I am frequently asked during Alexander Technique lessons with a new pupil, would it be OK for them to go the gym, or do some running. On the face of it, it would seem to be an excellent idea as any exercise is considered to be good for us and provide wide ranging health benefits.
However when we stop to think a moment about why we have commenced having Alexander lessons the answer may not be quite so straight forward. It is common for people to want lessons in this technique as a means of addressing a recurrent problem of back pain, or neck and shoulder tension or poor posture. And we soon realise that the cause of the problem is not something that is just ‘happening to us’, but actually something that we cause for ourselves by postural habits. And it is the ‘unlearning’ of these habits and improving the overall muscular co-ordination of our body that will address the root cause of our situation, rather than just the symptom.
As very young children we learn to stand and move in an effortless manner. But within a few years most of us develop postural habits such as stooping, hunching, slouching, holding ourselves in a twist and these upset our natural co-ordination, putting us off balance, causing unnecessary strain throughout our body. They nearly all bring about a shortening and loss of natural stature in quite a harmful way. Over time the habits become ingrained and with repetition they increase their tendency and we may not even notice we have them. Eventually they take their toll on us and unwanted symptoms appear and we may seek some treatment. But these symptoms will not be eliminated or cured for the long-term until the actual cause is addressed, which is so often our postural habits.
No matter what activity we involve ourselves in, be it working at a desk, walking, standing, sitting, carrying our baby, or running, we will be using our muscles in our habitually faulty co-ordination as our habits are always with us. That is, until we address them. And until such time, when we do exercise, running or whatever we think will be good for us, we will be exercising our habits at the same time and they become more ingrained and more pronounced in the process, making our ailment or complaint even worse. We may feel somewhat better with movement, and increased cardio-vascular activity, but we can be increasing the harmful tendencies and further problems may arise as well as not address our issue for the long term. So for some people working out or running can be positively harmful, increasing the tendencies that cause the painful symptoms.
Unlearning our postural habits is the key to enabling ourselves to function healthily. Performing exercises will not necessarily make us truly healthy unless we can perform them in a way that does not harm us. Alexander Technique lessons address the root cause of our problems and work to restore the natural poise and co-ordination we enjoyed when we were young, to a very high degree. When we are free of habit and able to maintain this healthy co-ordination then we can be confident that we can go about our activities and enjoy our exercise and running etc without exacerbating our problems and we will gain far more benefit in the process.