Avoiding back pain and achieving more in life…

Over the years there has been a great deal of press about Alexander Technique and how helpful it is in overcoming back pain the many other benefits of the Technique have been almost entirely over shadowed.  The most prominent and helpful feature was in the British Medical Journal announcing the results from the largest scientific trial ever conducted on this technique in relation to the success it offers in helping people overcome chronic lower back pain. see here.

I was chatting with a new client some time ago who had come for reasons of her own bad back; she had read one such article on the successful scientific trial and she asked me why I had become interested in the technique and was it because of my bad back?  The short answer is no, I didn’t have a bad back when I started having Alexander Technique lessons 40 years ago, but knowing how my posture was at that age I believe now that back pain was a condition just waiting to happen.  I may not have suffered pain then, but I’m pretty sure it would have been a problem for me within a few years; I had a stoop and slouch as many teenagers and such imbalance puts enormous strain on our backs and eventually it complains. Thankfully by having some Alexander lessons when I was 20 helped prevent the problem from occurring.   And isn’t prevention better than cure?

Being asked by this lady why I had become involved with the technique allowed me the opportunity to explain how improving our posture, balance and co-ordination can have so many benefits beyond back pain; indeed it can help us make the most of ourselves in so many and unexpected ways.  Improvements to my own posture when I was young made a huge difference to me professionally.  In fact it helped me gain promotion and earn a higher income than I might have otherwise.

Before I became a professional teacher of the Alexander Technique, I had a previous career in retailing.  I had been a nervous child and not particularly successful academically and when it came to me leaving school I didn’t expect to achieve much.  However, I did gain a diploma in window display after a two year full-time course and this helped me get my first job as a window dresser for a large department store in Glasgow, Scotland.

In 1972 when I was twenty and a year after starting my first window display job, my mother and father discovered the Alexander Technique.  Mum had had a bad back and Dad was simply interested, having heard about it through his professional musical circles, so they both had lessons.  They suggested that my brother and I have some lessons too, not to alleviate any particular problems, but as an extension of our education and as a means of helping us look after ourselves. I can’t thank them enough now, for their foresight.

I thoroughly enjoyed these lessons, discovering a new sense of balance, and co-ordination. I became freer, more upright and broader.  My Alexander teacher told me not to buy any formal jackets for a while as I’d need a larger size.  And he was right.  All of the physical and personal changes that took place had a profound effect on me. I broadened out and found a new confidence and belief in myself.  I carried myself well and the upright relaxed demeanour served me in my work.  Although I had been quite creative and good at my display job, I was now much more confident, ambitious with good posture and was considered to possibly have management potential. To my surprise and delight I was offered a display management position in a menswear chain in Scotland. Four years later I moved to a large fashion chain with 80 stores where I headed up a team of 40 display personnel.  From there I was head hunted to join a national chain of 480 menswear stores based in London where I became a senior executive with responsibilities for in-store design, layout, sales promotion and display.  Over the years I had become a good presenter and was constantly required to give presentations to large groups of executives on the marketing plans for the company. By using the Alexander Technique I over-came my nervousness and enjoyed a great deal of success, personally and financially.

By the mid 1980’s, I realised that the high stress retail-marketing environment was something I would not sustain into older age; they constantly need ‘young blood’ to work the crazy hours. So I decided to change my career and by now I had the confidence to do so.   I quit, returned the executive company car and forfeited the salary and perks that I had enjoyed, to enrol on a three year full-time training course to become a teacher of the Alexander Technique; the method that had helped me achieve far more than I would have ever imagined when I was young.  Since then I have enjoyed many years of teaching Alexander Technique to others; the same technique that helped me avoid back pain and enabled me to make the most of myself professionally.

Whatever it is that we do in life, be it golf, swimming, dance, music, public speaking, carrying babies, gardening, ironing or skiing; improving our posture, balance and co–ordination will not only help us avoid injury or strain but there is a good chance it will help us achieve more in life.  It can be truly life changing….. I speak from personal experience.