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.
Feeding a baby can take up a fair proportion of a parent’s day and so it’s important to be comfortable both for yourself and for your baby. Whether breastfeeding or bottle feeding, it’s easy to focus more on the baby than yourself and this is where back pain can set in. Here are some top tips for looking after your posture for comfortable breastfeeding:
- Back support: You need support for your upper back, ideally between the shoulder blades. It’s important that your back is upright rather than slouched. If the seat is deep, such as on a sofa, you may need 2 or 3 cushions to support your upper back.
- Neck pain prevention: When looking at your baby, either to see if he has latched on or if you are looking in her eyes, think about what is going on with your head and neck. Use your eyes more to look down and if you need to tilt your head, nod your head from the head-neck balancing joint between the ears rather than shoving your head down from a lower point in the neck.
- Shoulder pain: Are your shoulders up by your ears? Ensure the baby is supported well, especially with a newborn. You can raise the baby’s height by putting cushions underneath so the baby is brought up to the breast, rather than breast to baby. This will also help over-curving your back.
- Leg tension: When sitting, are you on tiptoes? Try putting something under your feet so that your legs can relax. If the baby is too low, see the tip above on using cushions.
- Anxiety: Feeding doesn’t come easily to everyone and can be a time that is fraught with anxiety. Taking your time to make yourself comfortable will quieten your body that will feed through to the baby and can also help calm your mind.
It is a great pleasure for me to work with a mum who is feeding her baby. Helping her to get a sense of comfort, often for the first time, shows with a smile in her face and a peacefulness in the room that is almost tangible. As well as showing her how to set herself up when at home or out and about, I also work hands on to help build relaxation in her body.
Holding your head down to look at a mobile when texting can put a real strain on the body. A recent study states that texting can harm your health. Poor posture is one of the main causes.
Text Pain, Neck Pain
Our heads are quite heavy, around 4-5kg. This is the weight of 4-5 litres of water:
This is fine when the head is in balance. But tip the head forward and start multiplying those bottles of water.
Thus good posture and head balance is important. This is what the Alexander Technique is all about. Imagine a point between your ears. This is where the head neck joint is.
Next, consider that the forehead faces forward and doesn’t tilt upward. We don’t need to fix it the head into place but need to think for it to be in balance.
Phone to eyes, not head to phone
Now let’s bring the phone into the picture. Instead of tilting the head down, we can bring the phone upwards towards the eyes. This leaves the head neck balance alone and takes the strain off the neck, back and shoulders.
Alexander Technique Lessons
Any Alexander Technique practitioner can help you learn the skill of ‘mind talking to muscle’. We help you to understand what natural body use is and how to achieve it for yourself. We have a very gentle touch which guides the body how to let go more, even when it may have spent years, or even decades, holding on for dear life.
Call now to book an appointment and start taking care of your spine.
Hoovering can be uncomfortable and can make your back ache. What can happen is that you stand fairly still and overuse the arms – pushing and pulling with your arms, making loads of effort. This leads to bending forward, often putting strain on the lower back. Here are some ideas to experiment with:
- Make the handle long enough so that you don’t need to bend as you hoover
- As you hoover, step or rock forward and back – a bit like doing a dance – and the hoover handle will just move with you
- Reduce your effort and let the hoover do the work. Make the suction right for the surface. If it’s too high, you have to make an effort to move the brush; if it’s too low, then you have to go over the surface more times.
Hoovering is my least favourite chore. And that’s worth noting because if you dread something, then you tend to tighten up before even starting it. So I have a little chat with myself to think that it might not be that bad. And I sometimes plug myself into some music to dance as I hoover. It’s so much better that way.
I was visiting a friend at the weekend and their 9 year old was using the computer for his homework. Whilst this looked a lot more fun than homework was in my day, it might not be fun in the long term (or even short term) for his back.
He was sitting at the kitchen table. His feet didn’t reach the floor. He was working at a laptop with a small screen so was having to dip his head to read the screen. He was only using one hand to type and was twisted as he reached over the keyboard. Because of this, his right shoulder was higher than the left, his back and neck were twisting and he was coming off his right sitting bone a bit.
Kids use computers for homework and computer games, browsing and drawing. It is a disaster in waiting if we don’t address their posture – backache, neck pain, shoulder pain, tight hips are all waiting to leap at a potentially young age. There are also implications for eyesight problems too if they stare at a screen for too long, keeping a limited focal distance
So, what can be done to help things? Here are a few ideas:
- Awareness, awareness, awareness. Parents, carers, teachers and young people all need to know that using our body well is as important as using the computer well. Think posture first.
- Chair Height – shoulders. The chair seat needs to be high enough so the forearms are parallel to the keyboard without raising the shoulders. If the forearms are sloping upwards, the chair is too low. Use books or a cushion to raise the seat height if it’s not an adjustable chair.
- Chair Height – legs. If their feet don’t reach the ground or aren’t flat on the floor, put something under their feet. Either some books/blocks or a small stool if they are really little. Their thighs should be parallel to the floor.
- Screen Height. Ideally, the top of the screen should be level with the eyes. A separate keyboard is helpful for laptops so the laptop or netbook can be propped up on something to raise the screen height.
- Watch for twisting or slumping. There’s a lot more to this than meets the eye which is where a trained Alexander Technique practitioner can advise. But at least start to look at their posture and notice what is going on. Also keep an eye on your own posture as children mimic adults. I find that parents who bring their children to me to look at their posture are often slumped in the chair during our appointment!
- Don’t “Sit Up Straight!” Following the above point, sitting up straight makes people hitch up and be stiff. They often arch the lower back and push the chin up too far. Instead, see if they can wriggle onto their sitting bones. More gentle and may be more effective.
If adults and children are sharing a computer, then these adjustments needed to be made for each person. It’s tempting to think that we’re only going to use the computer for a bit but we do tend to get a bit sucked in and then find we’re on it for longer than intended.
I’m happy to work with children. They often only need a few sessions. I do prefer that the parent/carer also has lessons with me. It helps the adult have an experience and greater understanding of what we’re working with and will help them with their child as they can share ideas and insights.