Life is never static and we adjust and adapt to changing situations and circumstances all the time. Just as our digestion is adapting to the food we eat, our posture too is constantly adapting to the forces of nature.
Gravity doesn’t take time off; it’s unremitting force works on us the whole time and as we move, we constantly adapt to our ever-changing positions, moment by moment, day by day. It is an automatic process that involves the cerebellum, the vestibular mechanism, the eyes and all our proprioceptive senses as well as our entire skeletal-muscular mechanism. Clearly any object that’s not in balance fall’s over. So our body is constantly adjusting the various tensions and pulls of our muscles to maintain upright poise while moving in relation to the force of gravity. However, poor postural habits such as slouching, stooping, over-stiffening all interfere with the extremely subtle and sophisticated co-ordination necessary for healthy movement and we suffer the consequences.
As young children we would have experienced life free of postural habits and our ‘use of ourselves’ is finely tuned and healthy. But postural habits such as stiffening our neck, pulling our head backwards, arching our back, stiffening our hips, to name just a few tendencies, we prevent the subtle shifts and compensations required for healthy, freely balanced poise. As a result of our postural habits most of us are actually off balance….all of the time. The reason we don’t fall over is because we adapt to our situation and create extra tensions, bracing muscles that are not normally required for natural poise. These extra tensions undermine us further, interfering with our breathing, digestion, and even levels of confidence and our stature. Over time our habits become more and more pronounced and it can be a downward spiral for our health and well-being if not corrected.
If we’ve had an injury such as a broken leg, or a sprain, we will adjust our posture to take the weight off the injured part. These various compensations and twists can quickly become ingrained into the nervous system and subconscious so they are almost a permanent feature of our posture or gait. We may still walk in a particular compensating way years after the actual injury. Habits such as these need to be got rid of in order to restore natural balanced poise and so we can function at our best….in every way.
No amount of exercise or stretching will correct our overall co-ordination. It is obvious if we think of it, that we use our existing (and faulty) co-ordination to do the exercises and stretches…. which can therefore make our habitual tendencies even worse. The only way that we can possibly change how we are utilising our overall muscular co-ordination is by improving our awareness of how we are doing things and by taking more conscious control of our poise and movements, rather than relying on our subconscious to do it for us.
Adaptive behaviour is part of our means of survival. We’ve just got to take care that we don’t get stuck with adjustments, adaptations and compensations that are actually unhelpful or even harmful to our health and well-being. This is where being human, with our ability to make choices is a blessing.
With over 600 muscles, we need a proven system to rely on that will enable us to influence our overall co-ordination without involving us in trying to work on specific muscles or problem areas. Most symptoms of pain and discomfort (apart from an actual injury) are part of an overall condition of mal-coordination and not a specific problem in themselves. This is where the Alexander Technique comes in. This technique is unique in that it enables us to get to the root cause of our problems, by eliminating harmful patterns of tension and co-ordination. Enhancements in this respect can restore our natural poise, free of habit and help us function and perform better on every level.