be a good option when they seek relief. As the body changes rapidly, learning how to adjust and stay balanced can open up new possibilities for a more comfortable, rewarding pregnancy.
THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
Taking a series of sessions with a certified Alexander Technique teacher is beneficial during each phase of pregnancy and parenthood. Study of the Technique gets body and mind working together to unravel muscular tension, improve posture, solve movement problems and relieve discomfort. The Technique can help a mother-to-be tune into her body and develop skills essential for natural childbirth. And it can help both parents, as they are suddenly called on to repeatedly lift at awkward angles and carry their children, bouncing and cooing in the early morning hours.
Lower back pain and sciatica are common complaints among pregnant women. As the baby grows, the pelvis expands and the mother's center of balance changes. With the pull forward of increased weight, a woman's usual tendency is to compensate by leaning back at the waist. This increases pressure on the sacrum and lower back, sometimes causing excruciating back pain. But no pregnant woman has to accept this as a fact of life. In an Alexander Technique session, her teacher will show her how to protect her back and compensate for the inevitable weight shift. As she learns to use the Alexander Technique to reduce pressure on the spine, she can adjust to bodily changes and go through pregnancy with far more comfort.
The baby's growth occupies more space within a woman's body, compressing her heart, lungs and other internal organs. This can cause digestive problems, shortness of breath and reduced energy. With the Alexander Technique, she learns how to capitalize on her body's inherent support system to expand the torso's internal space. With a stronger back and more room to breathe, she will have more energetic resources to meet the challenges to come.
As formerly easy daily activities become difficult, a pregnant woman can learn a practical, enjoyable way to handle moves as simple as standing and sitting. Particularly crucial for pregnant women is learning to learn how to bend efficiently. An Alexander Technique teacher will show her how to best use her body as she attempts, for example, the now trying task of tying her shoes. Learning a way to sleep and roll over more comfortably can save her from the constant shifting and discomfort so common near the end of the pregnancy.
Labor and Delivery
An Alexander Technique teacher can help a woman
prepare for labor by teaching her to sit and squat comfortably, to release the pelvic floor and work with gravity as the
baby descends through the birth canal. To counter the natural tendency to tense the whole body during painful contractions,
she can learn how to breathe and calm her system focus during childbirth, better facilitate opening of the cervix during
dilation, and marshal her forces to push.
Both parents and coach can prepare for the birthing process by taking Alexander Technique lessons. By understanding Alexander principles, coach and father can better help the mother as well as manage their own bodies while they provide support and encouragement.
The Alexander Technique gives parents new understanding and the physical resources to handle the physical challenges of parenthood. They will learn how to lift a child out of a crib, how to hold the baby during feeding, how to haul around the accouterments of childhood. They will have a better understanding of how to promote their child's healthy progression through the developmental stages of movement. Using the Technique's accessible approach to their new spectrum of physical and emotional demands, they'll be able to enjoy the rewards of family life, more physically relaxed and confident.
To get the full benefit, it is best to start a series of private, personally tailored Alexander Technique sessions in the first trimester. But whenever you utilize the Technique, it will give you insights and physical tools to help you negotiate the shifts and changes that parenthood brings.
- The Alexander Technique Birth Book, A Guide to Better Pregnancy, Natural Birth and Parenthood, by Ilana Machover and Angela & Jonathan Drake, forward by actors Sinead Cusack and Jeremy Irons
- Back Trouble, by Deborah Caplan, Triad Publishing