Balance and stability

There is one topic of conversation at a party that is pretty well guaranteed to lose our audience within minutes. Nor does it offer  the most successful of chat-up lines. Questions such as “How are you getting on with gravity these days?” and “Don’t you find gravity so exciting?” are likely to leave us standing alone clutching our drink, wondering if we’ve got body odour.

However Newton’s discovery is just as relevant to us in this day and age as it has ever been. All those party people who didn’t want to hang around while we expounded the virtues of gravitation may just be missing out on something that could change their lives.

Let’s face it, if it wasn’t for gravity we wouldn’t be sitting here reading this blog.  Gravity is what keeps your Chardonnay in your glass and enables a kicked football to return to earth and score a goal. But although gravity enables us to have fun, we can also experience serious consequences if we do not ‘live in harmony’ with it.

If a house is leaning as a result of subsidence, our engineers prop it up, or strengthen its foundations.  If a tree is leaning over too much and we want to save the tree, we also prop it up with supports.  If we as people are leaning over, off balance, well we also need to do something about it.  As it happens, most of us are slightly off balance all of the time, but we don’t often think about it until we get back pain.  Our subconscious knows that if we fall over, it hurts!  So our body compensates instinctively by stiffening our muscles and locking our joints, causing stiff ankles, tight calves, strained lower back and a stiff neck. And then we wonder why are we suffering.

We may be able to go through much of our lives being off balance and consequently stiffening our muscles without too much awareness of our problem.  But it may only take a small movement such as lifting our baby off the floor or a box of tools in the garage when we’re already under strain, that we could injure our backs with the extra effort required to lift the object.

If we are off balance we’ll be excessively stiffening our muscles to compensate and these habits interfere with the working of our whole body, from top to toe.

Holding ourselves stiffly and upright like a soldier so that we don’t fall over is not what life is about and we certainly did not behave like that as young children when our poise was wonderful. We’re not statues or wax works and as a species we have evolved to be free and expansive in order to live healthily. Unnecessary tension always interferes with healthy functioning.  As soon as we move, our physique needs to adapt constantly to ensure that balance is maintained during the movement, all of the time.  In other words we need equilibrium; balance whilst moving and a finely tuned muscular co-ordination.

The tendency to be off balance gets worse as we get older simply because gravity is pulling us over all of the time and our habits of stiffening and shortening in stature become more engrained.   So we become more hunched and even stiffer.  When we’re young, we’ve got the strength of muscle to cope, even if it is causing us posture and health problems and interfering with our co-ordination.  When we get older however, and we don’t have the strength to cope with being so off-balance, we’re given a walking stick to lean on as an external support.  These harmful postural tendencies also affect how we feel, causing us to become anxious, insecure and nervous; emotions that throw us further off balance and make us more tense. It’s all a downward spiral.

It’s a very good idea to be as aware of our balance as much as possible.  Try and notice if you are leaning, slouching or stooping. Catch sight of yourself in a shop window as you pass. Are you leaning forwards?  If so, bring your body back into balance; be more upright and as you do so, relax. Loosen up.

The Alexander Technique addresses the root cause of back pain, postural problems and poor breathing etc.  By having lessons in the technique we fine-tune our muscular co-ordination and eliminate poor postural habits.   We re-learn the ability to live in harmony with the constant effect of gravity. If you have no experience of the Alexander Technique you may like to have an Introductory lesson with a qualified teacher so you can discover how it may help you.