As the temperature falls, there can be a tendency to hunch up and hold ourselves tight, the Alexander Technique provides an opportunity to be present and to notice your physical responses. Here are three areas to consider:
- Neck. Are you ducking your head down in the cold/rain/wind? How does your neck feel when you do this?
- Shoulders and Arms. What are your shoulders up to? Have they crept up to your ears in an attempt to keep warm? Does this actually warm you? Are your arms and hands tight if you cross your arms around yourself in the cold?
- Back. Are you curving your back forward and down? Is your back held tightly? Are your ribs moving freely with your breath?
Perhaps you could observe these three areas daily for the next 7 days. It doesn’t matter if you are indoors or outdoors, still or moving. Any increased body awareness is a bonus.
Let me know how you get on.
Working from home
An ironing board can become a sit stand desk. It’s adjustable to suit different height chairs. It can be raised up if you want to stand. And if you’re demonstrating something, you can alter the height accordingly. There’s more versatility to an ironing board than meets the eye!
A larger sit stand desk would be more appropriate if you need more space on your desk, whether for work or study or for a hobby. But for simple day to day usage, an ironing board is a simple and effective solution and doesn’t take up too much space.
Posture – shoulders raised too high
When typing, we want to have relaxed shoulders. If our chair is too low, our shoulders will raise up to our ears. The two options are to raise the chair height or to lower the table height. At home, most people don’t have adjustable height chairs. They may be sitting on a dining chair or a chair in the bedroom. So this is where an adjustable height table comes in. Lower the ironing board (or sit stand desk) and that will be more comfortable.
If you don’t have an ironing board or a table that you can alter, try putting some books or cushions on the chair. That might help with your shoulders. But then are your feet dangling? If so, put some books or cushions to rest your feet onto.
Posture – table too low
If you can’t adjust your chair and your table is too low, you might be hunched over to the desk, rounding your back and neck. This is where it’s useful to raise the height of the table. If you don’t have an ironing board, you can put your laptop or keyboard on some books so that when you’re typing, your forearms are parallel to the keyboard.
Talk with me
In my online sessions, I can have a look at your furniture set up and advise on any adjustments needed. I have a very practical approach and try to use equipment you already have in your house – cushions or pillows, books, recipe stands etc – rather than advocating buying something expensive. If you do want to buy some furniture, I can recommend what to look out for. As well as my many years of Alexander experience, I’m a trained DSE ergonomics assessor and know what to look out for.
Sitting on the sofa can be a recipe for slouching. The seat looks inviting but slouching can put a lot of pressure on the lower back and neck.
Top Tip for Better Posture – Cushions
Most sofas have quite a deep seat. This is great for lying down but not ideal for sitting, especially if you don’t have long legs.
Top tip: put a cushion – or two or three – against your UPPER back. This helps keep the pelvis and the spine more upright. In turn, the head will also be better balanced over the spine, reducing pressure on the lower back.
Sofas are often quite low. For a taller person, their knees can end up being higher than their hips when sitting. This tips the pelvis backwards and puts pressure on the lower back. An older person can struggle to get up from a low sofa.
Options are to sit on a cushion to raise the height or to have a something the same height as the sofa seat in front of the legs. Here you can have your legs lengthened out, perhaps with a cushion under your knees to keep the knees slightly bent.
Getting up from a low chair
This can be quite tricky, especially for some older people, taller people or anyone with dodgy knees.
Top tip: bring yourself to the front of the sofa before getting up. Here, you’ll get a bit of purchase against the frame of the sofa to give you something to push up from, rather than a saggy cushion.
The biggest difference to looking after yourself is to think about your body. It’s much more than about furniture and cushions. I can help you move easily getting onto the sofa and getting up again. I can help you sit comfortably without putting pressure on your back, no matter what your age nor what state your back is in.
Are you Ready to Make a Change?
07932 663 604
Lying down – simple but effective
Alexander Technique lying down is a simple but highly effective way of relaxing the mind and body. The semi-supine position involves lying on your back with your knees bent and with books under the head to keep the neck in neutral.
This is often the favourite part for people in an Alexander Technique lesson and some practically run to the table when they arrive!
Lying down helps your body quieten after being upright. It gives your back a rest. And it is surprisingly comfortable. The number of books under the head is different for everyone. Try to find a height so that the back of your neck is neutral. Too few books and your chin will point up and the back of your neck will be shortened. Too many books and your throat might feel constricted.
Hands on contact
The quiet, subtle touch from my hands helps to release muscle tension and to quieten your nervous system. As well as the hands on work, I am also monitoring breathing, watching with my eyes and listening with my hands for tension and twists.
After lying down, people often say that they feel taller or calmer. They can feel like their shoulders have melted into the table. Their faces often relax and they can look younger.
I give ideas to the person on the table so they lear how to think to the muscles to quieten them. Getting brain to talk to muscles. Relaxing is quite a skill. We build up a series of thoughts, or directions, so that it becomes a self-help technique.
This is something that can be done at home or even at work. It’s such a simple way of looking after oneself.
The more you lie down, the more you are remembering to be in the moment and think about yourself rather than what you need to do. So it’s mindfulness in action.
Do you get a good night’s sleep? ‘Night night sleep tight’ is OK if it means sleeping well but if tight means holding tension, then it’s not such a great phrase.
I am asked regularly about the best positions for sleeping and so I’d like to draw your attention an earlier blog post about sleeping positions. This has suggestions for different set ups whether sleeping on your back, side or front. My view is that it’s best to get a good night’s sleep and to not worry about trying to find the perfect position. However, there are suggestions for pillow arrangements that may help.
Body Scans to aid sleep
Of course, it’s also worth some Alexander Technique ‘thought support’ to help free up any tension from the day. A body scan starting can address this, freeing up the neck, jaw, back and limbs. Thinking from brain to body helps us to become aware of where we hold tension so that we can free it up. Once we’re asleep we can’t act on this but we can think things through before we drop off to sleep or if we wake in the night.
Our minds can be pre-occupied and so running thoughts through the body bring us into the present moment, quietening down the mind chatter.
Having suffered from insomnia on and off over the years, I’ve tried out a few things that have helped:
- We have daytime thinking and night-time thinking. Daytime thinking can be more logical and is often about planning things or working things out. Dreamlike thinking can be quite random and even surreal. If you can’t sleep and you’re thinking daytime style have a go at having some more random thinking. I either try to get back into my dream or to get into random thoughts that have nothing to do with my everyday life, eg zoo animals, colours floating through my mind, to see if this takes my mind elsewhere.
- Some people like music or white noise. The best thing for me is to plug myself into some podcasts. It’s a good idea to tuck the headphone cords above the head to avoid getting strangled. Either I have an interesting listen or I drift in and out of sleep.
- Not worrying about not sleeping. A book on sleeping advised that we all wake in the night a few times and that’s normal. The problem is when we can’t get back to sleep. Knowing that it was normal to wake really helped so that I stopped getting into a pickle about having insomnia and relaxed more.
I went to a talk recently on the neuroscience of sleep. The main pieces of advice are to try to go to bed at a similar time each night and to ensure that the bedroom is as dark as possible. These all help with melatonin levels. Light from TVs and electronic devices can also be problematical for some in getting to sleep and low level lighting before bedtime is a good idea.