Woman’s Health

October 2004


I’d definitely count slouching as one of my worst habits. Unless I happen to be standing to attention, my posture always heads towards a lazy slump. Yet according to my Alexander Technique teacher, Noel Kingsley, good posture is everything. It affects our breathing, spinal health, how our organs function and are even responsible for certain aches and pains.

The technique helps you re-learn the body’s natural way of moving and holding itself. ‘As children we have the ideal poise,’ says Noel. ‘We instinctively move in a way that is tall, upright, loose and in balance.’ Over time, however, we pick up habits of unnecessarily tensing muscles that throws the way we move out of balance. What follows is a variety of symptoms like back and neck ache, and even stress or arthritis.

Ready for re-education, I was Surprised at how little I had to do once the session began. I was asked to stand, feet slightly apart, and then Noel began applying gentle pressure to my shoulders, back and around the neck. This was to coax tensed muscles into relaxing, one of the main causes of an unbalanced posture, he explained. I was also asked to lie flat on my back, while each of my limbs was slowly bent and unbent. It seemed strange, but I was told this helped my body release tensions and subconsciously recall my instinct for good poise.

As Noel worked with my muscles, he explained principles behind the technique to make me more aware of how I held my weight. I was given a sack containing five bags of sugar to hold and was shocked to learn that this was equivalent to the weight of my head. ‘Imagine having that load incorrectly balanced on your neck,’ Noel told me. `Naturally, it’s going to cause a strain on your back, shoulders and neck.’

On a practical level, I learnt that the knack of healthy posture is to release any tensed muscles, and to think `tall, loose and upright’ as you move. Leaving the session, I glided rather than walked out of Noel’s office, and I even felt a little taller and lighter. Days later, my swan-like grace had all but gone, but every time I caught myself slouching, it was easy to remember what I’d learnt in the session to get my posture back into a comfortable balance. There may be hope for me yet.

Alexander Technique with Noel Kingsley