Back Care Basics

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 รถ 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 . . .

Breathe.
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 new awareness and a surprising degree of relief .
Use the guidelines below to discover a better way to continue your activity.

 

DO'S AND DON'TS FOR INTELLIGENT BACK CARE

Resting your back: DO

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.
Breathe easily and scan your body for tensions.
To let go, give your body weight to gravity.
Focus on each body part and release tension there.
Pay particular attention to your neck and jaw
Progress to your shoulders . . . chest . . . upper back . . . lower back . . . arms. . . hands . . . feet.
Imagine your torso expanding into length and width.
When you feel calmer and more centered, rise from the floor gradually:
First, roll over on your side.
Then use your arms to push yourself up, without lifting your shoulders.
 

DON'T

Lie on your back without support under your head. 

Lie on your back with your legs straight. 

Lift yourself up from the floor by bending straight forward.
Obsess about what you have to do when this is over.

 

When you can't rest your fatigued or painful back: DO

Stand with your feet 3-6 inches from the wall, hip width apart or wider.
Lean against the wall.
Imagine your body lengthening and widening.
Notice your breathing.
Give yourself a few moments of calm.
If your back is tight, bend your knees slightly and focus on releasing tension in both the back and neck.

DON'T

Rest your head against the wall. 

Push your lower back flat against the wall. 

Sitting - DO

If you can, use a chair with good upper and lower back support.
In a chair without good support, put a firm pillow behind your waist and upper back.
Move your hips to the back of the seat.
Keep your feet flat on the floor or use a footrest.
Without slumping, allow the back of the chair to support you.
Without stiffening, lean into the chair back and envision your back lengthening and widening.
Sit at a comfortable distance from your work surface.
When you have to reach or bend forward, do so from the hip joints (the bend at the top of your thigh) rather than the waist.
When you look down to read or write, imagine a rod between your ears. Look
downward from that point, without rounding your neck or collapsing your upper chest.
Get up periodically to walk around or stretch.
 

DON'T

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 -DO

Bend at the hip joints, knees and ankles.
DON'T

Lift your chin.
Bend at the waist.
Keep your legs straight.
Twist as you lift.
Standing & moving
DO

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.
DON'T

Collapse.
Push your hips forward over your toes.
Lean forward as you walk.
Lean to one side or lift a shoulder to carry a bag.

Exercising - DO

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.
DON'T

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!

Joan Arnold (joanarn@aol.com) & Hope Gillerman (hopeg@bway.net), Certified Teachers of the Alexander Technique

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