Image credit: Adreina Restrepo
Today I’m sharing how I improved my posture and eliminated neck pain for good. Read on if you have any chronic discomfort or pain or if you simply desire to move more fluidly. The technique I am sharing about is also useful for those with back pain, jaw pain, arthritis and basically any other chronic issues found in the musculoskeletal system and even beyond.
But before we get to this technique (which is non-medical, non-chiropractic and doesn’t even require exercise!) I’ll share how my neck issues began.
HOW MY NECK ISSUES BEGAN
Years ago, a chiropractor felt my neck and asked if I had sustained a head injury in my childhood. She said it was either that or that I was delivered using forceps. I was pretty sure I hadn’t and was somewhat taken aback. I told her no.
She shrugged and kept working and at the end of the session, more firmly this time, she said “I really think you had a head injury or were delivered with forceps. Ask your mom.”
It turns out that she was right. Forceps were used in my delivery. And from what I gather, the OB just reached in and yanked me out without regard to natural birth rhythms but more as an alternative to pushing. (Today, forceps are used more selectively and with greater caution.)
Flash forward to ballet classes I had as a child. I noticed that although I was flexible and strong, there were some neck positions that I just couldn’t hold, even though they seemed easy for the other students.
Flash forward to Pilates classes in college. Despite being one of the more advanced students in class, certain neck positions were impossible for me, despite everyone else holding them with ease.
It got worse over the years. For the most part my neck just felt a bit awkward and imbalanced in my movements. But occasionally, I would get cricks and a whiplash sort of pain that would last for days. This became more frequent after carrying and nursing two children.
It seemed I had all the right tools – I was a certified Pilates and yoga teacher, and we had good insurance to cover chiropractic and PT. But something was missing.
Flash forward to one morning three years ago when I woke up and decided to do something about it.
ENTER THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
I remember hearing about the Alexander Technique from one of my Pilates students. She was a musician with a 30-degree scoliosis curve (this is quite severe) who had benefited from the technique.
I learned that it was popular with musicians because it taught them to hold their bodies in such a way that they could play their instruments with greater ease. Many actors and singers have learned it so they can optimally project their voices and prevent hoarseness and other vocal problems associated with inefficient and incorrect habits.
I did a little research and discovered there was a highly experienced practitioner five minutes down the road from me. I saw him that day for a free consultation and my first lesson.
MY FIRST SESSION
Immediately when he saw me, he said…”dancer posture” as if it were problematic. I held too much tension – there was too much “work” in my stance.
As I began to work with him, a 70-yr old man without an ounce of tension in his body, I seemed to absorb his ease of movement. I practiced letting go of tension in various every day movement – standing, sitting, bending down to pick something up. There were no exercises involved. He expertly analyzed my movement and gave me feedback, either with verbal cues or light touch.
The sessions ended with a “constructive rest period” in which my teacher gently aligned my limbs and head in a way that eliminated any muscular tension.
I was amazed at how easy movement could be – it was as if my bones were moving gracefully with minimal muscle control. I used gravity and momentum instead. And it all looked natural! Though it took a lot of focus in the beginning since these were not my usual habits.
After the first session, I understood how to keep my neck relaxed and to this day, I have not had neck pain or discomfort. My neck wasn’t “fixed” but it was a true revelation and I was able to drop some harmful patterns.
After five sessions, I experienced a paradigm shift. I felt more present in body and mind and relaxed in social settings. Another unexpected perk – my leg muscles were becoming more toned, simply by moving my body the right way!
Now, whenever I feel myself getting out of alignment I become more aware of how I’m moving and make subtle shifts that have a big impact on how I feel.
WHAT EXACTLY IS THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE?
I have some difficulty defining the Alexander Technique, so here is a great description I pulled from alexandertechnique.com:
The Alexander Technique is a method that works to change (movement) habits in our everyday activities. It is a simple and practical method for improving ease and freedom of movement, balance, support and coordination. The technique teaches the use of the appropriate amount of effort for a particular activity, giving you more energy for all your activities. It is not a series of treatments or exercises, but rather a reeducation of the mind and body. The Alexander Technique is a method which helps a person discover a new balance in the body by releasing unnecessary tension. It can be applied to sitting, lying down, standing, walking, lifting, and other daily activities…”
HOW TO FIND A GOOD TEACHER
You can find a guide to choosing a good teacher here as well as a list of Alexander Teachers in North America.
I have had two Alexander teachers over the years and although I learned from both of them, I preferred one because he embodied the technique and I felt that I improved just by being around him. I also felt lighter and easier after my sessions with him.
How about you? Have you ever tried the Alexander Technique?