The London Magazine

April 2005

“IMPROVED POSTURE ISN’T JUST A KEY TO HEALTH AND WELLBEING, IT CAN ALSO HELP YOU LOOK YOUNGER”

Posture has a powerful impact on your physical and psychological wellbeing, yet few people know if their body is correctly aligned. `Many people go on detox diets or try to lose weight, but how you hold yourself can influence your health,’ says Noel Kingsley, author of Perfect Poise, Perfect Life (£10.99, Hodder Mobius).

Noel, an Alexander Technique teacher who many consider to be London’s foremost posturee guru, points out that poor body alignment has been linked to a number of ailments. These range from the obvious – such as backache and shoulder tension – to poor breathing, digestive disorders, fatigue and even psychological imbalance.

Actor Frederick Matthias Alexander first linked posture to emotions in the 1890s. He noticed that stress constricted his body and interfered with his breathing, but found using certain alignment techniques enhanced not just his movement but also his confidence, self-esteem and presence of mind. `Free your body, free your mind’, is a key principle of his Alexander ‘technique.

Some recent fashionable exercise regimes, such as Pilates and workouts based around the Swiss ball, have focused on improving body awareness and strengthening the spine and core stability muscles. The Alexander Technique, however, aims to restore the natural poise that we enjoyed as children. `Restoring your body’s alignment allows it to work more efficiently,’ says Noel Kingsley, whose client list reads like a Who’s Who of’ the most powerful and influential people in London.

Political commentator and writer Stephen Pollard credits the technique with sorting out 40 years of back problems. `Improving my posture has transformed my physical wellbeing,’ he says.

Beauty guru Eve Lom often refers her clients on to Noel. ‘The Alexander Technique has a positive effect on the whole body, the lungs, spine and your general appearance, and I care about my clients’ posture as much as their skin,’ she says.

For others, improving posture through the Alexander Technique can enhance professional performance. That’s why the technique, which has long been popular with actors, dancers and athletes, is now being used by business people. Correcting your posture can help you to think more clearly in stressful situations, enhance your voice and make you more effective at presenting.

`Nervous, over-rapid presentation, can weaken your persuasiveness,’ says Noel. `Improving your posture will free tension in the chest and give your voice greater resonance and gravitas. Poor posture detrimentally affects breathing, which in turn leads to an imbalance of chemicals in the body that will add to the sense of stress.’

Slumping in your chair or slouching can also have a direct impact on the internal organs, which need space to function efficiently. ‘if the internal organs are being compressed by poor posture, fluids and nutrients can’t pass through the system so easily. Your body becomes sluggish and less efficient,’ says Noel `It will digest less food, breathe less efficiently and become more toxic, and you may feel lethargic, depressed, anxious and forgetful as a result’

If you’re not convinced, it’s worth pointing out the beauty benefits of perfect poise. ‘Nothing gives your age or state of mind away more than your posture,’ says fitness expert Sam Murphy. ‘Drooping shoulders, sagging tummy and dragging feet all shout that you’re stressed, tired and lacking in confidence. Good posture and fluid, graceful movement can take years off you.’

Sam is the author of The Real Woman’s Personal Trainer (E14.99, Kyle Cathie Ltd), a new fitness manual which identifies three classic faulty postures and the problems they’re likely to cause, as well as outlining exercises to redress them.

For example, those with lordotic posture, the pronounced concave curve of the lumbar region of the spine, are likely to stiffer from strained lower back muscles and hamstrings, as well as weak glutes and poor knee tracking.

According to Noel Kingsley, the key to improving your posture is less effort not more. Good posture, he says, is often equated with regimental straightness, the shoulders pulled back, the abdomen puffed out But, in fact, it’s about being loose and fluid. ‘Minimise effort so you’re not hitting the keyboard with fingers like sledgehammers or tightening wrists unnecessarily,’ he says. ‘It means not gripping the phone too tightly, leaning forward in conversation or tightening muscles unnecessarily.’

Not only will perfect posture give you a graceful, elegant body, it will keep it that way for longer.

Noel Kingsley, Alexander Technique, London

www.alexander-technique.com

020 7491 3505